Kafka-Fragments

for speaker, baritone, choir, orchestra and synthesizer [1983/84] | duration: 29’00”

The Kafka-Fragments were originally inspired by the Kafka Year 1983. As the largest project within the framework of the diploma examination, they formed the conclusion of Martin Lichtfuss’ composition studies at the Vienna University of Music.

The composer himself freely composed the text based on the Acht Oktavhefte as well as fragments from notebooks and loose sheets. It is a collage of individual notes by Kafka, about which the composer notes that “the context – the main thread, which results from the arrangement of the individual scraps of text – is not to be attributed to Kafka himself, but, like the music, should be understood as my personal statement on this author, which characterizes more my own relationship to his writings than his personality.”

The distribution of the text to a speaker, a singer, and the chorus implements Kafka’s ambivalent relationship to his society, as reflected in his literature. Hence, the chorus and the speaker/soloist often form antipodes and frequently make contradictory statements. On the other hand, the collective repeatedly proves to be the spokesperson of the individual – split up into different states of consciousness – and thus expresses its disorder.

Musically, the work is divided into seven sections and framed by a short prologue and epilogue, with a sado-masochistic center forming the point of reference (“I have a strong hammer…”). Harmonically and melodically, the music oscillates between free tonality and atonality and is rhythmically controlled by alternating meters derived from the text. The orchestral instruments are basically used in the tradition of 20th century repertoire, though the orchestral sound is enriched and altered by a synthesizer.

The Kafka Fragments were commissioned by the Vienna Jeunesse Choir and are dedicated to them and their director ,Günther Theuring. They were awarded the 1st prize for composition by the city of Innsbruck in 1987.

Incidentally, György Kurtág in his Kafka-Fragments for soprano and solo violin from 1985 also used a similar procedure in textual terms, completely independently and without any connection to the present composition. As astonishing as the correspondence between the conceptions of these two pieces and the time of their realization may be, their musical concretizations, on the other hand, prove to be thoroughly different and absolutely incomparable.

Press (in german)

Schon im instrumentalen Prolog zeigt sich Lichtfuss als außergewöhnlich musikalischer und technisch versierter Komponist. […] eine bemerkenswerte Uraufführung.

Albert Seitlinger, Tiroler Tageszeitung   17-05-1990

Eine Komposition, die beeindruckt, denn Lichtfuss weiß das frei- und atonale Klangmaterial geschickt mit dem Inhalt der Fragmente zu verbinden, setzt den Fragmentcharakter der Texte in Komposition um, ohne dadurch unnötige Brüche zu erzeugen oder zu versuchen, die chiffrierten Worte in eine adäquat-apokryphe Tonsprache umzusetzen. […]

Lichtfuss verleugnet auch seine persönliche Sicht nicht […] und versteht es, überzeugend (und verantwortungsvoll) mit dieser Subjektivität zu operieren.

Lichtfuss’ »Kafka-Fragmente« […] sind ein seltener Glücksfall der modernen Musik.

Christian Baier, Österreichische Musikzeitschrift   9/1990

Eberhard Harnoncourt – speaker; Martin Winkler – baritone; Rainer Bonelli – synthesizer; ‘Wiener Jeunesse’-Choir; ‘Wiener Hochschulorchester’; Conductor: Günther Theuring

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