contents

1. summary
2. interview (english)
3. programme booklet (deutsch)
4. technical details
5. performances

summary

Rozalie Hirs composed hand in hand (2020) for soprano and string quartet, based on her own poetry. This commission from Kulturkreis für Neue Musik Heilbronn is inspired on the life and ideas of the German poet Hölderlin. The world premiere takes place on his two-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday, a day later followed by a performance next to his birthhouse in Lauffen am Neckar. The performers are Sonar Quartett and Maraile Lichdi (soprano).

The above picture shows a sample of Friedrich Hölderlin’s handwriting, a sketch for ‘Dichterberuf’, collected at Digitale Sammlungen der Württembergischen Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart, Germany.

interview

Alejandra Castro and Jorrit Kafoe of Deuss Music spoke with Rozalie Hirs about her work as composer/poet, and about the coming premiere of her new piece hand in hand, for soprano and string quartet.

Rozalie, you occupy a special place in the realm of Dutch composition because you work both as a composer and a poet. What is important for you, as a composer, in a poem; what requirements must a singable poem satisfy?

A good poem primarily inspires the composer to write her or his music. A good poem is well-wrought well thought-out, can be seemingly simple, but always has a power of expression that makes the composer do something that she or he would not otherwise have thought of. A good poem nourishes the creative process in a natural way.

As a composer it has been very important and formative for me to study classical singing at conservatoire at the same time as studying composition: first with Eugénie Ditewig at the Utrechts Conservatorium, and later with Gerda van Zelm at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, where I studied composition with Diderik Wagenaar as well. From an early age I have experienced singing and piano personally as natural means of musical expression. Like streams of feeling, a sense of being alive. The combination of singing and accompanying oneself on the piano is even better, of course. I loved Bach, Mozart, Schubert, but also Purcell, Machaut, Dowland, Emilio de’ Cavalieri, alongside Joan Baez, Kate Bush, and early folk music, and also always looked closely at the lyrics. I had ideal singing teachers, for whom text comprehension and a precise internal imagination of the vocal sound quality would result in a natural approach to the voice. Very informative for me as a composer and as a person. In the years to follow it also became clear that I felt more like a composer than a singer. That happened, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, when I began studying composition with Louis Andriessen.

Gradually developing a poet’s and a composer’s mind alongside each other is, in retrospect, the greatest gift. I could never have composed this music without this poetry, nor this poetry without this music.

For your latest work hand in hand (2020), for soprano and string quartet, you wrote both the text and the music. Did you already have a musical idea in mind when writing the poem?

I wrote the poem especially for the commission (from Kulturkreis Heilbronn) and this piece. Music and text connect seamlessly, and came into being at the same time, grew alongside each other, and fed each other. It is a typical poem for me: flowing like music. Over the past thirty years (with 1989 as the starting point, since my poems from that year were published for the first time in literary magazines and poetry anthologies), my musical use of language has continued to develop. This development came very naturally and as a matter of course. That comes from my interest, a natural curiosity during the creative process, a love for a language and a music in the process of constant cross-pollination.

So can you describe how you go about your work as a composer?

I always sing everything, I am the first singer and listener of the work that is being created. I start by reading the poem as if singing it. Each poem possesses its own intrinsic melody and rhythm. That’s how I begin – with a kind of improvisation based on language. For me, poetry and music are inextricably linked to each other. They are equivalent, despite being such different forms of expression of the human condition. They can exist separately and also together. The fact that I can do both – write poetry and compose music – gives the creative process a special something.

So you believe that music is already present in the text?

For me, a poem sings. A good poem incorporates a deep musical feeling, alongside its intrinsic meaning, ideally as a perfect match. It is music that ultimately expresses this match. The rhythm and internal melody of a poem are a great gift for the composer. For me the expressiveness of a text is inescapable; I experience it deeply. But at the same time everyone actually will interpret a poem in his or her own way. And that is a fascinating thing in itself. The composer recreates the text, just as a musician recreates the music while performing it. The composer is fed by the text, just as a musician feeds himself or herself as well as the listener by means of the music. Louis Andriessen also told me once that composing on the basis of a text gives him something to hold on to. The length of the sentences and the phrases, the rhythm. During the creative process, a good poem, in turn, feeds on the meaning, the music as well as the voice that speaks it.

You have composed two string quartets before. Your first, zenit, was played in Tokyo only a month ago. For zenit you did a lot of research into overtone series for stringed instruments. In the score of hand in hand you very precisely prescribe the tuning of the strings and add that this is according to just intonation. What is just intonation and how did you come to this choice?

Just intonation is a tuning method that is closest to the acoustic properties of a string. You hear this clearly when a string player plays natural harmonics, which is in fact like playing an overtone series. Meaning that all intervals sound like integer multiples of the fundamental, and intervals between two overtones can be described as integer ratios.

String players have a natural tendency to tune intervals as resonantly as possible, which is often more “just” than chromatic notation indicates. A good string player is aware of this and constantly plays with that intonation and tuning. The four string players of a string quartet will over years develop specific tuning relationships as an ensemble. This partly determines the “sound” of their ensemble. That is why different string quartets can also develop particular sounds that set them apart from others and make old works sound new. Partly because of its tuning possibilities, the string quartet is one of my favourite orchestrations.

Because zenit (2010) consists largely of natural harmonics, this piece is, strictly speaking, in itself tuned according to just intonation, namely consisting of overtones on all present fundamentals (the open strings of all four players). Each natural harmonic carries its own specific tuning property within itself. Therefore its intonation does not have to be specified in the score. In hand in hand, however, I write out the intonation of all notes precisely, in order to be able to expand the arsenal of fundamental tones to more remote realms. Then a G# can also be a fundamental, for example, resulting in more compositional possibilities.

The world premiere of hand in hand (2020) will take place during a concert to mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of the German romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin. How would you describe your relationship with Hölderlin?

Hölderlin is a poet who, over the centuries, has inspired other poets and also composers. For example, Luigi Nono has made a wonderful selection of text fragments from Hölderlin’s poems. To instruct the players, these are written above the staves of his score of Fragmente, Stille – an Diotima (1985). The lines of poetry can, in my opinion, be interpreted as affects, that inspired Nono to write short fleeting fragments. All these affects together form a series of miniatures that is the string quartet.

The longing Hölderlin felt for Diotima (in real life a woman of flesh and blood, called Susette Gontard) shaped his poetry profoundly and inspired generations of poets after him. My commission from Kulturkreis Heilbronn was to write a piece for his 250th birthday. For this piece I could take inspiration from either his work or his life. In the end it became a bit of both, I think.

As a young philosopher, Hölderlin chose poetry as “access to the highest form of truth.” His language is deeply felt, well-wrought and exudes a great sense of tragedy. Because at first his beloved is unattainable, then reciprocates his love, but has to say ‘Adieu’, only to die far too young in the end. And because the brilliant Hölderlin, a childhood friend of idealists Schelling and Hegel, has serious lifelong psychological problems to contend with. When re-reading his work I became increasingly sad, despite his initial idealism, lofty ideals, and ecstatic love. Despite the desire for unity and a longing for freedom of expression. In addition, the tone of the work, the sound of the language, as it were, is unusable for me as a poet because of its relative datedness. I had to take a completely different approach, needed to place longing in a new perspective. My own text became fluent and seemingly simple. Who is talking? Is Diotima speaking here or is it Hölderlin? Or are they both speaking, alternately? In hand in hand the ‘lyrical self’ alternates between desire, despair, rapture and imagination, in an infinite attempt to approach love as well as the beloved. hand in hand is an ode to love, albeit a tragic one.

©2020 Rozalie Hirs, Deuss Music, Newsletter, 27 February 2020

programme booklet (deutsch)

„…ins tiefste Herz…“
Friedrich Hölderlin zum 250. Geburtstag
(*20. März 1770 Lauffen a. N. † 7. Juni 1843 Tübingen)

Maraile Lichdi, Sopran
Sonar Quartett

20. März 2020, 19.30 Uhr, Kilianskirche Heilbronn
21. März 2020, 20.00 Uhr, Klosterhof Lauffen

Programm
Luigi Nono
(*1924 Venedig †1990 ebenda)
Fragmente – Stille. An Diotima (1980)
für Streichquartett

Interview mit Rozalie Hirs

Rozalie Hirs
(*1965 Gouda)
hand in hand (2020)
für Sopran und Streichquartett

Leoš Janáček
(*1854 Hukvaldy †1928 Mährisch Ostrau)
Intime Briefe (1928)
für Streichquartett

Maraile Lichdi singt als eine von wenigen Sopranistinnen weltweit Reimanns Solowerk „Lady Lazarus“. Mit diesem Stück gewann sie 1998 das Vorsingen für ihr Operndebüt am Staatstheater Stuttgart als Solistin in „Al gran sole carico d’amore“ von Luigi Nono unter Lothar Zagrosek und Martin Kuszej. Von 2000 bis 2009 war Maraile Lichdi als festes Ensemblemitglied am Theater der Stadt Heidelberg engagiert. Gastvertäge führten sie an die Opern Frankfurt, Hannover, Oldenburg und Duisburg. Sie arbeitet unter anderem mit Dirigenten wie Boris Böhmann, Joana Mallwitz, Mario Gebert, Paolo Carignani, Kwamé Ryan, Roland Kluttig, Nicol Matt, David Coleman und Cornelius Meister zusammen.
Zu Maraile Lichdis Repertoire gehören knapp 40 Opernpartien und über 40 Konzert- und Oratorienwerke, unter anderem die Elettra in Mozarts „Idomeneo“, die Donna Anna in „Don Giovanni“, die Gräfin in „Die Hochzeit des Figaro“ sowie im Konzertbereich Mozarts „Exsultate Jubilate“ und c-moll-Messe, Bachs „Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen“, das „Weihnachtsoratorium“ und alle Passionen und Pergolesis „Stabat Mater“. Maraile Lichdi hat sich als Expertin im Bereich moderner Vokalmusik einen Namen gemacht. Unter anderem sang sie Uraufführungen von Wilfried Hiller („Der klingende David“ und „Gedankensplitter“), Jörg Widmann („Das Echo“), Wilfried Maria Danner („Das Märchen nach ewig und drei Tagen“) und Alexander Muno („Vom Meer“). Auf CD sind folgende Aufnahmen erschienen: Luigi Nono „Al gran sole carico d’amore“ (Teldec 2001), W.A. Mozart „Concert Arias“ (Brilliant Classics 2006). Maraile Lichdi gibt regelmäßig Meisterkurse in Karlsruhe, Schwaigern und im Chiemgau.

Seit seiner Gründung 2006 tastet das Sonar Quartett mit Wojciech Garbowski und Susanne Zapf, Volinen, Nikolaus Schlierf, Viola, und Cosima Gerhardt, Violoncello, immer wieder die Ränder der klassischen Musik ab, es erschafft Utopien und improvisiert Klangabdrücke, deren Nachhall schon den Weg zum nächsten notierten Werk nährt. Künstlerisch inspiriert und aufgehoben fühlen sich Wojciech Garbowski und Susanne Zapf (Violine), Nikolaus Schlierf (Viola) und Cosima Gerhardt (Violoncello) in ihrer Viersamkeit, weil sie einander ständig aufs Neue anstacheln und fordern und verschiedenste Ideen in einem Schmelztiegel heiß verkochen, was in ein lebendiges, pulsierendes Konzerterlebnis auf höchstem Niveau mündet. Die vier in Berlin lebenden Musiker verstehen sich als komponierendes Streichquartett, das weit über vermeintliche Genregrenzen hinausgreift, indem es sich elektronischer Verstärkung und Verfremdung, aber auch der eigenen Körper bedient, etwa in Projekten mit dem Beatboxer „Mando“ oder der Komponistin Alwynne Pritchard. In eigenen Konzertreihen wie „Utopie Streichquartett“ und „Ränder“ haben die vier dabei ihre ideale Musik gefunden – fragil, aber unglaublich intensiv. Konsequent haben sie in der Konzertsaison 2019 eine CD mit selbst improvisiert-komponierten Werken herausgebracht. Beim Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival 2019 kam jüngst ein neues Werk von Naomi Pinnock zu den mehr als 100 Uraufführungen hinzu, die das Sonar Quartett bereits gespielt hat.

Die Komponistin und Dichterin Rozalie Hirs ist 1965 in Gouda geboren und in Deutschland in der Nähe von Köln aufgewachsen. Ihre Kompositionen (Vokal- und Instrumentalmusik, akusmatische Musik) werden von Amsterdam Sinfonietta, ASKO|Schönberg, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Bozzini Quartet, the Formalist Quartet, Klangforum Wien, WDR Musikfabrik, Musik der Jahrhunderte Stuttgart, the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra und Slagwerk Den Haag aufgeführt. Die Werke erscheinen bei Deuss Music, Den Haag, und werden von Attacca Productions (CD) veröffentlicht. Hirs‘ lyrische Arbeiten umfassen neben gedruckten Sammlungen auch digitale (Apps) und interaktive Werke in Zusammenarbeit mit bildenden Künstlern und Grafikern. Sie sind bei Singeluitgeverijen|Querido Amsterdam sowie kookbooks Berlin verlegt.
Hirs schloss ihre Studien an der Columbia University mit dem Doctor of Musical Arts (2007), am Royal Conservatoire Den Haag mit dem Master of Music (1998) und an der Twente University mit dem Master of Science im Fach Chemical Engineering (1990) ab.
Mitte der 1980er Jahre experimentierte Hirs, zunächst als Singer-Songwriter, erstmals mit der gegenseitigen Beeinflussung von Wort und Ton und entwickelte daraus innerhalb von zwei Dekaden ihren spezifischen Personalstil, der textbezogene Kompositionen aus den musikalischen Parametern der Sprache entwickelt, und hybride Formen des Musiktheaters zeitigt. Ihre lyrische Sprache gibt durch überraschende Assoziationen schlaglichtartig flüchtige Sinnebenen frei und lotet in ihrer brüchigen, zur Auflösung tendierenden Syntax die Grenzen der Textkohärenz aus.

technical details

commission
hand in hand (2020) by Rozalie Hirs (music, poem) is commissioned by Kulturkreis für neue Musik Heilbronn e.V.

instrumentation
soprano
violin 1
violin 2
viola
cello

duration
17′ ca.

publisher
Deuss Music

technical requirements
none
(in case amplification is desired or necessary: microphones, cables, amplifier, mixer, loudpseakers)

thank you
the composer thanks Nanna Koch of Förderkreis für Neue Musik Heilbronn e.V.

performances

21 March 2020, 20:00 uur, …ins tiefste herz…, Klosterhof, Lauffen am Neckar, Baden-Württemberg, Germany – Sonar Quartett, Maraile Lichdi (soprano) **POSTPONED DUE TO CORONA**

20 March 2020, 19:30 uur, …ins tiefste herz…, Kilianskirche, Kaiserstraße, Heilbronn, Baden-Württemberg, Germany – Sonar Quartett, Maraile Lichdi (soprano) **POSTPONED DUE TO CORONA**