Urlicht

by Barbara Maria Rathbone

‘Leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!”

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When I first heard about the tragic accident in the French Alps yesterday, my first thought was: there will be at least one musician on that plane because, in recent years, I have rarely been on a European city-bound flight without a colleague or friend on board – I have bumped into them as we queued for boarding, in an airport lounge, or seen the familiar form of a violin case or the bulk of shiny cello armour as it makes its way down the aisle. On a flight to Vienna a while back I met two singers engaged by the same theatre – and they had just met each other. So, when I learned that two lyric artists were lost on that flight, though I did not know them personally, I knew many I know would.

A poignant synchronicity struck me when a recording of Maria Radner, the young and beautiful voiced contralto who lost her life on the doomed flight, singing Mahler’s ‘Urlicht’ surfaced on Facebook. I can see no other more apt commemoration of art and life and the art and life we must value every day as if it was to be our last. ‘Urlicht’ was the low grisaille morning light over those primeval mountains when tragedy struck and folded those souls into its embrace, taking them to we know not where. I write these words and implore you to listen to Maria’s voice in tribute to her, her husband, their baby, Oleg Bryjak, the children from the Joseph-Koenig-Gymnasium in Haltern am See, their teachers, the other passengers,  and the crew of German Wings flight 4U9525. They were all simply the friends we did not have the chance to meet. I hope with all my heart they saw the light and that it was a comfort on their last journey.

O Röschen rot!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Not!
Der Mensch liegt in größter Pein!
Je lieber möcht’ ich im Himmel sein.
Da kam ich auf einen breiten Weg:
Da kam ein Engelein und wollt’ mich abweisen.
Ach nein! Ich ließ mich nicht abweisen!
Ich bin von Gott und will wieder zu Gott!
Der liebe Gott wird mir ein Lichtchen geben,
Wird leuchten mir bis in das ewig selig Leben!
—From Des Knaben Wunderhorn