Die Nacht der Verlorenen for baritone and ensemble (2008)

Text: Ingeborg Bachmann
Work commissioned by the South Bank Centre and the Remix-Ensembles, Porto
WP: 30.09.2008, London (UK) | Matthias Goerne (baritone), Martin Brabbins (conductor), London Sinfonietta

Orchestra instrumentation
1 (also piccolo and alto flute)/1/2(2. also bass clarinet)/1 (also contrabassoon) – 2/1/1/0 – players (2 players) – accordion. – strings (1/1/1/1/1)

1. Alles verloren
2. Für Ingmar Bergman, der von der Wand weiß
3. Im Lot
4. Memorial
5. Die Nacht der Verlorenen
6. So stürben wir um getrennt zu sein

Programme note
Ingeborg Bachmann’s poetic work has been with me for a long time. Some way above the short stories I place her lyric verse, and especially the late fragments she left, probably never intending them for publication. In 2000 these were brought out by Piper Verlag in the volume “Ich weiß keine bessere Welt: Unveröffentlichte Gedichte” (I Know No Better World: Unpublished Poems).

Nowhere do we find that ‘artless path’, of which the author herself spoke, more clearly disclosed than in these fragments, scraps, bursts. However, the media debate that followed their publication showed that the release of these often very personal and intimate texts had to be considered a borderline case. The separation of the ‘poetic I’ from the actual person is hardly achieved at all; the transcending into a formally and linguistically chiselled end-product – some-thing normally omnipresent, above all in Bachmann’s lyric verse – is very rarely carried out here, partly because it is not striven for.

However, this brittleness, this rawness, made the texts interesting to set. To do the work of transcending by compositional means was the challenge; through the fragmentary the music would find its way into dock.

Here I was encountering not polished surfaces but instead rough stones, on to which I could hold and claw my way forward.

It was my intention to use the voice not only to express but also, above all, to narrate – in a way as a continuum that, ever more evidently, pulls through the entire piece. The comprehensibility of the text played a big role in the design of the vocal part, and demanded a very active ensemble, so that the text events that are augmented in the voice become further amplified, even zoomed in on, bodily reinforced and made traceable. This ensemble, at first very dominant, over times gives more and more space to the solo voice. The work ends in great withdrawal.

There is, as in all my pieces, an underlying tonal tautness. Small surface structures, too, are stamped in their realisation with tonal features, even with vaguely triadic outlines. Triads appear in pure form in sequences, settlements, etc, providing clues and representing iridescent surfaces in the general compilation.

Thomas Larcher