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Wolfgang Rihm has always been fascinated by the world of the late works of Friedrich Nietzsche. In this piece, it is the visionary power of the Dionysos Dithyrambs which particularly inspires Rihm's creativity. Nietzsche identified strongly with Dionysos, even signing his letters with the name. He believed in the Dionysian mission to change the world and bring peace. Nietzsche considered himself to be as strong as Dionysos. “He superimposed Dionysos over his own personality”, says Rihm. They melded into a single person, like a double-exposed film. Thus, we can see the writer himself in “N”, the main character of Dionysos. Some scenes also have parallels with his life: a journey over Lake Lucerne, a scene in a brothel, the famous meeting with the horse on the marketplace in Turin. But Dionysos is not a biography of Nietzsche. This operatic fantasia is more of a game, on many levels: playing with the operatic genre itself. But also a playful exploration of the Dionysos myth, and what it might mean for us today. Wolfgang Schaufler

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Alban Berg


for coloratura soprano and orchestra

The term “symphony” might sound somewhat peculiar here, since even the score calls it “Symphonic pieces from the opera Lulu.” Nevertheless, that appellation seems the only correct one to me, both in formal and objective terms. That is, whereas Berg musically-architectonically shaped Büchner’s loose series of scenes in Wozzeck largely by giving each scene its own, idiosyncratic musical form, his procedure when composing Lulu was to assign a specific form to each of the personalities in the opera which permeate the entire work, only resulting in the overall musical characteristic of the gestalts in their subsumption. […] Since the music of Lulu is completely integrative in terms of its inner structure, it was impossible to extract individual sections in the manner of the Wozzeck fragments. Nevertheless, in order to give the anxiously waiting music world a sample of his new creation as quickly as possible, Berg chose to subsume some of the symphonic developments in the opera into a multi-movement construct. […] the large introductory rondo, the ostinato acting as a scherzo, the coloratura soprano’s song, the peculiar set of variations (where the theme is not revealed until the end) and the adagio finale constitute a veritable symphony in their fascinating overall construction, and are grasped that way as well. When listening, one forgets entirely that the individual movements are interludes and sections from an opera, perceiving Berg’s sounds as pure, absolute music which is uninterruptedly gripping in its artistic beauty, dispensing with any interpretation derived from the words. (Willi Reich, in Musikblätter des Anbruch, 1934)

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Luciano Berio


for 8 voices and orchestra

Luciano Berio on Sinfonia The title of Sinfonia (composed in 1968 for the 125th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra) is not meant to suggest any analogy with the classical symphonic form. It is intended more etymologically: the simultaneous sound of various parts, here eight voices and instruments. Or it may be taken in a more general sense as the interplay of a variety of things, situations and meanings. Indeed, the musical development of Sinfonia is constantly and strongly conditioned by the search for balance, often an identity between voices and instruments; between the spoken or the sung word and the sound structure as a whole. This is why the perception and intelligibility of the text are never taken as read, but on the contrary are integrally related to the composition. Thus, the various degrees of intelligibility of the text along with the hearer’s experience of almost failing to understand, must be seen to be essential to the very nature of the musical process. The text of the first part is made up of a series of extremely short extracts from Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Le cru et le cuit, and one or two other sources. In these passages, Lévi-Strauss analyses the structure and symbolism of Brazilian myths of the origin of water, or other similarly structured myths. The second part of Sinfonia is a tribute to the memory of Martin Luther King. The eight voices simply send back and forth to each other the sounds that make up the name of the Black martyr, until they at last state his name clearly and intelligibly. The main text of the third part is made up of fragments from Samuel Beckett’s The Unnamable, which in turn generate a large number of references and quotations from day-to-day life. The text of the fourth part mimes rather than enunciates verbal fragments drawn from the preceding parts (with, at the beginning, a brief reference to Mahler’s Second Symphony.) Finally, the text of the fifth part takes up, develops and complements the texts of the earlier parts, and above all gives these fragments narrative substance (being drawn from Le cru et le cui), whereas in the first pat they were presented merely as narrative images. The third part of Sinfonia calls for more detailed comment, since it is perhaps the most experimental work I have ever written. The piece is a tribute to Gustav Mahler (whose work sometimes seems to carry all the weight of the last two centuries of musical history) and, in particular, to the third movement of his Second Symphony (“Resurrection”). Mahler bears the same relation to the whole of the music of this part as Beckett does to the text. The result is a kind of “voyage to Cythera” that reaches its climax just before the third movement (the Scherzo) of the Second Symphony. Mahler’s movement is treated as a generative and containing source, from which are derived a great number of musical figures ranging from Bach to Schoenberg, Beethoven to Stravinsky, Berg to Webern, Boulez, Pousseur, myself and others. The various musical characters, constantly integrated in the flow of Mahler’s discourse, are combined together and transformed as they go. In this way, these familiar objects and faces, set in new perspective, context and light, unexpectedly take on a new meaning. The combination and unification of musical characters that are often foreign to each other is probably the main driving force behind this third part of Sinfonia, a meditation on a Mahlerian objet trouvé. If I were asked to explain the presence of Mahler’s Scherzo in Sinfonia, the image that would naturally spring to mind would be that of a river running through a constantly-changing landscape, disappearing from time to time underground, only to emerge later totally transformed. Its course is at times perfectly apparent, at others hard to perceive, sometimes it takes on a totally recognizable form, at others it is made up of a multitude of tiny details lost in the surrounding forest of musical presences. The first four parts of Sinfonia are obviously very different one from the other. The task of the fifth and last pat is to delete these differences and bring to light and develop the latent unity of the preceding four parts. In fact the development that began in the first part reaches its conclusion here, and it is here that all the other parts of the work flow together, either as fragments (third and fourth parts) or as a whole (the second). Thus this fifth part may be considered to be the veritable analysis of Sinfonia, but carried out through the language and medium of the composition itself. Translated by John Underwood

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