Not a Queen, but a King of the Night: Jan Müller-Wieland's Latest Work

On Friday, 30 May 2003 Jan Müller-Wieland's new work "King of the Night," an epiphany for speaker, singer and orchestra based on a text collage of Jan Müller-Wieland, also based on texts from the Book of Job, Pia Tafdrup, Nelly Sachs, Georg Büchner and Jakob Böhme as well as Biblical quotations, will receive its world premiere in Montforthaus, Feldkirch. The performers will be Klaus Maria Brandauer (speaker), Sibylle Schaible (soprano), Heike Heilmann (soprano), Maida Karisik (alto) and the Balthasar Neumann Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Hengelbrock.

One hour prior to the concert, at 19 o'clock, the composer Jan Müller-Wieland, in conversation with the Danish poet Pia Tafdrup, will give an introduction to his work in the Graf-Rudolf-Saal at the Montforthaus.

Silvia Thurner has written the following introductory information:

"The world premiere of the scenically inspired music theatre 'King of the Night' by Jan Müller-Wieland forms one of the climaxes of this year's Feldkirch Festival. At the age of thirty-seven, he already counts among the established composer personalities in Germany. Together with the artistic director of the Feldkirch Festival, Thomas Hengelbrock, and the actor, Klaus Maria Brandauer, the composer set about 'tracking down God.' Jan Müller-Wieland created the music to a melodrama that more or less represents a new narrative of the Book of Job, also including poems of the Danish poet Pia Tafdrup and texts of Nelly Sachs.

Jan Müller-Wieland has already composed seven music theatrical works and four symphonies. Last year he received the 'Furtherance Prize for Composition' of the Ernst von Siemens Foundation and enjoyed great success with the opera 'Nathan's Death,' based on a text by George Tabori. A close collaboration exists between Müller-Wieland and violinist Daniel Hope; he composed the work Luftstück (Air Piece) for percussionist Peter Sadlo. The composer, who has lived in Berlin for ten years as a freelance artist, designates Peter Ruzicka, Director of the Salzburg Festival, as his mentor.

"Regarding the new work: in Joseph Roth's novel 'Job', the protagonist is a strictly devout Jew who experiences so much suffering that he loses his faith. When God appears to him, he senses hope and recovers his faith. The story of Job seemed suitable for music theatre to both Thomas Hengelbrock and Klaus Maria Brandauer; the latter portrays very multi-layered roles in this work as Satan, Jehovah and Job. The idea of using the Book of Job as the point of departure for a music theatrical work was also close to the composer's heart, for it contains 'the simile that God and man are not at all distinguishable from each other. Basically, everyone can recognise his God; what is Godly remains open to each individual person.'

"The basis of the text collage is formed by poems of Pia Tafdrup and Nelly Sachs, among others. 'The principle that one becomes completely irritated in his relationship to God when one fells humiliated, yet can find God again in a completely surprising way - this background is also dealt with by Joseph Roth', explains Jan Müller-Wieland. 'The story is very political. That's why I'm fascinated by this subject. Through the flower, it describes something very current and also has to do with our world political situation. That was the central point for me.' Jan Müller-Wieland conceived the music to 'King of the Night' for thirty-two musicians with strings, woodwinds, brass, piano, celesta, harp and percussion. The trumpeter Reinhold Friedrich and the percussionist Hans Kristian Sorensen play prominent roles at the premiere.

"The music of Jan Müller-Wieland is primarily made up of musical germ cells which are essentially inspired by language and developed in plastically formed energy processes. The composer describes his experiences as an orchestral musician as having greatly influenced him. 'As a double bassist, I came into contact with the great orchestral apparatus very early on, and I still profit from this today. I know how the orchestral apparatus functions in terms of logistics as well. For me, music is very much a living material.' The confrontation with musical tradition was a matter of course for the artist. Tersely and conclusively, he characterises his approach to music, to the history of music and composition with a quotation of Gustav Mahler: 'The point is passing on the fire and not worshipping the ashes.' In this sense, he tells us of the most important stations on his path of compositional study, which he completed with Hans Werner Henze, among others. 'When I began studying during the mid-1980s, I first came across the Second Viennese School and serialism. But I was always on the lookout for those composers who evaded this subject. What interested me were composers who had bypassed these things, and in so doing played an inspirational role. One of my favourite composers is Leos Janacek. The way in which he develops motifs based on the Czech language, how he deals with them fascinates me. Janacek's aura and impulses please me very much, and I feel directly motivated from him for my work. Janacek's music is a kind of petrol station, as it were.'

"Satire, irony and burlesque moments in music are just as significant for the composer as are vital rhythms, which are primarily manifest in a music with speaking character. 'That's why I am all for connecting music to other art forms,' emphasises the composer, sceptically adding, 'When music is nothing but texture, it doesn't interest me at all.' Conscious and unconscious elements mix together in the compositional expression of Jan Müller-Wieland as a matter of course. Brief quotations are understood as signs that occasionally refer to other correlations of meaning. 'In my music, there are many allusions to other music, more or less quotations. This happens to me often; I don't have to consciously concern myself with this, it is simply a part of my nature - conscious and unconscious elements mix together. That is exactly what I find so exciting in Surrealism - connections allow themselves to be made automatically.' The title of the epiphany 'King of the Night' refers directly to the famous coloratura aria of the Queen of the Night from Mozart's 'Magic Flute.' Thus, this connection is also referred to indirectly when the famous aria is heard improvisando in the soprano as a sign of the rebirth of Job. The work's title is also to be understood from its subject and is Biblically intended, as a 'figure that rides into the night, and one doesn't know who is the king - the devil, Jehovah or Job.'"