Alissa Firsova: Songs of the World

Alissa Firsova: Songs of the World

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Alissa Firsova Songs of the World Op.44 (2019)

I. Weltgeheimnis (Secret of the World)
II. Lied der Welt (Song of the World)
III. Was ist die Welt? (What Is the World?)

"When I went to a bookshop in Vienna to discover some Viennese poets, it was Hugo von Hofmannsthal whose work sprang out to me. Hofmannsthal is famous for his libretti for Strauss operas, but I loved the philosophical and mystical aspects of his poetry, and found three poems exploring questions about the world.

The first poem suggests there are secrets in this world that we just cannot grasp and at the same time questions whether everything is purely just a dream. Love saves everything and makes us understand the depth of life through its kisses – and yet does it all fly away in a cycle of dreams?

Hofmannsthal wrote the second poem later in his life when he started losing hope following the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ironically, it is a much lighter poem, and I tried to bring out its humour reflected through a Viennese ballroom.

The last poem is the most contemplative and has a certain sadness. A ray of hope does come in – ‘and yet, it is also a world for one’s self’ – followed by my favourite line of all: ‘Voll süss-geheimer, nievernommner Töne’, or ‘full of sweetly-secret, never-heard sounds’, each one unique without any other’s echo. Even so, Hofmannsthal concludes that no matter how much we try to decipher the meaning, we cannot ever grasp this eternal poem."
© Alissa Firsova

Alissa Firsova is a British-Russian pianist, composer and conductor. Since winning the BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer Award in 2001, she has received two world premieres at the BBC Proms, both conducted by Andrew Litton: Bach Allegro (2010), premiered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Bergen’s Bonfire Op.31 (2015), premiered by the Bergen Philharmonic in its 250th anniversary Prom. Her music has also been performed by the likes of Julius Berger, Britten Sinfonia. Imogen Cooper, the Dante Quartet, Tim Hugh, the Interface Quartet, Henning Kraggerud, the Netherlands Blazer Ensemble, Northwest Sinfonietta, Seattle Chamber Players, the Tana Quartet and the Xenia Ensemble.

Stephen Barlow conductor
Daisy Brown soprano
Conrad Marshall  flute
Dov Goldberg clarinet
Benjamin Powell celesta
Tim Williams percussion
Benedict Holland  violin
Sophie Rosa violin
Heather Wallington viola
Jennifer Langridge cello
James Manson double bass

Poems by Hugo von Hofmannsthal
Translations by Alissa Firsova

All purchases of the CD version of Psappha: Commissions will include a free download code for this track in the accompanying booklet.

Commissioned by Psappha with the support of the Hinrichsen Foundation,
PRS Foundation and Psappha’s Composition Bank, and recorded by Psappha in 2021.