(Once upon Epiph'ny Eve)
(Text: Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky)

for soprano, speaker, saxophone, string quartet, accordion, and piano
Premiere: December 15, 2016, Arnold Schönberg Center
Duration: 5’ 30”

Every other year, the Ensemble Wiener Collage plays a Christmas concert in the Arnold Schoenberg Center. In 2016, this was devoted to the pre- and post-Christmas rituals of Eastern Europe, and I thus had the task of composing a suitable piece for soprano, speaker, and seven instruments. I followed Natalia Kameva’s suggestion and chose a text by Pushkin’s contemporary Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky (1783-1852). In this poem he refers to the post-Christmas custom of young girls wishing to foretell their future from various signs. One finds here, as in so many church rituals, a mixture of Christian tradition and superstitious pagan cult. In this piece, written mostly in May and June 2016, I attempted to find a totally individual musical language, in which the Russian Orthodox liturgical singing tradition is as perceptible as the discoveries and perspectives of modernity in our compositional experience of the 20th and 21st centuries. The fairy-tale character of the poem played a decisive role here, for example in the indication “magically fragrant”, which replaces a normal tempo marking.
The speaker chooses one of the four language versions. Translators were Erich Klein (German version), Michael Pushkin (English version), and Manuel Chemineau (French version).