Paul Giger: violin, Violino d’amore; Marie-Louise Dähler: harpsichord, chest organ; Pudi Lehmann: gongs, percussion; Franz Vitzthum: altus; Carmina Quartett
„In the late Middle Ages, a literary genre of devotional books illustrated with woodcuts flourished under the name ‘ars moriendi’. They gave instructions on how to 'die well'. The purpose of this tradition was to attune the soul to the 'art of dying' in order to save it for eternity. Music is also an ars moriendi, an exercise in the "becoming" of a note, of "being" in sound and of "passing" into silence – or into an inner reverberation.
– Paul Giger
"Becoming – Being – Passing" – this is the name of the triptych by the Tyrolean painter Giovanni Segantini, which served violinist and composer Paul Giger as an important source of inspiration for the music on ars moriendi. The theme of transience runs through this programme like a thread and combines Bach compositions with original pieces and music influenced by traditional Swiss folk in equal parts. Much of the programme was written in connection with the film about the painter, Giovanni Segantini – Magie des Lichts, and was recorded in the Chiesa Bianca, Maloja, in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. On the album, Giger is joined by Marie-Louise Dähler on harpsichord, Pudi Lehmann on gongs and percussion, and alto Franz Vizthum as well as the Carmina Quartett to form a chamber ensemble.
"In Guggisberglied, apart from the water sounds, everything bowed, beaten, drummed, scratched and plucked was recorded and partly arranged with my 11-string violino d'amore and brought together in the studio," the violinist explains the complex sound collage behind the meditative opening piece. It is one of the oldest and best-known Swiss folk songs, which Giger makes his own through an additional fifths-relationship, thereby expanding the material with a nine-tone scale. Beyond occidental practices, the violinist also makes use of non-European musical idioms, so that characteristics of South Indian music also come to bear. The Zäuerli mit Migrationshintergrund in turn, uses elements of the traditional natural yodel from the Swiss canton Appenzell, and expands these with a microtonal language as well as a low second degree, as is common in the Arabic "Bayati" maqam.
An utterly distinguished, atmospheric sound poetry comes to the fore on Agony I, II and III, produced by Pudi Lehmann's extensive instrumentation as well as violin, chest organ and the discreetly applied notes of the string quartet. The expansive Agony parts are interspersed with idiosyncratic interpretations of pieces by J.S. Bach: Bach's cantata Ich ruf' zu dir, the Largo from Bach's Sonata No. 4 in C minor, and the aria Erbarme dich from the St. Matthew Passion.
Ich ruf' zu dir and Largo are duo performances between harpsichord and violin, while Erbarme dich features the entire ensemble, including the passionate alto of Franz Vizthum, who also plays an essential role on the album-closing Altus solo II. Here again transience is the main theme – the text comes from the Egyptian Book of the Dead "Pert Em Hru" (translated: "Coming forth by day"). Giger: "The report from the afterlife and the merging of the deceased with the sun god Ra is only one level in the final music Altus solo II: at the same time and, as it were, in contrast to this, from a nihilistic conception, the harpsichord represents a wind-up music box that slowly expires at the end of its life and then stands still." Musically, Giger translates these notions on violin with overtone-rich and pizzicato-heavy playing, but also with long, plaintive melodic arches that, in the interplay with interrupted harpsichord arpeggios, form the dynamically wide-ranging framework for Vizthum's voice.