Kafka Fragments

a project with violinist Movses Pogossian

About Kafka Fragments

György Kurtág

György Kurtág


Gÿorgy Kurtág's Kafka Fragments present a unique and monumental exploration of the world of Franz Kafka. Using forty excerpts primarily from Kafka's letters and diaries, Kurtág spins a kaleidoscopic web of musical styles representing extreme and disparate moments within a life. By turns introspective, dramatic, penetrating, and humorous, this hour-long journey for voice and violin is an event to be savored.

Soprano Tony Arnold and violinist Movses Pogossian have worked extensively with the composer; they delight in conveying the spirit and intensity of this great master to audiences worldwide. Together, they have performed Kafka Fragments in over 30 venues, including major international festivals, university concert series and in educational masterclasses:

  • Darmstadt International Music Festival
  • Tongyeong International Music Festival
  • Musica Sacra Maastricht
  • Perspectives XII Yerevan
  • Music at the Concord Library
  • Merkin Concert Hall
  • Dilijan Chamber Music Series
  • New Music Concerts Toronto
  • Eastman School of Music
  • New England Conservatory
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Bowling Green State University
  • Princeton University
  • Cornell University
  • Boston Conservatory
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Idyllwild Arts Academy

and many more…

Poster from Tongyeong International Festival, 2010

Poster from Tongyeong International Festival, 2010

Reviews of Kafka Fragments in Performance and on CD & DVD

Opera News • August 2009


"Due to the growing appreciation of Kurtág as a composer, and in part due to the fact that only world-class performers can effectively manage the work's difficulties, Kafka Fragments has been well served in its performance history. This legacy is furthered in this new release from Bridge, featuring soprano Tony Arnold and violinist Movses Pogossian.

"The studio recording…reveals the degree to which Arnold and Pogossian, both astonishing performers, reaped benefits from their study with Kurtág. This recording is an interpretation of the highest caliber, worthy of the high standard set by its few predecessors. In many ways, it represents an ideal performance.

"The live performance on the DVD occurred in Armenia, two years after the studio recording. Arnold's and Pogossian's interpretation here is a bit less immediately intense, yet it is even deeper in expression. Despite a minor technical glitch (white noise slightly interfering with songs 38 and 40), the performance is a wonderful document. Dawn Upshaw and Geoff Nuttall have performed Kafka Fragments in a fine staging by Peter Sellars. However, as Arnold and Pogossian demonstrate, this music has even more power when left unstaged. It allows the listeners/viewers to relate it more closely to their own experience, rather than to the specific character presented in the staged version.

"While some may not wish to explore the connections of Kafka's words and Kurtág's music so personally, this DVD affords a valuable opportunity to experience Kafka Fragments as its composer originally envisioned it." —Arlo McKinnon


Paul Griffiths Online • July 2009

"One of the benefits of the new recording, quite apart from the exceptional studio recording made by these artists, is that it shows us the context of failure by offering an ancillary DVD that includes excerpts from what was evidently a lengthy and exhausting rehearsal directed by the composer. This is invaluable as a record of Kurtág in action, but perhaps the most important words are Arnold’s, referring to a different rehearsal, at which he was coaching a string quartet in Beethoven: ‘It seems that for Kurtág harmony doesn’t simply affect rhythm, rubato and timbre in music, it actually creates them.’ And she seems to use this important insight in her performance with Pogossian – in, for example, the sixteenth fragment, where the degree of consonance or dissonance between voice and violin gives the music at once expressive force and dynamism.

"Arnold’s drama is touching, with a sense, from the freshness of her singing and from her thoughtful involvement, that the experiences reflected, refracted or directly conveyed in these miniature scenes are happening to her, right now, as she utters." —Paul Griffiths

Movses Pogossian & Tony Arnold, Concord MA, 2009

Movses Pogossian & Tony Arnold, Concord MA, 2009


Boston Globe • 28 January 2009

Tony Arnold, Gÿorgy & Márta Kurtág, Movses Pogossian. Budapest, 2004

Tony Arnold, Gÿorgy & Márta Kurtág, Movses Pogossian. Budapest, 2004

"Thanks to a performance of enormous skill and conviction by these two young musicians, the piece still hit its mark. Indeed, the piece’s original title, taken from one of the fragments, captures the essence of Kurtág’s plight as a composer for whom the painful isolation of life behind the Iron Curtain also encouraged a kind of radical self-reliance. Or as the soprano sings: ‘My prison cell - my fortress.’

"On Saturday, Arnold rendered this fragment with the laser-like intensity and complete dramatic conviction that she brought to the entire cycle. Both players have clearly lived with this music for years and have not only mastered the extreme technical challenges of its rugged, stripped-down language, but have also internalized its deeper mysteries, its jagged theatricality, and its searing emotional honesty.

"…But of course it was the performance itself that mounted the strongest case for this music. Arnold made the soprano line's giant leaps and wild pivots feel like a natural expression of the texts at hand. Her halting delivery of the 38th fragment, about an artist's struggle for authentic self-expression, was particularly riveting. Pogossian, moving between two violins with different tunings, deftly conjured the music's surreal post-Bartokian nightscape: by turns dreamy, frenetic, and ultimately in the final fragment, sublime." —Jeremy Eichler

Movses & Tony in Buffalo, 2003

Movses & Tony in Buffalo, 2003

Strings Magazine • September 2009

"This new two-disc set pairs the Armenian violinist Movses Pogossian with the formidable soprano Tony Arnold… The chance to go behind the scenes and to glimpse Kurtág in action as he addresses everything from the role of harmony to the use of the Alexander Technique to help Pogossian relax is priceless. Highly recommended." —Greg Cahill


International Record Review • July/August 2009

"It is first-class, in every way, including sound quality. Arnold’s emotional intensity and grace under extreme pressure cannot be denied, and Pogossian matches her note for note and nuance for nuance… Both gesturally and facially, Arnold is an expressive performer, and watching her here assists one in getting under the surface of the Kafka Fragments."

Movses & Tony in Yerevan, Armenia, 2013

Movses & Tony in Yerevan, Armenia, 2013

Movses & Tony rehearse at Bowling Green, 2010  photo: Aleksandr Karjaka

Movses & Tony rehearse at Bowling Green, 2010
photo: Aleksandr Karjaka

Audiophile Audition • 19 June 2009

"The third available recording of Kurtág’s masterpiece is a worthy one…  Soprano Tony Arnold throws herself into these performances, and certainly seems moved by this music. Violinist Pogossian plays the devil out of what has to be an enormously bearish piece, though obviously written in an idiomatic manner." —Steven Ritter