Composer search

Search by surname

Detailed search

Repertoire search

Catalogue search

The 50th anniversary of the death of Paul Celan and the setting of text to music by Ruzicka and Müller-Wieland

50 years ago, the poet Paul Celan died. He took his own life on April 20, 1970 in his adopted hometown of Paris.
Celan (born, 23 November 1920) came from Bukovina, Romania where he experienced terrible things during the war years. German and Romanian troops wiped out the seven-hundred-year history of the Jews in Czernowitz from mid-1941 onwards. His family and many friends died in the deportation camps. Throughout his life he suffered particularly badly and mourned the loss of his parents. Celan himself managed to survive in a hiding place provided for him by an industrialist and made friends with Immanuel Weissglas. During this time Celan was occupied himself intensively with works of the high German mystics, Apollinaire and Georg Trakl. In a labour camp on the Vltava, Celan was assigned to road construction, where he had to shovel heavy stones. This image recurs, among other things, in the famous verse from the Fugue of Death, "We shovel a grave in the air, there you do not lie close by".
Celan developed an extraordinary lyrical language, poems that include, as it were, silence, which have almost no literal consistency.

In many of our authors' works, texts by Paul Celan have been set to music. In the opera CELAN by Peter Ruzicka, the poet and his work itself form the focal point.

Peter Ruzicka: "... he who shattered the songs"

The last poems before Paul Celan's suicide in the Seine are magical-hieroglyphic texts, cipher-like images, signs, which - as Ruzicka puts it - can only be located on the verge of silence. Moreover, Ruzicka continues, they are "imperious in their hermetic, corresponding loneliness!
The composer has always felt a great closeness to the dark verses of the poet. The constant examination of Celan's works finally culminated in the music theatre CELAN, which is by no means an harmonious sounding biography of the poet, but rather a sequence of snapshots assembled into fragments of the poet's life and work. In reference to the cycle "... which shattered the songs" Peter Ruzicka quotes the poet Paul Celan, who once said at the award of the Büchner Prize: "Expanding art? No. Instead, go with art into your very own confinement. And set yourself free." Peter Ruzicka has also made this image the basis of his compositional concept. "The painful unsatisfactoriness of Celan's poems became the impulse for the composition that can only be: Reflection, counter-image, 'stretto' – no doubling of what is said. Also: circling without aim, standstill - feeling the nearness of death."

Jan Müller-Wieland's “Berliner Weihnachtslied" (Berlin Christmas Carol)

Jan Müller-Wieland's "Berliner Weihnachtslied" was first performed on 11 May 1996 during the Munich Biennale. It is a seven-minute setting of the poem "Du liegst" (You Lie) by Paul Celan.

"You lie in the great listening,
ambushed, snowed in.

Go to the Spree, go to the Havel,
go to the butcher hooks,
to the red apple stakes
from Sweden –

Here comes the table with the gifts,
he turns around an Eden –

The man became a sieve, the woman
had to swim, the sow,
for herself, for no one, for everyone –

The Landwehr Canal will not roar.
(Paul Celan)

Works in our catalogues related to Paul Celan:

Jan Müller-Wieland: Berlin Christmas Carol
Peter Ruzicka: Opera "Celan"
Peters Ruzicka: Celan Symphony
Peters Ruzicka: "...who shattered the songs"
Peter Ruzicka: "...islands, borderless..."
Peter Ruzicka: Deathfugue

» Show all news