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North German Radio's Kafka Weekend: "ROTPETER'S DRINKING SONG" by Jan Müller-Wieland

Kafka's oeuvre as stimulus and model for the music of important composers: one poses the question whether the Prague author, who during his lifetime led a rather obscure existence apart from public literary life, could have dreamed of such a thing. But Kafka texts have been booming in contemporary music already since the 1970s. His aphoristic observations first found their congenial musical realisation in György Kurtág's "Kafka Fragments" of 1985/86. Forty fragments from Franz Kafka's diaries are here made into a mosaic of highly expressive musical miniatures. For the Israeli composer Gideon Lewensohn, on the other hand, Franz Kafka is the subject of a lifelong artistic confrontation. In his "Odradek Quartet" he composed a variety of fleeting gestures rich in allusions, suggestive of Kafka's grotesque figure of the same name. Aribert Reimann has also been considered a Kafka connoisseur of a special kind since his masterwork "The Castle."

For the concert series "Anbruch" ("Beginning"), Reimann will rehearse a master class of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in a selection of settings of Kafka texts. His students will dedicate themselves to four performances of Kafka songs commissioned by North German Radio. One of these is by the Hamburg-born composer Jan Müller-Wieland, who now lives in Berlin and is one of the great white hopes of the new music scene, especially with regard to his music theatre works. The composer says the following about his Kafka setting:

"In the short story 'A Report for an Academy,' a monkey gives a report on his becoming a human being, or rather his corporeal punishment and breeding to become a human, supposedly with a measure of humanity. He has successfully gone through this transformation and is proud of it. He has also sold his soul and spirit in the barter of 'first an animal, now a human being.' The monkey's name is Rotpeter and, through the firm of Hagenbeck, has not only received shots in his monkey's bottom, but also litres of red wine down his throat. He drunkenly sings "with the rapturous howling of stupidity." (Kafka). He sings his drinking song of the misery of life."

The performance will take place on 28 August 2004 at the Rolf Liebermann Studio of the North German Radio, Hamburg, during the course of Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival.