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"The Farewell Pieces create their own musical setting. So I initially have to insert myself into this context. I have to speak up: 'Hey, I am here, let me say something too.' The music pursues therefore certain paths which the text doesn’t, or alternatively, the music grants the text a course which it chose to reject for itself."
„She lifted her skirt, knelt over him and pissed on him exhaustively.“
„You try setting such a sentence to music“, said Wolfgang Rihm defensively, and his hand wipes his face as if he wants to rid himself immediately of the extreme image. This sentence comes from the first of the three Farewell Pieces by Wolf Wondratschek. It deals with the desecration of corpses: The woman stands on the grave of her lover. Despite his aversion to Wondratschek’s verses, Rihm has turned to them for the third time. This composition from 1993, given its first performance at the Römerbad Musiktage, represents the composer’s battle to come to terms with his reactions to the text. Rihm’s creativity is fired by this battle, but he remains wary of the danger of recreating the cruelty of the poetry. For example he does not multiply the violent imagery. The word "violence" which is split into its constituent phonemes is whispered by the singer. Only later does the instrumental ensemble open wounds poignantly.
Although Rihm uses irony and parody - amplifying the heartbeat as if perceived through ultra-sound, stretching lines of text with misplaced rhetorical emphasis on a waltz metre, or by alluding to Strauss’ Salome at the word "head" by his use of seductive coloratura - he treats the obscene sentence on the grave with utter discretion. As soon as the woman kneels down she is surrounded by the resonance of solemn hymns. The rest is covered by chaste harmony.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Lotte Thaler, 26.11.1993
English translation: Miranda Jackson