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Joseph Brodsky

Christian Reiner

Elegie an John Donne

  • Type CD
  • Label ECM New Series
  • UPC 0028948144853
  • Catalog number ECM 4814485
  • Release date 25 August 2017

About the album

When the Russian born poet Joseph Brodsky received the Nobel prize for literature in 1987, he was praised for his "all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity." It was "a big step for me, a small step for mankind" he jokingly commented on the critical acclaim. Yet, it was much earlier when he wrote his most famous poem, his Great Elegy to John Donne. The young poet was kept prisoner in a Russian camp for writing anti-Soviet poetry in 1963 at the age of 23 when he wrote about the death of the English Renaissance poet John Donne. This poem, of over 200 lines, commemorates Donne suggesting that when a poet dies, everything around him dies with him. The heaven, hell and even God himself is sleeping, because "John Donne is dead."

This poem forms a central theme on this album, on which spoken word artist Christian Reiner recites poems of death and love by Joseph Brodsky in German, Reiner's mother tongue, including In Memoriam Fedja Dobrowolskij and From Nowhere with Love (Aus Nirgendwo in Liebe), among others. Reiner presents an anthology of Brodsky's work, ranging from his early poems during his Russian denunciation, to his Lullaby (Wiegenlied) of 1992, written a few years before his death.

In winter 2012/13, Viennese actor and voice artist Christian Reiner attracted much acclaim for his interpretation of Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Turmgedichten”. “Reiner is able to coax the music out of the words”, German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitungattested, while the Süddeutsche Zeitung stated that “the recitation of the poems resembles a performance dedicated to the human voice as a solo instrument”.

In his second recording for ECM New Series, Christian Reiner explores verses written by Russian-American poet and Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky (1940 – 1996).  “Brodsky’s ‘Große Elegie an John Donne’ is, in my opinion, a masterwork in the history of poetry,” Reiner says.  Brodsky’s early, famous long poem is heard here in a translation by Alexander Kaempfe and Heinrich Ost and another by Karl Dedecius. “We are very fortunate to have these two marvelous German adaptions,” Christian Reiner emphasizes. “Each of them inspired me to a unique way of speaking and a distinct rhythm.” 
Additionally, the recording features a selection of seven shorter poems written between 1958 and 1992, giving a broader impression of Brodsky’s multifaceted language.  The album was produced by Manfred Eicher and German writer Wolf Wondratschek. 

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