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Work of the Week – Christian Jost: Dichterliebe

On 8 August 2018, Christian Jost’s song cycle Dichterliebe for tenor and 9 instrumentalists will receive its Danish premiere at the Royal Danish Theatre in Copenhagen. Jost himself will conduct the Horenstein Ensemble and tenor Peter Lodahl, with accompanying media scenography by Tabea Rothfuchs.

Dichterliebe was commissioned by the Berlin Konzerthaus and the Copenhagen Opera Festival, and received its world premiere at the Berlin Konzerthaus on 21 October 2017. The work is inspired by Robert Schumann’s well-known Dichterliebe op. 48 based on poems by Heinrich Heine. Jost’s reinterpretation changes and increases the cycle’s instrumentation, as well as doubling its length, effectively integrating Schumann’s romantic art song with his own modern style. The music is further supplemented by video sequences which provide a visual representation of the songs’ themes.

Christian Jost – Dichterliebe: reaching further and deeper

The 16 songs of Schumann’s cycle tell a sorrowful story of lost love. The singer’s expressions shift through pain, indifference, sorrow and joy, perhaps in a dream or perhaps reality. In Heine’s poems, the river Rhine acts as a symbol for this stream of emotions, and Jost’s songs also flow. The tenor seems to surface time and again out of the dense, wave-like instrumental accompaniment of legato ostinato, and the harmonies and melodies of Schumann’s composition are developed by Jost into a tonal stream. For example, the short motifs from Schumann’s piano accompaniment are expanded by Jost throughout the whole cycle with greater depth.

“The idea of reaching further and deeper in terms of harmony and texture runs through the entire song cycle, especially in the connecting passages between songs. While Schumann’s original songs are self-contained, my transitions form a harmonic sea, in which the songs are individual islands woven organically into a larger, newly created composition.” – Christian Jost

A second performance of Dichterliebe will take place on 9 August at the Royal Danish Theatre. The Staatstheater Braunschweig will present a new production of the work in a series of 10 performances next season, and a Polish premiere is planned for 2019.


©photo: Tabea Rothfuchs