Helen Charlston 2003

A Lyrical Interlude

16 October 2023, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Please click here to download the Texts & Translations for this event, then scroll down to read Héloïse Werner’s composer note on her new work ‘Knight’s Dream’, and a reflection on the programme from Helen Charlston.

The Music Schumann’s Dichterliebe (‘Poet’s Love’) is an astonishing song cycle. Written as part of the composer’s great outpouring of song in 1840, it sets poems from Heinrich Heine’s collection Lyrisches Intermezzo. Alongside Schumann's masterpiece, other Heine poems from the same collection are heard in settings by Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, Carl Loewe, and Josephine Lang.

Helen Charlston and Sholto Kynoch also give the world premiere of a new work by Héloïse Werner, one of the most exciting new voices in classical music, which has been commissioned by the BBC. Werner's new work is intended as a companion piece for Dichterliebe, with texts inspired by Heine.

The Artists Helen Charlston is a BBC New Generation Artist, a former Rising Star of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and winner of BBC Music Magazine’s Vocal Award. Together with Sholto Kynoch, pianist and Artistic Director of Oxford International Song Festival, recent recitals have included Wigmore Hall and Het Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.

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Notes on the Programme


Having been asked to write a companion piece to Robert Schumann’s Dichterliebe, I decided to set the prologue to Lyrisches Intermezzo - the first part of Heine’s collection, which Schumann did not use.

When reading this beautiful prologue for the first time, I was struck by its strange and dreamlike nature with the narrative quickly spiralling into a surreal, magical and passionate adventure before abruptly returning to a somewhat stark reality at the very end of the poem. I wanted to musically convey this wondrous journey, the soundworld slowly becoming more and more abstract, words gradually unravelling, the illusionary visions of the poem reverberating in the resulting collage of timbres and phonetic sounds.

Moments of English language also punctuate the drama, reflecting the way in which the poem begins and ends rooted in reality.

It was a huge joy to write a new work for these two exceptional musicians and I cannot wait to hear it come to life.

© Héloïse Werner, 2023


The magical land of Dichterliebe has beguiled me for many years, but 2023 is the first year I have stepped on to stage with it as a performer. It wasn't always my intention to pair these songs with a new commission, but when the opportunity arose, it seemed like a very exciting world to explore. Early conversations with Héloïse Werner reminded me how deep the love and awe for this cycle runs, and I was sure we could create something special.

Heine's poetry is the constant today, taking us from 19th century into the 21st and back again. We hear from Josephine Lang, Carl Loewe, Felix & Fanny Mendelssohn, who fill in some of blanks from the Lyrisches Intermezzo on the way, each composer spotlighting Heine's direct imagery in their own voice. Héloïse cherishes his exquisite words in the way that only she can, playing with the words (and us!) at every opportunity. Her postlude is both a wonderful homage to Schumann, and the perfect prelude to the whole cycle that I never knew I was missing.

It's a real privilege to have someone write a piece for you, and despite the panicked look on Sholto's face when Héloïse asked us early on what voice type he was... there is no process more joyful than bringing a piece to life for the first time! To do so as a way to frame and celebrate a cycle like Dichterliebe has proved to be a hugely rewarding process and I hope will shed new light on music that many people will consider to be an old friend.

© Helen Charlston, 2023

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13 October 2023 | 11:00am

Art:Song - Images, Words, Music

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