5 Rilke Songs

(R.M. Rilke)

Year: 2009

Instrumentation: soprano, viola d'amore, cello

Duration: 15 minutes

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Program Notes

My musical thoughts are often influenced by the sounds of early music, and gradually I became interested in the possibility of composing for early instruments. After reaching out, over the internet, to the Pandolfis Ensemble, I worked on two songs for them, settings of poems by Rilke: “Buddha in Der Glorie” and “Der Panther”. I had intended to write one song, but after reading through many poems, I thought these two poems worked together perfectly. “Buddha in Der Glorie” describes a state of being that perhaps we all, in some way, aspire to – but cannot achieve. It reflects our yearning for connectedness with the universe around us – and for eternity. “Der Panther” is the opposite, but truer description of the human condition. We all pace behind the thousand bars created by the limitations of our imaginations, knowledge, capabilities and illusions. Occasionally a glimmer of something beyond what we are capable of gets through – goes right to the core of our being – and then disappears. I thought that the two poems belonged together, since “Der Panther” describes the way we are, and “Buddha in Der Glorie” describes what we yearn to become.

Later, having read through many more of Rilke’s poems and finding myself immersed in his world, I decided to expand upon the cycle, adding three more songs based on poems that I thought demonstrated a transition from the trapped existence of the panther, to the spiritual freedom of the Buddha. The poems were taken from Rilke’s Book of Hours.

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