Anna Prohaska I & Pierre-Laurent Aimard I

Songs of Ives / Strawinsky / Debussy

Woman in front of a black background

Soprano Anna Prohaska © Marco Borggreve

Charles Ives occasionally wrote songs that manage without a human voice – singers made such a fuss, he felt, he would replace them with a solo instrument. However, in the pieces chosen by Anna Prohaska and pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, the voice will take the leading role. Ives’s songs work with a broad palette of themes, wandering from childhood dreams to industrialisation, from criticism of society to autumn moods. They are contrasted with songs by  Debussy and Strawinsky.

15:10, Exhibition Foyer
Work introduction

Charles Ives wrote 151 songs – far more than are contained in his collection 114 Songs, self-published in 1922. Many of these were originally set “for a solo instrument instead of a singing voice,” as “songs without words,” because the singers “always kept going on about the intervals, time signatures etc.” (Ives). Their stylistic diversity is astonishing – ranging from the unmistakable influence of European antecedents to ragtime und jazz syncopations – while the spectrum of texts on which they are based stretches from sentimental ballads to profound philosophical relections. Alongside highly virtuosic piano parts full of dissonances (“Does a song always have to be a song?” said Ives) there are also simple accompaniments, though even the apparently conventional songs present numerous surprises in terms of harmonics, rhythm and articulation. Anna Prohaska, famous for her almost weightless, silver clear soprano will perform a selection of 25 of Ives’s 114 Songs together with Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Grouped by theme, they are juxtaposed with works that include Igor Stravinsky’s folkloric Four Russian Songs and Claude Debussy’s Proses lyriques, in which introspective miniatures meet dramatic scenes in a Wagnerian manner. Within them the restrained colours of the keyboard transform musically into a thick, quasi-orchestral stream of sound that provides the requisite sonic foundation for the passions described in the lyrics. 


Charles Ives (1874 – 1954)
25 songs chosen from the collections 114 Songs and Eleven Songs

Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)
Four Russian Songs (1918/19)
for voice and piano

Full Fadom Five (1953)
from Three Songs from William Shakespeare

Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918)
Proses lyriques (1892/93)


Anna Prohaska – sopran
Pierre-Laurent Aimard piano

An event by Berliner Festspiele / Musikfest Berlin