«For a perfect poem, I have no use», said the German composer Wolfgang Rihm. Dutch composer-violist Ig Henneman knows that there are no perfect poems; perfect poems would embody silence. But in the ruins of poetry, she may find ghosts of music wandering, and can negotiate with these ghosts and weave intriguing textures.
Henneman chose five short poems as sources of inspiration and composed five songs for five female solo instrumentalists, who also recite and sing the poems. All songs, as Dutch writer Bas van Putten noted in his liner notes, fuse the Lied’s finesse with the straightforwardness of an improvised session, guided by Henneman. These poetic texts present themselves «as an answer to the questions uttered by the notes as they were groping, searching, dancing, growling, whining», but eventually all songs providing magical sonic ambiguity.
The first solo song for cello, «As If» (2019), was performed by Lidy Blijdorp, and was inspired by Emily Dickinson’s «I felt a Cleaving in my Mind», and relates to the emotional turmoil and despair of the poetess («… As if my brain split- …»). The performance of Blijdorp captures the emotional storm and the contradicting moods and alternates between fragile and delicate moods to brief, intense and raw outbursts. The second solo song for violin, «In the Storm of Roses» (2014), was performed by Diamanda La Berge Dramm, and was inspired by Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann’s «Im Gewitter der Rosen». Bachmann is known for her criticism of the post-war Austrian society and writings about the effects of fascism on women. The expressive, unsettling performance of La Berge Dramm corresponds beautifully with the melancholic message of the poem.
The third solo song for bass clarinet and clarinet, «The Motion Caused» (2016), was performed by Anna voor de Wind, and was inspired by Dutch poet Anneke Brassinga’s «Tuin» (Garden). The resonant, ethereal tones and overtones of the clarinets sketch the elusive, synaesthetic atmosphere of the poem where «Invisible birds / can just as well be monkeys as wind – / feather-light monkeys, winged most likely / or bodiless». The fourth song for viola, «Ten Lines» (2015), was performed by Elisabeth Smalt, and was inspired by Japanese poet Nanao Sakaki’s «Soil for Legs» (the only male poet in this collection). Smalt’s contemplative performance relates to the poet’s total surrender to all nature’s manifestations, cerebral and corporeal. The last song for bassoon, «Hardwood Floorboards» (2016), was performed by Dana Jessen, and was inspired by American, London-based Sarah Lawson’s «Hans and Anneke’s Lakeland Terriers». Jessen’s urgent yet playful performance responds beautifully to the «staccato tap dance cleats» described in the poem.
No perfect poems and no perfect singing, but inspired and very close to perfect compositions and performances.
Lidy Blijdorp (c, v), Diamanda La Berge Dramm (vio, v), Anna voor de Wind (bcl, cl, v), Elisabeth Smalt (viola, v), Dana Jessen (bassoon, v)