Vocal pieces 1998

Six Songs from the Arabian (Sechs Gesänge aus dem Arabischen)

(Sechs Gesänge aus dem Arabischen)

for tenor and piano
text by the composer
commissioned by KölnMusik

dedicated to Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake

Period of composition 1997-98
Duration 35 minutes

I Selím and the Wind
II The Praying Mantis
III A Sunrise
IV Cäsarion
V Fatuma's Lament
VI The Paradise

World premiere

World premiere November 23rd, 1999

Köln · Philharmonie Köln

Tenor Ian Bostridge
Piano Julius Drake


The reason for this cycle came from Ian Bostridge, I was enchanted by his art of singing. I had the music already more or less in my head when I still had to deal with the problem of finding texts appropriate to settle the musical progress of my thoughts in a way that would not require compromises with existing poetry.

Thus, I just wrote my own texts (except the last by Hafis and being translated into German by Friedrich Rückert and four or six lines from Goethe's Walpurgis Night) and prepared a ground for the music on which it would liberate itself all right and untroubled.

The ground is west-eastern, but the scenes coming up in the poems stem from real life. Selím and Fatuma e.g. exist – i have been knowing them personally for years: they live in the orient, on the east coast. Even the infernal hell in which Fatuma sees and feels herself banished, is really existing. And is frightening. But there are not only pirates and (sea-) monsters, there are also „beautiful spots“, amorous and sweet even though slightly moistened and salted by the ocean. Creatures of a weird world wanted to be staged and therefore needed he modeling hand of an artist sympathetic to them like me. My poems are precursors of the music, points of departure, stimulators, triggers. And, of course, during the composing period, I could and was allowed to change and manipulate the texts as much as I found necessary, i.e. useful to the musical process, without having to ask anybody for permission. This was a new and interesting experience for me.

Hans Werner Henze