Buried Alive

  • The Round Church Bridge Street Cambridge CB2 1UG

14 POEMS BY GOTTFRIED KELLER (1819-1890) WITH MUSIC BY OTHMAR SCHOECK (1886-1957)

OSKAR MCCARTHY (BARITONE) | ROB KEELEY (PIANO)

In 1927 Swiss composer Othmar Schoeck adapted the poetry of his fellow countryman Gottfried Keller to produce the song cycle Lebendig Begraben which tells the story of a man who awakes to find he has mistakenly been buried. Firstly he panics and hopes that his girlfriend or a friendly grave robber will come to his rescue; then he begins to reminisce in his coffin about his childhood, youth and first love; finally he casts his soul into eternity in an acceptance of his fate.

James Joyce heard Buried Alive performed when he was living in Zurich in 1935 and declared Schoeck better than Stravinsky. He immediately sent out for a German dictionary so that he could translate the libretto into English. The premise of the novel Joyce was working on at the time, Finnegans Wake, bears an uncanny similarity: a man is prematurely laid to rest and wakes up to find himself in his coffin. Could Buried Alive have inspired one of the most famous novels of the 20th Century?

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