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The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. (1 Kings 19:11-12)
Silence is the source of inspiration for this album. As an artist and a human being, I need silence, which I especially find in the peace of prayer. It fertilises my musical ideas and allows them to mature into finished compositions. Nonetheless, the works presented here are not free of conflicts, but are the inner expression of the longing for peace for which we must repeatedly struggle in the midst of the storms of everyday life. In this spirit, I invite you on a musical journey that is borne by intensive listening to the “gentle whisper”. If my music finds the way into your heart, it will have reached its goal.
The rule of St. Benedict († 547), which forms the basis for many spiritual communities to the present day, begins with the words: “Obsculta, listen my son, to the precepts of the master, and incline the ear of your heart.” My numerous stays at Stift Heiligenkreuz (where these recordings were made) and its daughter convent in Bochum-Stiepel inspired me to compose a piece about listening. Intensive listening is — like silence — at the beginning and at the end of each piece of music. The three main motifs of the composition (1. four ascending semiquavers in the accompaniment, 2. the falling third and 3. a descending, dotted scale) become gradually denser until finally the Gregorian chant Ubi Caritas sounds out of the silence as an answer. “Where love and goodness are, there is God.” The three motifs, so to speak purified by the chant, draw the piece to a peaceful close.
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you, there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
Holy Lake — Der Heilige See
The photographer Monika Schulz-Fieguth lives and works by Holy Lake (Heiliger See) in Potsdam, which she has been photographing during all seasons for years. Her wonderful pictures have made such a deep impression in my soul, in connection with my visits to Holy Lake, that music had to result from it. For me, the lake represents timelessness — the permanent, the eternal — whilst the change of seasons, the coming and going of generations, remind me of my own impermanence. In each of the five pieces, we have a repeating motif, an ostinato, which represents the changelessness of the lake. Sound landscapes arise around and out of this motif, individual figures and hints of themes. Are they memories of people who have lived in the changing light of history on the lake? Are they raindrops joining together with the water? Or leaves that sprout and grow in order to then ultimately glide back down to earth in artistic figures on the shores of the lake? The cycle ends with the movement Winter in the trust that nothing has been in vain and that everything is part of a complete whole.
Thanking Blessed Mary
Time and time again, music itself has always called forth the creation of new music. Many composers have arranged or rewritten works of their predecessors and colleagues. In this tradition, I have tried my hand at the song Thanking Blessed Mary from Paddy Kelly’s solo album “In Exile”. For many years I have appreciated the music and message of this Christian artist. l have embedded the melody into an expansive piano composition and tried to transfer the spirit of the original into the world of my piano music. After an extended introduction, we hear Paddy Kelly’s song, which is then developed in a grand crescendo into a hymn of thanks into which elements of my compositions Obsculta and Winter repeatedly flow in. In the concluding section, all the motifs (the falling third, the refrain of the song and the “Ave Maria of Lourdes”) are combined, leading after a repetition of the introduction into a bright, open final chord.
“Mystic Rose” is one of the many names that the “Lauretan Litany” (a Catholic prayer) gives to the Mother of Jesus. The three short pieces of this cycle are to be understood as a contemplation of her beauty. Rosa mystica, ora pro nobis!
“Star of the Sea” is another name with which the Mother of God is invoked in the “Lauretan Litany”. This canonically conceived composition circles round the note C as if it were a fixed star, showing us the way despite and within all storms and dissonances. “Star of the Sea, illuminate us and lead us on our path!” (Benedict XVI)
This composition, too, is a musical approximation of a Marian prayer, consisting of two parts. In the first movement, the three “Ave Marias” are sounded in a triple ascent that strives ever higher. The second movement closes the circle with an oration — the concluding prayer.
Afterthought was created as a musical afterthought to Prayers of Silence. A descending, three-tone motif floats above gently rocking harmonies. The music, at rest in itself, owes its existence to prayer that St. Thérèse of Lisieux described in such a timelessly beautiful way: “For me, prayer is an upswing of the heart; a simple glance towards heaven, an outcry of gratitude and love, in the midst of being tested and in the midst of joy.”
David Ianni, October 2013