October 2, 2021

“Oh Asia, the Echo of You”
Friedrich Hölderlin and Ludwig van Beethoven in Words, Scenes and Music

Corinna Harfouch, recitation
Hideyo Harada, piano

Both Ludwig van Beethoven and Friedrich Hölderlin came into the world in 1770. But they are united by more than a shared anniversary. Both created works of eruptive power, and both overcame boundaries, broke with conventions. Contemporaries often found both Hölderlin’s ecstatic lyrics and Beethoven’s subjective sound language to be disturbing. In a search for the realization of humanistic ideals, both followed the French Revolution with enthusiasm, and both were deeply disappointed by its dénouement. And the two pursued other tendencies through which they hoped to see there humanistic ideals become reality. For each, the Orient represented a place of longing. For Beethoven as well during his final creative phase, Indian intellectual worlds, Eastern religious philosophies, and Persian lyricism became new sources of inspiration. In the 21st century, Beethoven’s and Hölderlin’s shared mental horizon seems more current than ever – their turn toward the wider world, an emergent dialogue of cultures, and not least of all, their preoccupation with spiritual concepts that focus on the human individual, leaving religious dogma far behind.

With a point of departure in the anniversary shared by Beethoven and Hölderlin in the year 2020, Corinna Harfouch and Hideyo Harada went in search of their commonalities, as well as their undiscovered aspects. Behind the words and sounds of these two artists, they discovered astonishing connections between the artistic achievements and the biographies of these outstanding 19th-century personalities. Their interests, their expressive resources, their preferences, their influences, even their (clandestine) love lives reveal numberless similarities. A text collage consisting of Hölderlin’s poems, hymns, and elegies, excerpts from the novel Hyperion, as well as philosophical reflections on Greek antiquity, is woven together with musical works by the Viennese master. Words and sounds are closely intertwined, whether overlapping with one another or diverging. Incorporated as well are performative elements. The result is an extraordinary program that goes far beyond the traditional format of the musical-literary reading to delineate a lively portrait of two extraordinary artists.

Photo: Corinna Harfouch © Dirk Dunkelberg • Hideyo Harada © Uwe Arens