Five songs after poems by Veijo Meri (2000/01)

Publisher: Ms.

Duration: ca. 10′

Commissioned by the Aue-Foundation, Helsinki/Finnland

FP: (Nr. 1-4) Nov 2, 2000, Helsinki (Herman Wallén, Benjamin Schweitzer),
FP: (complete cycle) Sept 20, 2001, Graz (Herman Wallén, Kanako Nakagawa)

Further performances:

Nov 18, 2004, New York, Manhattan School of Music (US premiere, Matthias Vieweg/Reiko Füting)
Nov 21, 2004, Königs Wusterhausen (German premiere, Matthias Vieweg/Reiko Füting)
Nov 23, 2004, Wernigerode
Nov 25, 2004, Berlin
Nov 27, 2004, Dresden
April 8, 2010, Lübeck
June 18, 2010, Kiel

Radio broadcast:

MDR 3.4.03 (# 3 and #5)


The first four songs have been written in summer 2000 on request the Aue-foundation in Helsinki for the baritone Herman Wallén who performed the leading part in the world premiere of my chamber opera Jakob von Gunten.

Although these poems originate from different collections, they can be perfectly combined to a song cycle. Number I (”Helteen kuivattama koivu…” – “A birch parched by the heat”), II (”Linnut keveävät etelään…” -”Birds leaving south”) and IV (”Kesä ja talvi” – “summer and winter”) are pictures of nature, describing the winter or its foreshadowing in a scantly melancholic language.

Number III (”Teitittely on kaunista” – “Saying Sie is beautiful”) caught my eye because of its Finnish-German bilingualism and serves, in a way, the ‘Scherzo’ of the cycle. Despite – or maybe because of – its exceptious topic among the texts, all musical patterns have been derivated from this song, which I composed first of all. Numbers I and IV have been intended to be prologue and epilogue while the two middle pieces form the core of the composition. Thus, there is an analogy to the stylistic device of a chiasmus, which is also often used in Veijo Meri’s works.

The handling of the voice includes everything that a skilled Lied singer has at his command – from spoken and whispered sentences over great melodic lines to a tender falsetto. In contrast to that, the piano part is more reduced, although it should not be misinterpreted as a simple accompaniment – it rather has a commenting function.

The fifth song, “Myrsky” (Storm), has been added in February 2001 when Herman Wallén asked me for a grand virtuousic final after the debut performance of the 4-movement version. The fifth movement actually includes quite a few derivations from the earlier four. While working on this last movement I realized that Meri’s poem is perfectly suited for a termination of the cycle. Comparable to the first movement, it is an embodiment of nature, but with a much more articulated relationship to the human being as an observer. Furthermore, the central position of the third movement is even more emphasized in the five-movement version.