Friday 2 December 2011

Language issues

London Concord Singers are currently rehearsing Morten Lauridsen's Les chansons des roses for their Christmas Concert on Dec 15th. I have been finding that Lauridsen's way of setting French rather unsettles me, though I suppose you have to bear in mind that he is setting French which was written by Rilke who was born in Prague. Lauridsen doesn't set French the way a French composer might, he ignores the sort of poetic diction that a native speaker might use (whereby such things as a silent 'e' is unsilenced). But such things are a minefield for the non-native speaker. And I find I have to temper my annoyance as I have been guilty of such things myself, in Rilke as well but this time in German.

My setting of Rilke's Second Duino Elegy was made after I fell in love with the opening. But, of course, it is a very long poem, and though I can speak German I don't speak it like a native and it became apparent that I certainly don't set it like a native. A German singer friend pointed out that I broke rules, but I came to realise that if I tried to follow all the rules whilst setting the German, my setting would start not to feel 'right' to me. So I aimed simply for comprehensibility rather than being idiomatic.

So whilst the singer in my worrits away at Lauridsen's settings, the composer sympathises entirely.

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