O Lacrimosa, op. 48, no. 2, Nothing but a breath

Ernst Krenek (1900 - 1991) / Text: Rainer Maria Rilke

“For quite a while I did not know what I should do with the beautiful, somewhat enigmatic poems,” admitted Ernst Krenek. In 1924 the composer met the famous poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Rilke subsequently dedicated to Krenek the three poems with the title O Lacrimosa, which means “O tearful one.”

As so oft in poems, intensive experiences are expressed in a few words. Here, it has to do with the breath, which means a short moment, and at the same time carries great vitality within itself: like the contemplation of a tree, for example. What moments are special for you?
The mysteriousness of this text is also perceptible in the music. At the beginning, the piano alone poses questions until the very high singing voice flies over it like a bird.

Nothing but a breath is the void, and that
green fulfillment of the beautiful
trees: a breath!
We, the still breathed-upon,
today still breathed-upon, count
this, the earth’s slow breathing,
whose hurry we are.


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