Barely awoken, / we’re already heading for sleep. / It’s not true, not true / that we came to dwell on the earth – this extract from a poem in the Nahuatl language inspired Mikołaj Górecki to write the composition Zen Tontemiquico (2006). This work lulls us into a meditative trance, interspersed with moments of frenzy, combining orchestral means of expression with allusions to the pre-Columbian tradition.
The journey from birth to death is equally moving in Gustav Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. This is a tribute paid by the soloist, the celebrated German singer Matthias Goerne, to Andrzej Hiolski, an outstanding Polish baritone who died in 2000 and would have turned 100 on 1 January 2022.
The Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde are the most brilliant examples of the realisation of Wagner’s concept of the music drama. This ‘memorial to the most powerfully Romantic drama’, as Wagner described his work, became a model of musical expression for many long years. Still today, it stands in the pantheon of the most beautiful, but at the same time most tragic, works of all time.
The borderline between sleeping and waking is navigated by Valentyn Sylvestrov’s Fourth Symphony (1976). This work marks a radical change in the output of this Ukrainian composer, who in the 1970s departed from avant-garde sounds. Here, sharp, radical means of expression clash with an aesthetic that hints at neoromanticism, filled with melancholy melodiousness.