Score and violin part on special sale from the hire library
Commissioned by Madeleine Mitchell and the Joyful Company of Singers with financial assistance from the Arts Council of England, the Performing Right Society Foundation, the Esmee Fairbairn Trust and the Britten-Pears Foundation.
The title sweet/winterhart reflects the fact that two texts are used, belonging to different cultures; one Shakespeare’s Elizabethan world, the other the post-holocaust central European world of Paul Celan. Celan saw in Shakespeare a reflection of his own dark complex milieu, and translated, amongst other things, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 5. The sonnet and its rendering are here juxtaposed to place in perspective our time and Shakespeare’s. Celan, who lost both parents to the Nazi death camps, nevertheless wrote in the German language despite being Romanian and living subsequently in Paris. It is hard to imagine the tension that must have existed in Celan’s mind as he struggled to achieve authenticity in the German language: translation became almost a relief, allowing him to say more easily the unsayable. Shakespeare’s sonnet is a mysterious meditation on the passing of time as summer is confounded by ‘hideous winter’ and yet is preserved as 'essence' in the form of perfume. A resonant symbol of hope despite despair. In Celan’s holocaust-winter the flowers’ essence is not, as in Shakespeare, preserved ’sweet’, but 'winterhart' ('winter-proof'). For him 'sweet' (suss) was, after all that had passed, unsayable. In my setting the violin solo is an image of the distillation process as it becomes ever more etherealised.