Universal Edition - Wolfgang Rihm – Séraphin III

Wolfgang Rihm

Wolfgang Rihm
Séraphin III

Year of composition: 2006-2007
Subtitle: Jan Fabre: I am a Mistake
Scored for: for female narrator, 2 singers and 14 instruments
Composer: Wolfgang Rihm
Soloists: 2 baritones
Instrumentation: 1 1 1 0 - 0 1 1 0 - perc(2), hp, pno(2), vln, vla, vc, cb
Instrumentation details:
flute (+picc
bass fl)
oboe (+c.a)
contrabass clarinet in Bb
trumpet in C
1st percussion
2nd percussion
1st piano
2nd piano
Duration: 70′
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Audio Excerpt

Séraphin III

World Première

Location: Megaron Athen / Greece
Date: 29.11.2007
Orchestra: Ensemble Recherche
Conductor: Lucas Vis
Scenery: Jan Fabre
Main Soloists: Matthias Horn und Johannes M. Kösters, Stimmen; Troubleyn / Jan Fabre theatre company
Remarks: Musik-Tanztheater-Filmprojekt

Work Introduction

This work, premiered in Athens, is the first co-op project of Belgian artist Jan Fabre and German composer Wolfgang Rihm, based on Fabre’s text (which also gave the piece its title) and dedicated to subversive filmmaker Louis Buñuel and Antonin Artaud, two artistically related

Written in 1988, the words are a manifesto, also readable as an artist’s declaration of faith. The virtually unadorned confession I am a mistake acts as a mantra, constantly repeated and also dictating the rhythm; while speaking the text, the voice weaves a kind of matrix of confessions and meanings, sometimes metaphorically reflecting the artist himself and occasionally turning accusatory in tone – a protest against reality and its rules, against factuality and its conformism.  

“I am extremely loyal to the pleasure which is trying to kill me” (from I am a mistake); “I am a mistake because I shape my life and my work to harmonise very organically, making them
dependent only on my own judgement, and ignoring whether it is politically correct.”

This quotation may be taken directly as a candid summation of Jan Fabre’s world-view – and as the reciter’s voice clearly says, there is a price to be paid for such candour, namely progressive self-destruction. Fabre makes self-affirmation and disdain for all artifice and laws of Nature crystal-clear, through the reciter’s constant repetitions and the inveterate smoking onstage; flagrant praise of cigarettes, co-existent with awareness of their hazardousness, only serve to reinforce “the pleasure which is trying to kill me,” to which Fabre is “extremely loyal.” The End hovers closely nearby after a monologue at once lyrical and delirious, “because I am immortal.”

Rihm set this textual excess to make a composition performed by “an actor infected with music” who can capture “the context of my music in Sprechgesang.” Rihm’s and Fabre’s interdisciplinary collaboration fuses in a multimedia spectacle combining film, music (played live by Freiburg’s Ensemble recherche), language, songs and dance. Chantal Akerman was responsible for the film sequences.

Wien Modern Catalogue 2007 – from a German translation by Thomas Schäfer

study score - Séraphin III

Séraphin III
  • for female narrator, 2 singers and 14 instruments
  • Edition type: study score

study score - Séraphin III

Séraphin III
  • for female narrator, 2 singers and 14 instruments
  • Edition type: study score

full score - Séraphin III

Séraphin III
  • for female narrator, 2 singers and 14 instruments
  • Edition type: full score

1 Ensemble that has played this work:

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