Composed in 2014 by Swedish composer Rolf Martinsson (b. 1956), Ich denke Dein... (Op. 100) is a five-part song cycle with texts by Goethe, Rainer Maria Rilke and Joseph von Eichendorff. It’s a clear continuity of the great 19th century European lieder tradition, but is more obviously connected to its late flowering in the hands of Richard Strauss and his contemporaries. Martinsson, professor of composition at the Malmö Academy of Music and a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, has collaborated extensively (over 100 performances) with Swedish soprano Lisa Larsson, and Ich denke Dein... was composed for her.
Larsson’s vocal versatility has enabled her to cultivate an extensive repertoire that ranges from Baroque to contemporary works, and, while a noted Mozart specialist, her expertise also extends to the late-Romanticism of Mahler, Berg and Richard Strauss, making this cycle a perfect vehicle for her. For this Australian premiere of Ich denke Dein…, we were lucky enough to have Larsson here in person to perform it, and the composer also present in the audience.
The cycle inhabits a sonic landscape somewhere between the Four Last Songs and Camelot, with lush Broadway dissonances, undulating orchestrations and soaring melodies. The stage was rearranged post-Schumann for a slightly reduced MSO and to accommodate piano, harp and celeste, which add an otherworldly tinkling at various points throughout. The final song in the cycle, Mondnacht (Moon Night) shares its author with the final of Strauss’s Four Last Songs, Im Abendrot, and it is a transcendental show-stopper, swelling and receding with mysterious energy and glorious shimmering orchestrations, around which Larsson’s mellifluous soprano wove magically. Ich denke Dein… is a stunning example of twenty-first century lieder, and Larsson an equally spectacular interpreter.