The summer of 2017 saw a curious open air art project in the city of Luxembourg: Air Deluxe. Ventilator ducts were suspended over a large pedestrian area, a poetic metaphor for fresh, pure air which has become a luxury product for many cities in the world, Luxembourg included. The Anglo-German artist couple Helen Evans and Heiko Hansen wanted to evoke, through their work, the problems of air pollution, as well as man’s illusory and utopic desires to harness nature and at the same time to master all the climatic problems.
A rainy day. The wind is howling. A man is alone at home. He has just lit a fire in the fireplace. He makes himself a cup of tea. Desperate efforts to feel better when he feels miserable. He is lonely. He stares out of the window at the rain, at the clouds at nothing. He is waiting and he doesn’t know what he’s waiting for. Life? Death? Salvation? Can you picture it? Here’s the soundtrack matching the beginning of this unfolding drama: Edvard Grieg’s Lyric Pieces, Op. 54, in their orchestrated version.
I like poems from the era of German Romanticism and I like songs that set them to music. If I do not share Fanny’ Mendelssohn’s talent as a musician, at least we share the love for a specific kind of literature in common. And of course I like to play the songs she composed… these beautiful harmonies! Challenging and rewarding. In 1850 she published a set of six songs: Sechs Lieder (Op. 9), recorded by Barbara Heller (piano) and Isabel Lippitz (soprano). The corresponding poems had been written by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Ludwig Christoph Heinrich Hölty and Johann Heinrich Voss; springtime renewal, the anticipation of death and Romantic longing are the subjects.
Many years ago I got lost in a patch of fog. I had gone for a Sunday morning walk along the Mulde river in Eastern Germany. I was familiar with the place, but over time what had started as a haze became a dense, opaque fog. Gradually all the landmarks I needed for my orientation vanished, and at some point I reckoned that I was walking in circles. I couldn’t see the sun, I saw no trees, just green fields, the grey fog and occasionally the river or one of its dead branches. I heard no sound. Panic struck me, my heart was beating fast, and I imagined all kind of horrific and absurd scenarios, one of them being killed and dragged into the river.