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The Arts

‘Kafka Fragments’ featured in Yellow Barn’s Patio Noise series

PUTNEY—On Tuesday, Oct. 20, Artistic Director Seth Knopp leads an open discussion of György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments, together with the Yellow Barn musicians who performed the song cycle last summer.

Kurtág’s work is comprised of 40 fragments, ranging from less than 20 seconds to more than four minutes, all of which are excerpts from Franz Kafka’s diaries, letters, and notebooks that together express something both in themselves and as part of a larger context.

Soprano Tony Arnold and violinist Mark Steinberg of the Brentano String Quartet, will join Knopp, as will sopranos Elaine Daiber and Lucy Fitz Gibbon and violinists Alice Ivy-Pemberton and Adelya Nartadjieva.

The musicians explored “Kafka Fragments” together over the course of a three-week residency in Putney. Ultimately, they performed the work in pairs, each violinist performing with each soprano, transitioning seamlessly over the course of the evening but with a shared interpretation of the whole.

Kurtág looked to Franz Kafka’s unique brand of honesty as a lifelong source of inspiration.

Yellow Barn alumna Annie Jacobs-Perkins writes in her introduction to last summer’s concert, “This song cycle is comprised of fragments in a double sense: first, in that each setting of the text is so brief to begin with, and second, in that Kurtág lifted only the entries from Kafka’s journal that were most meaningful to him.”

“They are the compression of somebody else’s shorthand. By internalizing Kafka’s words and making them his own, Kurtág once again turns these settings into something uncomfortably personal and hauntingly beautiful,” she continued.

Audiences can listen to the concert stream anytime at

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Originally published in The Commons issue #583 (Wednesday, October 14, 2020). This story appeared on page A8.

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