Orpheus & Odysseus & Molly Bloom
Orpheus and Ulysses are mythical literary archetypes. Sagas, dramas and fantasies about these figures have permeated the arts since Greek antiquity. Monteverdi’s operas stand like landmarks in this long cultural history – and it is still going on. Works by two contemporary composers in this programme cast a modern, expert look at immortalised and new sources. Following his opera “The Mask of Orpheus”, Sir Harrison Birtwistle composed its chamber music counterpart. Using just voice, oboe and harp, he leads us into the world of ancient vocalists. As a textual background, Birtwistle chose 26 of Rilke’s “Sonnets to Orpheus”. They are partly sung whole, partly in fragments, and sometimes only in addition to purely instrumental pieces: they are present without being articulated in words. For this concert, Rebecca Saunders composed “a one-hour spatial work for the Chamber Music Hall of the Philharmonic” (Edition Peters). A modern-day Ulysses served as a literary source: James Joyce’s “Ulysses”, and especially Molly Bloom’s closing monologue that ends with an almighty “yes”.
Rebecca Saunders [*1967]
a spatialised performance
for soprano, 19 soloists and conductor [2016/17]
With texts from the final Chapter of Ulysses, Molly Bloom, by James Joyce
Composition commission and production Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin with kind support of the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung.
The ensemble work for the development of the composition was funded by Kunststiftung NRW as part of Campus Musikfabrik.
Harrison Birtwistle [*1934]
A ceremony for fourteen musicians
In memory of Michael Vyner 
26 Orpheus Elegies
for oboe, harp and countertenor
based on the Orpheus sonnets by Rainer Maria Rilke [2003/04]
Lachrimæ: seaven teares figured in seaven passionate pavans
[publ. 1604], arranged for 9 instruments by Harrison Birtwistle