Olivier Messiaen Harawi – Chant d’amour et de mort (1945)
für Sopran und Klavier
»Harawi« comes from the Quechua language of the Andes region and refers to a genre of love songs that culminate with the lovers’ deaths. The greatest fulfilment is in dying for love. Stepping over the threshold to death makes love complete. Dying of love also lies at the heart of the myth of Tristan and Isolde, as adapted by Richard Wagner in his opera of that name. In his Tristan trilogy, the French avant-garde composer Olivier Messiaen takes this transcendent idea and examines it from different prespectives – first, in 1945, in his song cycle Harawi, which is subtitled Chant d’amour et de mort (Song of Love and Death). The lyrics were written by Messiaen himself. These are surreal, sometimes onomatopoeticpoems with strong sensuality and symbolism, written primarily in French. However, at key moments, Messiaen resorts to Quechua words, less for their meaning than for the associative sound of their syllables. From the excited warning cries of the apes (pia pia pia pia pia) to the hypnotic ring of Piroutcha’s ankle bracelet as she is dancing (Doundou Tchil), Messiaen, often using absurd repetition, variations or mirroring, enters a primeval and direct level of expression, a kind of metaphysical music conjuring up all the madness, desperation, power and ecstasy of an all-consuming love that goes to extremes - and beyond.