Volker David Kirchner created an exemplary model of his music of commitment with a work first performed in 1988 at the European Culture Days in Karlsruhe. The nine-part cycle entitled “Orfeo” is based on poems from Rainer Maria Rilke´s “Sonnets to Orpheus”, which the poet wrote in the course of a few days in Switzerland a spasm of creativity in 1922. Kirchner selected six poems from the “Sonnets to Orpheus” which reflect the role of the artist in the world, his failure in life and the liberating power of art. In Kirchner´s setting for baritone, horn and piano the six poems form a nine-part cycle. The sonnet “Da stieg ein Baum” (“There Rose a Tree”) functions as prologue and epilogue thus putting a frame around the work. The other five poems are divided into two purely instrumental intermezzi, the “Lamento d´Orfeo” (“Orpheus´s Lament”) and the “Danza d´Orfeo” (“Orpheus´s Dance”). The setting of the individual songs: besides pure “classical” piano-accompanied songs there are songs in trio settings with horn. In Kirchner´s “Orfeo” cycle the horn takes on a special significance as the natural instrument which symbolizes and concreticizes the emergence of music from breath as a natural preliminary stage of language and song. Orpheus´s “Lament” remains “speechless” – the lament “gets some air” and concreticizes itself in the sounds of the horn, which functions here as the musical extension of breath.
One motivation for this composition came from hornist Marie-Luise Neudecker, whose special tonal skills inspired Volker David Kirchner and to whom the cycle is dedicated. Thus we find fanfare motives in this work along with suppressed tones and distant sounds. For all of this, none of these effects are not merely a virtuosic display but rather are solely obligated to the expression of the musical-artististic statement.