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Rihm himself says clearly: “Hölderlin cannot be reduplicated by, with or in music.” Yet he sees an opportunity to do so in the interstices, the auratic aspect of Hölderlin’s fragments. Therefore, in attempting to set them to music, he found his approach not in the language itself but over it, under it, “on its skin, in its climate.”
Rihm’s music breaks off and starts anew, underlining the fragmentary aspect of the texts, the splinters harbouring historical strata of expression – in the vocal part, for example, and the allusion in Section Three where the composer makes use of the textual similarity to Schubert’s Lied Die Stadt.
Unlike some of his other compositions, which tend toward concentrated, loud outbursts, Rihm’s music here is gentler, treating the revered poet with restraint and manifest respect. He also feels himself beholden to Hölderlin’s spirit for the future, attempting to comply with the demand for artistic candour, yet without “making use of the signs for ‘candour’ already introduced.”
Translation Copyright © 2012 by Grant Chorley