Mein Herz brennt


orchestral song-cycle, with variations
Bass, Solo Voices with Orchestra
bass-baritone voice (amplified) - reciter (amplified) - picc.3(II=picc, III=picc+aflt).3(II-heckelphone, III=ca).3(III=Ebcl).bcl(=cbcl).3.cbsn - 6.3.4(IV=btrbn).2 - perc(5) - timp(2) - 2 harp - cel - pno - duduk solo (or ssax) - solo soprano (sung my member of female choir) - 4-part female choir ad lib (can be pre-recorded) - strings (min REDUCED ORCHESTRATION: 3 flutes (II+III=picc).3 oboes (II=heckelphone, III=ca).3 clarinets (II=ssax, III=Ebcl).bass clarinet (=cbcl).3 bassoons (III=cbsn) - 4331 - perc & timps (5 in total) - 2 harps - cel - pno - synth (replacing female chorus) - strings [NB soprano solo & duduk solo are both replaced by soprano saxophone (played by 2nd clarinet]
First Performance
October 2002, Dresden Kulturpalast, Dresden, Germany: René Pape (baritone)/Katharina Thalbach (reciter)/Dresdner Sinfoniker/John Carewe

Full score, vocal score and parts for hire

Programme Notes

Torsten Rasch - Mein Herz brennt Lightning is regularly followed by thunder, but whereas the former is visible only for a second, the latter may be heard for five, ten or twenty seconds at a time. Sometimes it takes the form of a sudden crash that dies away in the distance, while on other occasions it swells in volume, rumbling and gathering strength, before unleashing all its fury and then gently fading away again. Thunder unsettles us even though lightning conductors exist to protect our lives. In much the same way, music allows the ear to explore worlds that the eye later thinks it has captured. The spectrum of perceptible colours is snatched away too quickly to withstand even an approximate comparison with the rich variety of sounds. And yet we tend to think in terms of visual analogies in our attempt to fathom the mystery of sounds. If we still store away our memories in photograph albums, it is because we prefer to put our trust in shadows rather than echoes. Its literal sense not withstanding, the term déjà vu does not mean something that we have already seen but something suspected, imagined, dreamt and feared, something already heard or aurally anticipated. Fate, presentiment and fear can hardly be grasped by colours, forms and outlines. In the ground-breaking agelessness of their works, leading painters and sculptors have at best described the depths of the human soul or made it intelligible by means of analogy but they have never penetrated their audiences’ hearts with the sheer force that great music can muster. To be swept away by an all-embracing wave of sounds that are as old as the very first musical vibration but which in their consuming immediacy repeatedly recreate the ageless act of destruction and creation must place all images in doubt. The classical song cycle is a genre that is threatened with extinction. In Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and even Mahler, Strauss and Schoenberg we pay tribute to tradition, but however much we may be moved by their songs, we do not rediscover in them the fears and cares that characterise our hectic daily lives. Their music affords us a refuge, constituting a kind of flight into the past and allowing us to feel secure within ourselves, even if for its creators it was often the expression of the profoundest inner turmoil. How anachronistic, then, to enter upon the third millennium with a song cycle that neither flirts with post-modernism nor treats the inevitability of constantly repeated micro-structures as a basic model for a detached assimilation of the world that provides the soul with a layer of chrome-like protection. Such music is deceptive because it is so bewitchingly beautiful. The alchemy of musical sounds transcends all sense of hopelessness. In the beginning was the Word. Even Dante knew that he had to decide whether to conjure up images with his words or to associate them with sounds. It took several centuries for music to achieve the power inherent in the language of the poet of the Divine Comedy. As a result, Dante has been illustrated for more often than he has been set to music. The words that make up the cycle Mein herz brennt are barely ten years old and in many cases much less than that. And yet they convey the urgency that has been used from time immemorial to express our primeval fears and needs. Spoken or sung, whispered or shouted, they transcend the limits of place and time. In their shattering universality they forge a link with the elements that represent the circulating and pulsating universe, just like the speck of dust that may be raised when we open a newspaper, triggering whirlwinds and earthquakes as well as minute emotions from yearning to jealousy that are re-enacted a million times over. Violins, timpani and horns gather like a cyclone around scraps of ideas that are as fragmentary as they are logical, as random as they are sublime while they sweep across the ages. When the Apocalypse is synonymous with Genesis, then I feel my heart on fire. The sound dies away, the word falls silent, but all that has been heard and experienced in all its emphatic beauty lies like a patina upon its creations. Yet it is not in the creator’s power to say whether a winged redeemer will arise from the ashes of our emotions. Formed six years ago by the percussionist Sven Helbig and the horn player Marus Rindt, the Dresden Symphony Orchestra was in many respects predestined to give the first performance of Mein Herz brennt. It is the only symphony orchestra in the world to devote itself exclusively to contemporary music and is made up of players drawn from nearly all the major German orchestras as well as from many leading European orchestras. All its members share a desire for collective music making and an unblinkered passion for music. Mein Herz Brennt represents a logical and at the same time provocative expansion of the repertory of an orchestra that is playing an increasingly important role on the international stage.

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‘this extraordinary work has disturbed and excited me more than any new music I’ve encountered for some years.’ Spectator (Robin Holloway) Read more

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