The cherished "Letters to a Young Poet" of Rainer Maria Rilke come together with Ravel and Debussy’s string quartets in an inventive union of music and text.

Directed by Bill Barclay, with Ravel and Debussy's string quartets performed by the Brodsky Quartet, this concert-theatre work explores poet Rilke’s famous letters to the “young poet” Franz Kappus, as well as the letters of the young poet himself (remarkably, Franz’s half of the exchange has only come to light in recent years).

Both born in 1875, Rilke and Ravel each wrote their iconic works in Paris at the age of 28, at the same time, and just a few streets apart. These twinned masterpieces dance together across time and space, forecasting the future of romanticism as modernist thought took over Paris.

Debussy composed his only string quartet just ten years earlier, also at the same stage of life. His influence on Ravel, who structured his quartet in identical ways, becomes clear hearing the works back to back. Their musical conversation naturally mirrors the mentorship between the poets. Debussy is ten years older than Ravel, while Kappus is ten years younger than Rilke. The meditation between these four minds is a pocket kaleidoscope of Belle Epoque Paris.

String Quartet in F, Op.35 (28’)
String Quartet in G minor, Op.10 (30’)

Adapted and directed by Bill Barclay

Brodsky Quartet

Bill Barclay Rainer Maria Rilke
David Joseph
Franz Kappus

Damion Searls translator
Concert Theatre Works producer
Hillary Leben
Govane Lohbauer

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About Bill Barclay
Director, writer and composer Bill Barclay is artistic director of Concert Theatre Works. Barclay’s work as writer, composer, director and producer ranges from Broadway and The Hollywood Bowl to Buckingham Palace and the Olympic Torch. He was director of music at Shakespeare’s Globe from 2012-2019.

About the Brodsky Quartet
Now celebrating their 50th anniversary, the Brodsky Quartet has performed over 3000 concerts on the major stages of the world and released more than 60 recordings. A natural curiosity and insatiable desire to explore has propelled the group in many artistic directions and continues to ensure them not only a place at the very forefront of the international chamber music scene but also a rich and varied musical existence. Their energy and craftsmanship have attracted numerous awards and accolades worldwide, while ongoing educational work provides a vehicle for passing on experience and staying in touch with the next generation.

About Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet
Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet has spoken to every generation of readers since they were first published in German in 1929. They have been taken as a spiritual guide, a source of insight, inspiration, and encouragement for any young person struggling with loneliness and doubt, questions of his or her fate and of what interpersonal and sexual relationships might have the potential to be. They were an inspiration to Marilyn Monroe and Jane Fonda; Dustin Hoffman called it his bible; Lady Gaga had a line from it tattooed on her arm.

Today, even though the Letters to a Young Poet have been in print for nearly a century and translated into English more than half a dozen times, we have the chance to hear them afresh, in a genuinely new way, with the discovery and publication in 2020 of the other half of the story: the letters that the “Young Poet,” Franz Xaver Kappus, wrote in turn to Rilke. For the first time, the Letters to a Young Poet are a two-​way conversation, a true dialogue.

Read more on LitHub.

Bill Barclay

Brodsky Quartet