RILKE SONGS (Rainer Maria Rilke)

Article excerpt

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, well known American mezzo soprano, was drawn to the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke early in life by hearing his German speaking mother quote the mystical poet. The composer says in his introductory notes, "Rilke seems to evoke feelings, states of being that are at the edge of awareness, mysterious but close to the heart. One can't always understand exactly what he means. I believe this is a deliberate elusiveness in order to provoke our intuition."

The composer's understanding of Rilke's poetry is undoubtedly deepened by his training in Tibetan Buddhism and his interest in the classic figures of Eastern spiritual history, several of whom have been subjects of his musical works. These five poems all center on the fundamental themes of openness, the transformative act of pouring oneself out, of emptying oneself to realize our ultimate oneness with the universe, of acknowledging that oneness, and of the connecting power of one's own breath to the breath of life itself. The poet uses language full of imagery and intuitive knowledge, and, even in Stephen Mitchell's sensitive English translations, the meanings are not easy to grasp. …

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