In addition to his vast output of German poetry, Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) composed nearly 400 poems in French. His poems on roses struck me as especially charming, filled with gorgeous lyricism, deftly crafted and elegant in their imagery. These exquisite poems are primarily light, joyous and playful, and the musical settings are designed to enhance these characteristics and capture the delicate beauty and sensuousness of the poetry. Distinct melodic and harmonic materials recur throughout the cycle, especially between Rilke's poignant “Contre qui, rose” (set as a wistful nocturne) and his moving “La rose complète.” The final piece, “Dirait-on,” is composed as a tuneful chanson populaire, or folksong, that weaves together two melodic ideas first heard in fragmentary form in preceding movements.
Lauridsen's composition is deeply intimate and full of harmonic resolution; modern dissonance has no place here. The music is almost luminous at times.
Here is the text of one of Rilke's rose poems (he apparently wrote more than five, so how Lauridsen chose which ones to set, I don't know), as sourced from poetry blogger Clarissa Ackroyd.
THE ROSES (Rainer Maria Rilke, translated from French by Clarissa Aykroyd)
One rose alone is every rose,
one, but manifold meaning:
perfect and irreplaceable,
framed by words of being.
How could we ever speak
without the rose,
of sweet interludes in constant farewell,
or of our hopes?
Une rose seule, c'est toutes les roses
et celle-ci: l'irremplaçable,
le parfait, le souple vocable
encadré par le texte des choses.
Comment jamais dire sans elle
ce que furent nos espérances,
et les tendres intermittences
dans la partance continuelle.
Here is Les chansons des roses by Morten Lauridsen.