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Wolfgang Rihm’s Ende der Handschrift, a setting of a selection of late poems by Heiner Müller, evokes an atmosphere entirely different from Müller’s 1995 eponymous work which gives the cycle its name or theme: “Recently, when I want to write something down / A sentence, a poem, a wisdom / My hand refuses the urge to write / to which my mind wants it to submit / The writing becomes illegible / Only the typewriter / keeps me from the abyss, the silence / which is the protagonist of my future.”
Müller’s very particular blank verse (with which Rihm had already become intensively involved in his opera Hamletmaschine of 1983 – 1986) combines the intellectual and political disillusionment of people today with their yet implacable longing for happiness and truth – a topic also related to Rihm in his consciousness of the individual in the “abyss,” which the individual must physically endure and yet simultaneously integrate via conscient reflection into his own life as a component.
In this sense, his settings retrace the auratic elements laid out in each text; in No. 2, Nature morte, for instance, where, at the words der mond war noch nicht aufgegangen [“the moon had not yet risen”], the original Der Mond ist aufgegangen [“The moon has risen,” by Matthias Claudius and Johann Abraham Peter Schulz] shimmers through.
The expressive palette covers a wide spectrum: from the “hapless angel 2”, gone astray from the here and now (No. 1), to the blueprint censuring quotidian restlessness (No. 3), to the enchanted fantasy forest visiting children’s dreams (No. 5).
Joachim Brügge (from the programme booklet, Salzburg Festival 2000)
Translation Copyright © 2012 by Grant Chorley