DIE ERSTE ELEGIE (completed)

Project Summary

A recording of DIE ERSTE ELEGIE, a five movement symphonic setting of the first of Rilke’s ten Duino Elegies, by the Czech Chamber Orchestra Pardubice, conducted by Maestro Marek Štilec, with soprano Lisa Rombach. Scheduled for February 2023.

The donation goal for this project is $12,000.00.



Project Description

The Duino Elegies, along with the Sonnets to Orpheus, represent R.M. Rilke at the height of his poetic inspiration. For many years, I’ve wanted to do something musically with them, but found the Elegies too long and difficult to set to music (although I have previously set a short segment from the first elegy in a chamber setting). During the COVID shutdown, knowing that thousands were dying around the world as I sat isolated at home, I opened the pages of the elegies again – and had an idea for how to set the first of the elegies. As I read the poem over and over again, I realized that it naturally fell into several distinct parts – which led to my setting it in five movements for soprano and orchestra.

The opening lines of the first elegy have always struck me deeply. “Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angels’ Orders? and even if one of them pressed me suddenly to his heart: I’d be consumed in his more potent being. For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we can still barely endure, and while we stand in wonder it coolly disdains to destroy us. Every Angel is terrifying.”

At the height of a worldwide pandemic, the bitter truth of this thought hit home. The world, in all its grandeur, beauty and mystery, is so beyond our ability to comprehend and understand – and it seems that the history of humanity attempting to understand what is too big and too complex to comprehend has led to a mostly subconscious terror that brings out, in reaction, the worst in us. All too few are able to bare their souls enough to take it all in and accept it. For most of us, our fear causes us to shut down from beauty, love, and acceptance of what comes. There is nothing, at least to my mind, religious about this. It is simply what is.

The poem, of course, can speak for itself, although it too takes time and thought and heart to gradually unpack. The music is my attempt to express, in musical language, the emotions that the poem evokes in me.

During the same recording session, the Czech Chamber Orchestra Pardubice will also record my recently composed SYMPHONY OF SIGHS, a one movement work written in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.


The Artists

Stanley Grill is a classical composer whose passion for medieval and Renaissance music has greatly influenced his writing. Two main themes permeate many of his works – music composed in an attempt to translate something about the nature of the physical world, and music composed to inspire and promote world peace.

Lisa Rombach, grew up amidst the sound of folk songs from the Burgerland, in a home where newly restored Stradivaris and Guarneris literally hung from the ceilings. With her vivacious ability to express herself through music, she imbues contemporary operas and vocal works with life and thus shares her passion for the mystery and allure of sound and gesture. Chamber music is her great passion and has provided her, from an early age, with a direct path to emotional interiors and the ability to communicate sensitively. Among her chamber music collaborations are artists such as the pianist Alejandro Pico-Leonis, the Aaron and Acies string quartets, the Clemencic Consort and Merlin Ensemble, Ensemble Wien Modern and the Pandolfis Consort Wien.

Marek Štilec. A protege of San Francisco Symphony and New World Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, Marek Štilec is a rising star among the younger generation of Czech conductors. At the age of 17, he founded his own ensemble, the Quattro Chamber Orchestra. A breakthrough came in 2010 in the form of an invitation from Tilson Thomas to study with him under the San Francisco Symphony’s auspices; that led to a stint conducting the New World Symphony in 2014. Marek Štilec is known as an interpreter of Classical orchestral repertoire and is a specialist in Czech Romantic and contemporary music. He has collaborated with orchestras the world over, including the New World Symphony, Ulster Orchestra, London Classical Soloists, The Orchestra of the Swan, Berlin Camerata, Kammerphilharmonie Graz and Sinfonietta Bratislava.

The Czech Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra Pardubice is one of the leading Czech orchestras; it is a small symphonic “Mozart-Haydnesque” body. As the only professional orchestra in the Pardubice region it plays a highly important role in the musical life of this region. It organises a series of cycles in Pardubice, performs in other cities in the region and around the country, regularly appears at the most important festivals in the Czech Republic and is also recognised by audiences in many prestigious concert halls in Europe and beyond.


A recording of DIE ERSTE ELEGIE by the Czech Chamber Orchestra Pardubice, conducted by Maestro Marek Štilec. Scheduled for 2023.

The donation goal for this project is $12,000.00.