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Das Stunden-Buch (The Book of Hours) (1905) is one of Rilke’s earlier works, consisting of a few dozen devotional poems expressing the poet’s intense and complex emotions towards God. The traditional “Book of Hours” was a popular manual for Christian life used throughout the year during the Middle Ages, and Rilke adapts its structure to depict one’s relationship with God at different stages of life and worship. My setting of Das Stunden-Buch includes four poems from the collection, which together reflect the overall dramatic narrative of the work, from wonderment and awe, to fear and misunderstanding, and finally to complete acceptance and embracing of a higher power. This short prelude serves to introduce the characters of the piano and clarinet, which represent the mind and soul of the poet, and to set the mysterious and contemplative tone for the piece.
Dr. Rex Isenberg
I. Ich lebe grad (I live between)
I live at the edge of the century.
One can feel the wind from a great page,
on which God and you and I have written,
that turns high above in foreign hands.
One can feel the radiance of the new leaf,
on which anything still can be.
The silent forces test its breadth
and stare at each other darkly.