...composer György Kurtág's Kafka Fragments.
I first became aware of this composition a dozen or so years ago but forgot at that time to sink myself into it.
This good article contains the following good thing:
The Kafka texts range from miniature parables to imagistic snapshots (“The onlookers freeze as the train goes past” in Part I, No. 10, “Scene at the Station”) and brief but indelible sighs of insight (Part III, No. 3, “My fortress”). Stark beauty sits side by side with the blackest humor. For all their shard-like dislocations and intense contrasts, the fragments also betray recurring patterns of imagery. Chief of these is the metaphor of the path and locomotion (and the implication of the search for some path through the labyrinth of our existence – e.g., Part II’s “The True Path”). Other images involve the body’s fragility, erotic anxiety, states of exile, and the demands of the creative life.
Instead of merely attempting to illustrate these texts, Kurtág’s musical profiles create uncanny parallel universes with their own recurrent patterns of imagery. In the very first fragment, for example (“The Good March in Step”), he sets up a counterpoint between the simple, mechanical oscillations of the violin and, for the singer, a contrasting freedom of line, moving from folksong innocence to giddily hiccupping leaps. Kurtág repeatedly alternates between stratagems of extreme simplicity and almost absurdly extreme acrobatics for both musicians.
The arsenal from which Kurtág draws embraces an assortment of extremes: ethereal reflection and folkloric lustiness, violent staccato attacks and feather-wisps of lyricism, shocking silences and frenzied momentum. Expressionism (from primal shrieks to Sprechstimme) takes its place alongside shades of the past, from Bach to Romantic luminaries who register a nostalgic presence nearly unbearable in its poignancy. Consider Part I, No. 18 (another homage to Schumann) – “The Flower Hung Dreamily” – with its desperate attempt to recapture a lost lyrical innocence in the violin’s lofty but aimless flight. Throughout, Kurtág wrests the maximum of expressiveness from minimal gestures, all the while leaving space for the complex of imagery – verbal and musical – to resound and realign according to the private universe of each audience member.
a different performance
This website has some of the fragment text in English.
About Kafka Fragments, soprano Dawn Upshaw said this:
What I initially understood to be darkness in the piece, I now see as a purity and extreme clarity of thought.