Philipp Maintz with the Munich Philharmonic
The “vertical poetry” of the Argentinian poet Roberto Juarroz is the model for three orchestral songs by Philipp Maintz. His tríptico vertical will be premiered in Munich by soprano Marisol Montalvo and the Munich Philharmonic conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. The music and poetry are explorations of the unknown and portray with forceful images the dimensions of endlessness, glancing into the vertical in the abyss. Performances are on 25, 26 and 28 June 2014.
The poems of the Argentinian poet Roberto Juarroz are explorations of the unknown, portraying with powerful images the vastness, waters and continents, coordinates as it were into infinity and glimpses into the vertical of the abyss. Questions to Philipp Maintz.
What is it about Juarroz’s poetry which interests and inspires you to compose?
Philipp Maintz: With Juarroz it was as it so often is: first of all the poem strikes a chord on first encounter, allows me to imagine a music. On top of that, I liked the quasi-musical form very much: in the first two poems I read something like antitheses, the third bundles these together, draws conclusions and implies something more than the first two. In addition I found a whole range of possibilites for making cross-connections. The music is structured as a triptych, like the group of poems: here there are two large “wings” on the outside and a fast, light, bright centrepiece in the middle.
How do you treat the voice? You’re composing for Marisol Montalvo again who sang in your opera Maldoror. Is there a connection between the vocal writing and this text in particular?
To some extent it influenced the formal conception. I established that in the process of working, there is a quite unique amalgam which results from inspiration drawn from the text, but also from imagining her voice and formal considerations. The music and the form of the piece emerged clearly from me one day, as if emerging from the mist. Interestingly enough this is also what Juarroz’s triptych describes – the coming into being of our horizon, the constitution of “feeling”, which brings us to the musical implications of the text.
Composing for orchestra with voice has particular challenges. How do you treat the orchestra, particularly after your experience with the opera Maldoror and the baritone scene Wenn Steine sich zum Himmel stauen … ?
The opera was a kind of revelation for me, in which much came about intuitively, and succeeded. In the composition based on Chlebnikov I was particularly concerned with writing a very transparent orchestral texture. I also noticed that a certain lack of synchronisation between the voice and the orchestral “commentary” can be very attractive. In places I have now consciously distanced the orchestra from the soprano. From time to time this has a very particular intensifying effect. When I repeatedly intervene in the “focus” in the relationship of soprano and orchestra, quite different perspectival relationships between “cause” (that is the text, sung by the soprano) and effect (its “resonance” in the orchestra) are created, which in turn considerably affect the process of the constitution of meaning.
Is there an overall cyclical idea, or are the songs independent of each other?
There is musical material which is passed on and also developed further. A conscious drawing on earlier material (that is, quasi cross-references) seems to me to be rather restricting in the flow. The first and the second songs almost merge into one, although you can hear a gap. The second develops from the reverberation of the first. The third begins with a very clear break, recreates a tonal landscape which had already existed in the first – and then turns in a completely different direction ...
(from [t]akte 1/2014)
(translation: Elizabeth Robinson)