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Le Chant de la Terre

Laurent CUNIOT Arrangement by Laurent CUNIOT

Laurent Cuniot takes up the challenge of writing a “modern” Lied von der Erde. Referring to Gustav Mahler’s master piece, Cuniot’s work comprises an instrumental prologue, seven movements and two “passages”, all of which provide opportunities to explore a wide range of poetic tones. The composer combines the five texts revised and set to music in the 1909 version, with two poems by Rainer-Maria Rilke. He thus builds a strangely familiar and paradoxically surprising universe, in the wake of the musical revolutions of the 20th century.

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Instrument family Orchestra
Catalog classifications Methods
Instrument nomenclature mezzo-soprano, ténor et 16 instruments
Total duration 00:58:00
Publisher Éditions Billaudot
Cotage GB10568
Languages FR, AN
Cycle / Level concert
  • Le Chant de la Terre Visual


When composer-conductor Bruno Mantovani asked me to write a modern-day Song of the Earth (in reference to Gustav Mahler’s 1909 Das Lied von Erde), I immediately agreed, fully aware of the formidable challenge(s) I would be facing. Finding my own way in the wake of such a powerful work was one. Another one was finding the format that would enable the development of a musical dramaturgy drawing on poetic sources.

The subtitle of Mahler’s work – A Symphony for a Tenor and an Alto Voice and Orchestra – clearly indicates that here (unlike operatic music) the overall musical balance owes much to the importance of the orchestral part, so preponderant over the voices although the latter are, of course, key expressive elements. I decided to adopt the same compositional approach because of the relative brevity of the Chinese poems. In order to capture their very essence and integrate them into my own universe, I chose to compare them to two wonderful poems from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Poems to Night that are very dear to me. In their original version, they sound like a hymn to love and heaven, through their flow, their existential questioning and the intimate bond between Man and Nature.

My own Song of the Earth for tenor and mezzo-soprano voice and 16-piece chamber orchestra features an instrumental prologue, seven movements and two ‘transitions’. I explore every possible expressive register, from gravitas to the most profound interiority (‘The Solitary One in Autumn’, ‘Breathe the Night’, ‘The Farewell’), from gentleness (‘Such a Breath’) to the drunkenness of despair (‘The Drinking Song of Earth’s Sorrow’), the luminous, exuberant energy (‘Of Beauty’) or an almost cinematographic vision of a gathering of friends (‘Of Youth’), treated as a moto perpetuo.

In the light of what we inherited from the 20th century and its many musical revolutions, revisiting such fields of expression also means revisiting all melodic and harmonic aspects, playing with timbral colors and rhythmic diversity to build a universe strangely familiar yet surprising, opening on the unheard at every moment.

Song of Earth is dedicated to Bruno Mantovani in memoriam Gustav Mahler. (Laurent Cuniot)

Commande du Festival Printemps des Arts de Monte-Carlo, le 29 mars 2024 par Pauline Sikirdji, Benjamin Alunni et l’ensemble TM+ dirigé par Laurent Cuniot.


EAN code 9790043105688