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About this Piece

Peter Lieberson (b. 1946) composed his five Rilke Songs in 2001, and he has written the following note.

"When I was growing up, my mother, whose first language was German, would often quote lines from Rilke. I have been drawn to his poetry ever since.

"Rilke seems to evoke feelings, states of being that are at the edge of awareness, mysterious but close to the heart. One can't always understand exactly what he means. I believe this is a deliberate elusiveness in order to provoke our intuition.

"The Rilke Songs were written for my wife, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson. I think of them as love songs even though the poems themselves are not overtly about love. They are about being childlike and open in 'O ihr Zärtlichen'; in 'Atmen, du unsichtbares Gedicht' about the breath being a complete exchange between our own essence and the universe, how breath seems to go into space like our wandering son; the mysterious way in which we might transform ourselves: 'If drinking is bitter, turn yourself into wine' (from 'Stiller Freund'). To me these Rilkean insights are a gift of love."