Commissioned by the Westdeutscher Rundfunk, Péter Eötvös composed IMA (Prayer) in 2001–2002. The work calls for an immense performing apparatus, and the sounds produced by the vocal soloists, mixed choir, symphony orchestra enhanced with mainly wind instruments and the two synthesiser players are spread around the space by the sound engineer sitting in the auditorium. The three-movement, approximately thirty-minute work is a sequel to the composer’s Atlantis (1995).


IMA’s text is based on two poems written in a fictitious language. Gerhard Rühm’s Gebet uses a litany, recitative chanted in a subdued voice. The recurring “words” based on the a–a–y e–e–o–i vowel sequences imitate the gesture of reciting prayers. The passage entitled “Incipit citatum” in Sándor Weöres’s poem Silent Music tells the first three verses of the Biblical Genesis in a language invented by the poet, which the composer believes to sound like “a Polynesian language with some Latin influence”.


Péter Eötvös’s work essentially features late-Romantic (almost Mahlerian) gestures. It quietens, observes, gesticulates – like a prayer. The bells refer to the ritual context and the sacred space, and the brass ensemble, which is given special prominence throughout the work, spans great depths and celestial heights. The theme alone is emotionally charged and seeks not only to evoke, but also elicit, emotions.

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