Love of a Poet, Song of the Earth

The concert by the Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble features two works which in their own way conduct a dialogue with the heritage of Austro-German romanticism. The overall subject of the programme examines how tradition is translated into the artistic language of modern times.

Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), written in 1909 to Chinese poems from the Tang Dynasty is one of the last works by Gustav Mahler. Through this work, the watershed passes between late musical romanticism and modernism—bidding farewell to the 19th century, the composer expands one of its main genres to the expressionist canon of the 1900s, creating a unique hybrid of song cycle and symphony. The modernist nature of Das Lied von der Erde was accentuated in 1921 by Arnold Schonberg in his edition for soloists and chamber orchestra—at the same time emphasizing the intimate, confessional nature of the work.

Photo: Anya Todich

Schumann’s vocal cycle made a great impression on me from a young age. In creating my own Dichterliebe, I honestly tried to take the composer’s path, working with Heine’s poetry, but the musical result was absolutely different, which is quite natural. Enthusiasm was replaced by depression, joy with delirium and even hysteria, heartfelt confession with grim menace. Only the final gloomy romantic scepticism is preserved («You evil, evil songs») which placed a final punctuation mark in this dialogue of eras. Is it a full stop?

— Alexey Sysoev

Another projection of the genre of vocal lyricism and romantic tradition is provided by the Russian premiere of Dichterliebe (A Poet’s Love) by Alexey Sysoev—a work commissioned in 2014 for the Schumann festival in Dusseldorf. Sysoev not only borrows the name from Robert Schumann’s cycle of the same name set to poems by Heinrich Heine (1840), but creates his own score to these poems, entering into a dialogue with two great Germans—the poet and the composer. The instrumentation of the work is reminiscent of the «large ensemble» introduced by Schoenberg, who radically reduced the size of the classical symphony orchestra.


Part 1

Alexey Sysoev (b. 1972)

First performance in Russia
for female voice and ensemble

Part 2

Gustav Mahler (1860—1911)

Das Lied von der Erde (1909)
Symphony for tenor, baritone and orchestra Set to Chinese poems of the 8th century translated by Hans Bethge
(The Chinese Flute, 1907)
Adapted for chamber orchestra by Arnold Schoenberg
— "The Drinking Song of Earth’s Misery"
— "The Lonely One in Autumn"
— "Of Youth"
— "Of Beauty"
— "The Drunken Man in Spring"
— "The Farewell"

Performed by

Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble | MCME
Fyodor Lednev conductor
Olga Rossini soprano
Boris Rudak tenor
Konstantin Suchkov baritone
Ivan Khudyakov-Vedenyapin assistant conductor
Sergei Kochetkov sound engineer
Viktoria Korshunova director of MCME

Alexei Sysoev (Moscow, 1972) — composer, performer, improviser. He graduated from the Moscow College of Improvisational Music; performed concerts as a jazz pianist, and studied composition at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in Moscow. As an improviser, he has worked with such musicians as Vladimir Tarasov, Tosimaru Nakamura, Boris Balchun and others. He has composed music for theatrical productions by Kirill Serebrennikov, Filipp Grigorian, the dance company Club Guy & Roni (Netherlands). Winner of a Golden Mask award in 2013 for musical theatre composition (Full Moon by Filipp Grigorian, 2012). The opera Drillalians, Episode IV (directed by Boris Yukhananov) is in the repertoire of the Stanislavky Electrotheatre. Winner of the Russian Music 2.0 programme (2020).

Fyodor Lednev (b. 1971, Minsk) — conductor. He graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory, specializing in choir conducting (1995) and opera and symphonic conducting (1998). Since 1995, he has taught at the Rimsky-Korsakov Musical College in St. Petersburg. As a guest conductor, he has worked with leading orchestras of Russia, including the Svetlanov State Orchestra of Russia, the Russian National Orchestra, the academic symphony orchestra of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia, the musicAeterna choir and orchestra, and others. Since 2019, conductor of musicAeterna.