Petit Air II/ Friedrich's Tagebuch


I first heard about Frederick III in June 1988, a hundred years after his death.

Frederick was a German emperor whose modern liberalism was at odds with the expansive and aggressive politics of most of his contemporaries. Frederick and his British wife Victoria had plans to steer Germany into a more modern, democratic and peaceful era. However, his laryngeal cancer was already in an advanced state when he finally succeeded his powerful father William I in 1888. Frederick, unable to speak, died 99 days later, leaving Victoria isolated while his son Wiliam II led Europe straight into World War I. According to some historians, the war could have been prevented had Frederick not been so ill.

Petit Air II / Friedrich’s Tagebuch is a double-composition for mezzo-soprano and ensemble written in 1998. Friedrich’s Tagebuch (Frederick’s diary) is based on fragments from the emperor’s diary and the notebooks which he used to communicate. Petit Air II is a poem by Frederick’s contemporary, the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé, in which the death-cry of a bird reminds the poet of his own inability to express what he wants to express. Mallarmé died - appropriately enough - of throat cramps in 1898.

After writing Petit Air II / Friedrich’s Tagebuch I always kept the possibility in the back of my mind that I could expand it into a larger-scale piece. Recently Continuum (who performed it with Marion Newman in 2004) asked me to make the next move. This resulted in Frederick’s Doctor.

Martijn Voorvelt NL

Martijn Voorvelt is a self-taught composer whose chamber music often extends into the realms of theatre and literature. Voorvelt likes to explore the many possibilities of independent parts and simultaneous or overlapping compositions. His music has been described as being both experimental and accessible, both "wacky" and "balanced".  Born in Amsterdam in 1967, Martijn Voorvelt soon developed interests as a writer, a composer of chamber music and as a singer-songwriter. Not knowing which to choose, he studied musicology and in 1998 was rewarded a Ph.D. by the University of Leeds (England) for his dissertation on experimental post-punk pop music. Since then he divides his time between writing words and music (and watching birds in his spare time). He is also a guitarist and singer in several bands and ensembles, including his own Ruddy Shelduck and the recently resurrected Dutch new wave band The Tapes.

For more information about Martijn Voorvelt, click here.

Martijn Voorvelt