Composers about Composers

Composers about Composers

On our blog, our composers regularly introduce their favourite works from our catalogue. This time: Steffen Wick writes about Heiner Goebbels.

"Heiner Goebbels’ opera Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten (Landscape with Distant Relatives), which premièred in 2002, is more relevant for me today than ever before. 

In times of EU crisis, refugee crisis, unpredictable politics in the US and right-wing extremist groups such as Pegida, progressive globalisation leads to people coming together despite all our different histories, traditions and beliefs. Heiner Goebbels asks us this question on how to deal with this plurality: How distant or close are these relatives to us?

Heiner Goebbels makes the complexity of human experience come alive on the theatre stage with a large diversity of language and subject matter in the lyrics, parallelism of different scenic plots. He also does this with a musical language that is not afraid to connect world music elements, rock elements and continuous patterns artfully to one another and to articulate them in different languages, so to speak. The subject matter ranges from analysing Leonardo da Vinci’s art to Getrude Stein’s memories of war. The profound alternates with the profane. This layering leads to a complexity that comes very close to my own experience and perceptions in the world. 

In real life things rarely run smoothly one thing after another. Particularly with the internet, the state of adapting to different situations at the same time has become our reality. We must set new challenges to handle these diverse perspectives correctly.

In this case, theatre becomes an existential experience, as I do not watch what is being performed in front of me on the stage. Instead, I become part of this reality and draw associations between it and my life and surroundings. I experience this truthfulness in opera extremely rarely, which makes Heiner Goebbels’ Landschaft incredibly captivating and dazzling for me.

I am also impressed by the lack of musical self-consciousness in Heiner Goebbels’ work and how I have rarely experienced this from a German composer. For example, the inclusion of Hindu songs or country music from the U.S. produces a collision of different musical styles from different cultures and asks us how we want to deal with this simultaneousness. The compositional plurality, however, does not just remain in a state of isolated parallelism, but is shaped into a higher-level, complete musical expression. 

In my opinion this works because the music always develops from what is happening on the stage. It is part of the complex and diverse story and is an organic result of this. No compositional aesthetics are placed on it, it is more of a tool, just like scenery, libretto or directing, to unlock the ability to perceive. And we are invited to respond to that."

Steffen Wick

Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten • [2002]
Opera for ensemble, choir and soloists
Text: Texts and motifs by Giordano Bruno, Arthur Chapman/Estelle Philleo, T.S. Eliot, Francois Fénelon, Michel Foucault, Katharina Fritsch, Claude Lorrain, Henri Michaux, Nicolas Poussin, Max Reger, Gertrude Stein, Diego Velázquez, Leonardo da Vinci, Sisley Xshafa
Choir: SATB (4. 4. 4. 4.) / 1 (Bfl, chines. Fl). 1 (Musette). 1. B.Cl. 1. / 2 (1. also Zink, Ps; 2. also Picctr, Flghr). 1. 1. 0. / 2 Perc. Cem (Clavichord, Sam, Pno, Hp). Sam (Acc, Pno). / 1. 1. 1. 2 (1. also Blfl, 2. also Tablecello). 1 (E-Bass)
Material on request. Frankfurt version 2010 (without choir, duration: 85 min.) on request.
World Premiere: Genf, 16.10.2002
Duration: 0’
Sy. 3562 // Score / Vx. / Carr.

composer profile: Heiner Goebbels

composer profile: Steffen Wick