Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saint-Saëns - Requiem Opus 54

The text of the Catholic Requiem Mass began to be sung to music as far back as the 9th century when Gregorian chant melodies which were monophonic were used.  The earliest surviving polyphonic Requiem is from the 15th century. Early Requiems used various texts until the Council of Trent in the 16th century set the texts that were to be used in the services of the Church.  There is an amount of freedom of choice within the allowed texts to be used in the Requiem, so many of the later Requiems have differing combinations of text.

The dramatic nature of the text has attracted many composers, with some Requiems being more suited to the concert hall than a church. Verdi's Requiem is an example of a highly dramatic setting of the text and has been criticized for being more like an unstaged opera than a Requiem.  In contrast, Saint-Saëns Requiem was intended for use in a church service. He kept the length of the work to a little over 30 minutes, a short time for a Romantic era Requiem.

He wrote the Requiem for Albert Libon, a friend and patron that had died a year earlier. Originally Libon included in his will 100,000 francs to Saint-Saëns with the intent to allow the composer to quit his position as church organist and devote his time to composition with the stipulation that Saint-Saëns compose a Requiem in his honor to be performed a year after his death. Before he died, Libon removed that stipulation. Saint-Saëns received the 100,000 francs upon Libon's death but felt compelled to write a Requiem to honor his friend anyway. He traveled to Switzerland in April of 1878 and while staying in a hotel he wrote the Requiem in a mere eight days. He wrote to his publisher, "Fear not, this Requiem will be very short. I’m not just working hard, I’m working flat out!"

Saint-Saëns wrote a Requiem that is not free of drama, but the drama is more subdued. The writing for orchestra and organ is lyrically powerful, and he has written music for the chorus and soloists that shows his mastery of writing for the voice. A recurring motive in the work is the chromatic 'sighing' that can especially be heard in the fourth movement.  In later life Saint-Saëns turned from a total religious believer to an absolute non-believer, but he respected the tradition of the church and continued to write religious music for the rest of his life.

I. Kyrie
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
You shall have praise, O God, in Zion,
and a prayer shall go up for you in Jerusalem.
All flesh shall come before you.
Lord have mercy,
Christ have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

II. Dies irae
This day, this day of wrath
shall consume the world in ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sybil.
What fear there shall be,
when the judge shall come
to weigh everything severely.
The trumpet, casting its wondrous sound
across the graves of all lands,
summons all before the throne.
Death and nature shall be astounded
when mankind arises
to give account before the judge.
The written book shall be brought
in which all is recorded
whereby the world shall be judged.
When the judge takes his seat
all that is concealed shall appear,
nothing shall remain unavenged.
What shall I, a frail man, say then?
To which protector shall I appeal
when even the just man is scarcely safe?

III. Rex tremendae
King of awful majesty,
who freely saves those worthy of salvation,
save me, fount of mercy.
Remember, gentle Jesus,
that I am the reason for your earthly life,
do not cast me out on that day.
Seeking me, you sank down wearily,
you have saved me by enduring the cross:
such travail must not be in vain.
Righteous Judge of vengeance,
award the gift of forgiveness
before the day of reckoning.
I groan, like the sinner that ?I am,
guilt reddens my face:
spare the supplicant, O God.
You, who pardoned Mary
and heeded the thief,
have given me hope as well.
My prayers are unworthy,
but you, who are good, in pity,
do not let me burn in the eternal fire.
Give me a place among the sheep
and separate me from the goats,
let me stand at your right hand.
When the damned are cast away,
and consigned to the searing flames,
call me to be with the blessed.

IV. Oro supplex
Bowed down in supplication I beg you,
my heart as though ground to ashes,
help me in my final hour.
This day of tears
when from the ashes arises
guilty man to be judged:
have mercy upon him, O Lord,
Gentle Lord Jesus,
grant him rest.

V. Hostias
We offer to you in praise, O Lord,
sacrifices and prayers:
accept them on behalf of those souls
whom we remember this day:
Lord, make them pass
from death to life,
as once you promised Abraham
and to his seed.

VI. Sanctus
Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest!

VII. Benedictus
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.

VIII. Agnus Dei
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the
world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the
world, grant them rest.
Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the
world, grant them eternal rest.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Brahms - A German Requiem

The complete title of Brahms' Requiem is A German Requiem, To Words of the Holy Scriptures, which gives an indication as to the non-traditional nature of the work. Brahms was born and raised in the Northern German seaport city of Hamburg, a city rich in the tradition of self-rule and the Lutheran Church.  Brahms loved the Bible as translated into German by Martin Luther, although his religious beliefs were not strong. He looked upon Luther's translation as great German literature as well as a sacred work, as such Brahms himself put together his own text for his requiem from the German translation of the Bible. Composers who came from the parts of Europe that were Catholic usually used Latin texts from the Roman Missal.

Where the more traditional Requiem Mass (also known as the Mass For The Dead) concentrate on the redemption of the dead from the horrors of hell,  Brahms' Requiem is concerned with comforting and consoling the loved ones of the deceased.  The history of the composition of the work are not completely known as Brahms was not one to divulge any specific inspiration for any of his works. It has been suggested by some scholars that the death of his mother in 1865 and the earlier death in 1856 of his advocate and friend Robert Schumann gave him the impetus to compose the work.

Five movements of the work were completed by 1866 and the first three movements were played in a concert in Vienna in 1867 to mixed reviews. The six movements of the original version of the Requiem were first heard in 1868 in the Northern German town of Bremen. The work was a great success and marked a turning point in Brahms' career. Brahms composed an additional movement later in 1868 and the final seven movement version was first performed in Leipzig in 1869.

A German Requiem has been controversial in a religious sense since the premiere of the first three movements in Vienna. In countries that are predominantly Catholic, the work has not fared as well as in areas that are Protestant. Brahms also strictly avoided using any scripture that dealt with Christian dogma, much to the consternation of a clergyman that wrote a letter to Brahms that mentioned this. Brahms steadfastly refused to change the work and wrote back to the clergyman:
As far as the text is concerned, I will admit that I would gladly give up the 'German' and simply put 'human,' and that I would also with full knowledge and consent go without passages such as John 3:16  From time to time I may have employed a thing because I am a musician, because I could use it, because I cannot dispute or cross out even a 'henceforth' from my honorable poets.
I. Selig sind, die da Leid tragen (Blessed are they that mourn) 
The German Requiem is the longest work Brahms ever wrote, and it begins with a solemn setting of one of the eight Beatitudes and is notable for the absence of violins in the beginning of the movement. Brahms used texts from the Old and New Testaments and molds them into music of great beauty.

Blessed are they that mourn
for they shall be comforted. [Matthew 5:4]

They who sow in tears
shall reap in joy.
Go forth and cry,
bearing precious seed,
and come with joy bearing their sheaves [Psalm 126:5,6]

II. Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras (For all flesh is as grass) 
The funeral march feeling of the first section is undeniable as the words relate the fleeting nature of life, with a distinguishing feature of the music being that it is not written in the usual 4/4 time signature, but in 3/4 time. The second section lightens the mood until the funeral march appears again. But the movement doesn't end on a somber note as Brahms reassures the listener with music and words of hope that end in glory.

 For all flesh is as grass,
and the glory of manlike flowers.
The grass withers
and the flower falls. [1 Peter 1:24]

Therefore be patient, dear brothers,
for the coming of the Lord.
Behold, the husbandman waits
for the delicious fruits of the earth
and is patient for it, until he receives
the morning rain and evening rain. [James 5:7]

But the word of the Lord endures for eternity. [1 Peter 1:25]

The redeemed of the Lord will come again,
and come to Zion with a shout;
eternal joy shall be upon her head;
They shall take joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing must depart. [Isaiah 35:10]

III. Herr, lehre doch mich (Lord, teach me)
The third movement features a contemplative solo for baritone that deals with the fleeting nature of life. After soloist and chorus ruminate on this, the music flows directly into some of the most remarkable music Brahms ever wrote. The movement ends with Brahms showcasing his mastery of counterpoint with a huge fugue for chorus, which is notable for the pedal point D that is held throughout.

Lord, teach me
That I must have an end,
And my life has a purpose,
and I must accept this.
Behold, my days are as a handbreadth before Thee,
and my life is as nothing before Thee.
Alas, as nothing are all men,
but so sure the living.
They are therefore like a shadow,
and go about vainly in disquiet;
they collect riches, and do not know
who will receive them.
Now, Lord, how can I console myself?
My hope is in Thee. [Psalm 39:4-7]

The righteous souls are in God's hand
and no torment shall stir them. [Wisdom of Solomon 3:1]

IV. Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen (How lovely are thy dwellings)
After the dramatic first three movements the fourth is one of calmness. This movement acts as a pivot, a center point to the work.

How lovely are thy dwellings,
O Lord of Hosts!
My soul requires and yearns for
the courts of the Lord;
My body and soul rejoice
in the living God.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house;
they praise you forever. [Psalm 84:1,2,4]

V. Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit (You now have sorrow) 
This is the movement that Brahms wrote and inserted after the first 6-movement version of the Requiem had been performed. It is a solo for soprano and is music of consolation.

You now have sorrow;
but I shall see you again
and your heart shall rejoice
and your joy no one shall take from you. [John 16:22]
Behold me:

I have had for a little time toil and torment,
and now have found great consolation. [Ecclesiasticus 51:27]

I will console you,
as one is consoled by his mother [Isaiah 66:13]

VI. Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt (For we have here no lasting city)
Brahms begins this movement calmly, but it grows in intensity and power as the baritone soloist relates the raising of the dead and the end of death. A fugue for chorus is the feature of this movement.

For we have here no lasting city,
but we seek the future. [Hebrews 13:14]

Behold, I show you a mystery:
We shall not all sleep,
but we all shall be changed
and suddenly, in a moment,
at the sound of the last trombone.
For the trombone shall sound,
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible,
and we shall be changed.
Then shall be fulfilled
The word that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
O Death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory? [1 Corinthians 15:51,52,54,55]

Lord, Thou art worthy to receive all
praise, honor, and glory,
for Thou hast created all things,
and through Thy will
they have been and are created. [Revelation 4:11]

VII. Selig sind die Toten (Blessed are the dead)
A German Requiem comes full circle in this last movement as it moves towards a reminiscence of music heard in the first movement. Selig (blessed) ends the movement with the same word that began the first movement.

Blessed are the dead
that die in the Lord
from henceforth.
Yea, saith the spirit,
that they rest from their labors,
and their works shall follow them. [Revelation 14:13]

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Mendelssohn - Die erste Walpurgisnacht

Walpurgis night (Walpurgisnacht in German) is named after an 8th century English woman missionary St. Walpurga who traveled to the Germanic areas of Europe to convert the natives to Christianity. She was canonized on May 1st about 870. The celebration of Walpurgis night on April 30th is taken from the pagan folklore of a meeting of witches on the Brocken, the largest peak in the Harz mountain range in Germany. German poet Johann Goethe wrote the poem Die erste Walpurgisnacht (The First Walpurgisnight) in 1799 which was inspired by German folklore. Goethe wrote to his friend the composer Carl Friedrich Zelter: of our German antiquarians has endeavoured to rescue, and to give an historical foundation for the story of the witches’ and devils’ ride on the Brocken, a legend which has been current in Germany, from time immemorial. His explanation is that the heathen priests and patriarchs of Germany, when they were driven from their sacred groves and when Christianity was forced upon the people, used to retire at the beginning of spring with their faithful followers to the wild, inaccessible heights of the Harz mountains, in order, according to the ancient custom, there to offer prayer and flame to the unembodied god of heaven and earth. And further, he thinks, they may have found it well to disguise a number of their own people so as to keep their superstitious foes at a distance, and that thus, protected by the antics of devils, they carried out the purest of services. I found this explanation somewhere, a few years ago, but cannot remember the name of the author. The idea pleased me, and I have turned this fabulous story back again into a poetical fable.”
Goethe wrote the poem with the intention of having it set to music by Zelter, but after two attempts the composer gave up. Zelter introduced his student Felix Mendelssohn to Goethe in 1821, after which Goethe told Zelter:
"Musical prodigies ... are probably no longer so rare; but what this little man can do in extemporizing and playing at sight borders the miraculous, and I could not have believed it possible at so early an age." "And yet you heard Mozart in his seventh year at Frankfurt?" said Zelter. "Yes", answered Goethe, "... but what your pupil already accomplishes, bears the same relation to the Mozart of that time that the cultivated talk of a grown-up person bears to the prattle of a child."
Mendelssohn took up Goethe's text in 1830 and completed the final version in 1843.  Goethe's poem portrays the tale as a prank between the remaining pagans and druid priests against the Christian guards that prohibit their ancient rituals of Walpurgis night. The cantata is in ten parts and begins with an overture that depicts the bad weather of winter that transforms to the milder weather of spring.

1) Overture
2) May Smiles At Us
Druid (Tenor)
May smiles at us!
The woods are free
of ice and hoarfrost

Chorus of the heathen
May smiles at us!
The woods are free
of ice and hoarfrost.
The snow is gone,
every green place
resounds with songs of pleasure.

Druid (Tenor)
A pure snow
lies on the peaks,
we haste upward,
to celebrate the ancient sacred rites,
to praise there the Father of All.
Let the flame blaze through the smoke!
Upward, upward!
Our hearts will be uplifted.

Chorus of the heathen
Let the flame blaze through the smoke!
Perform the old, sacred custom,
praising there the Father of All.
Upward! Upward!
Our hearts will be lifted.

3) Can You Act So Rashly?
Old woman of the heathens (Mezzo-soprano)
Can you act so rashly?
Do you want to go to your death?
Do you not know the laws
of our stern conquerors?
Their nets are set all around
for the heathen, the 'sinners'.
On the battlements they'll slay
our fathers, our children.
And we are all
nearing this sure trap.

Chorus of women
On the camp's high battlements
they'll slaughter our children.
Ah, the stern conquerors!
And we are all
nearing this sure trap.

4) Whoever This Day Fears To Bring A Sacrifice
The Priest (Baritone)
Whoever this day
fears to bring a sacrifice,
deserves his chains.
The forest is free!
The wood is ready,
prepare it for the burning!

Chorus of men
The forest is free!
The wood is ready,
prepare it for the burning!

The Priest (Baritone)
But we'll remain
in our wooded hideout
silently during the day,
and keep the men on their guard
for the sake of your concerns.
But then, with fresh courage,
let us fulfill our duty.

Chorus of men
Then let us with fresh courage
let us fulfill our duty.

The Priest (Baritone)
Spread out up here, brave men.

5) Spread Out Here Brave Men
Chorus of druid guards
Spread out here, brave men,
through the entire forest,
and watch here silently
as they perform their duty.

6) These Stupid Christians
One druid guard (Bass)
These stupid Christians -
let us boldly outsmart them!
With the every devil they invent
we'll terrify them.

Come! With stakes and pitchforks
and with flames and rattling sticks,
we'll make noise through the night
in these empty rocky gorges.

Chorus of druid guards
Come! With stakes and pitchforks
and with flames and rattling sticks,
we'll make noise through the night
in these empty rocky gorges.
The owls will howl at our racket!

One druid guard (Bass)
Come! Come! Come!

7) Come With Stakes And Pitchforks
Chorus of druid guards and heathen
Come with stakes and pitchforks
and with flames and rattling sticks,
we'll make noise through the night
in these empty rocky gorges.
The owls will howl at our racket!
Come! Come! Come!

The Priest (Baritone)
We've been brought so far,
that by night we
sing in secret to the Father of All!
Yet when it is day,
as soon as we may,
we bring you a perfect heart.

8) Yet When It Is Day
Chorus of druids and heathen
Yet when it is day,
as soon as we may,
we bring you a pure heart.

Priest and chorus
Today indeed,
and many times,
you've granted the foe success.
As the flame is purified in smoke,
so purify our faith!
And even if they rob us of our ancient ritual,
who can take your light from us?

9) Help, Oh Help Me
A Christian guard (Tenor)
Help, oh help me, fellow soldier!
Alas, all hell is coming!
See, how the bewitched bodies
glow with flames through and through!
Werewolves and dragon women,
passing by in flight!

Chorus of Christian watchmen
Frightening bewitched bodies,
werewolves and dragon woman,
Let us flee, let us flee!

A Christian guard (Tenor)
What a fearful scramble!
Let us, let us all flee!
Above flames and sparkles the evil one,
out of the ground
steams a hellish brew.

Chorus of Christian watchmen
What a fearful scramble!
Let us, let us all flee!
Above flames and sparkles the evil one,
out of the ground
steams a hellish brew.

Christian guard and Christian watchmen
Let us flee, let us flee!

Chorus of druids and heathen
As the flame is purified by smoke,
so purify our faith!

10) As The Flame Is Purified By Smoke
The Priest (Baritone)
As the flame is purified by smoke,
so purify our faith!
And even if they rob us of our ancient ritual,
who can take your light from us?

Who can take your light from us?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Shostakovich - Spanish Songs

The Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 was fought between two major groups, the Republicans who were to the left politically, and the Nationals who were to the right politically. The Nationals were led by the fascist Francisco Franco who was aided by Nazi Germany and fascist Italy while the Republicans were aided by communist Russia.  The conflict was a very complex political and military situation but in essence it was a battle of ideologies, Fascist versus Communist.  In the end, the Nationals and Franco were victorious, and with that came an exodus of orphans of dead Republican fighters. Among the countries that took in these orphans was communist Russia.

These expatriated Spanish children brought with them the traditional songs and music of their native country, and through one of Shostakovich's friends (who was also a singer) he became acquainted with this music after the friend had recorded a Spanish singer and guitarist as he played the songs on a street corner. The text set to the tunes Shostakovich heard were taken from a volume of Spanish poems translated into Russian. Shostakovich wrote simple and quite conventional arrangements for these tunes to ensure that the tunes themselves would be the main focus.

Farewell To Granada
Farewell Granada, my Granada,
I have to leave you forever!
Farewell, dear place, so pleasing to my eye,
farewell forever! Ah!
The memories of you will be my only consolation,
my dear place, my home place!
I am forever pierced with sorrow,
all I care for is lost,
my love is gone into the darkness of the grave,
and my life is gone too...Ah!
I am annoyed with what's around me, I can't live as before
in the place where my youth was so bright!

Little Stars
Under the old cypresses
the water near the shore is gleaming.
I am coming to my sweetheart with my guitar
to teach her songs.
But my teaching will not be free:
I charge her as kiss for each note.
Strangely, in the morning she learns everything
except the notes!
Pity, it's too late to start again...
Pity, it's getting daylight already...
Pity, the stars over the bay
do not tremble in the daylight.

The limitless sky is covered with little stars,
they are abundant in the starry night.
I tell my sweetheart
the names of all these numberless stars.
I value my knowledge
and charge her a kiss for every name.
Strange, the lesson seems easy to her,
everything but the stars!
Pity, it's too late to start again...
pity, it's getting daylight already...
Pity, the stars over the bay
do not tremble in the daylight.

The First Time I Met You
Once you gave me some water near the stream,
it was fresh and cold like snow in the blue mountains' canyons.
your eyes are darker than night,
and your braids have the aroma of wild mint petals.

See the round-dance spinning again,
hear the tambourine rattling, jingling and singing.
Each dancer is leading his girlfriend,
people are looking at them in admiration.
Beat, tambourine, beat, rattle like thunder!
I am dancing with my sweetheart,
her ribbon is as blue as the sky!
Beat, tambourine, beat! Beat, tambourine! Beat tambourine!

I'll never forget the first time I met you,
tender words, and swarthy hand, and shining black eyes...
It was then that I understood
that I loved you and would love you forever!

See the round-dance spinning again,
hear the tambourine rattling, jingling and singing.
Each dancer is leading his girlfriend,
people are looking at them in admiration.
Beat, tambourine, rattle like thunder!
I am dancing with my sweetheart,
her ribbon is as blue as the sky!
Beat, tambourine, beat! Beat, tambourine! Beat tambourine!

The noisy round dance is at our door,
now is the time for merriment.
Come quickly – dance with me!
My scarlet carnation-flower!
In moonlit silence the noise of the stream is heard.
Give me your hand, my little girl,
my scarlet carnation flower.
The street is a bright garden,
jokes ring out, eyes are shining.
Ronda turns and sings,
silver shines the starry sky,
merry couples whirl.
It is the joyful holiday of first flowers.
It is the holiday of our love.
In the window the shadows of almond trees
play in the moon's rays.
When will you come out to me
My tender spring flower?
Pluck a sprig of almond from the branch.
Give it to me in token of your love,
my tender spring flower.

Black-Eyed Girl
Your mother gave you eyes like stars
and the soft color of your cheek
my darling!
With pain in my heart, late at night
without you I wander
my darling!
Ah! Why does fate punish me so?
Ah! Why did I ever meet you?
I will die of hopeless love
if you will not love me
my darling!

Your mother gave you a tall figure
and the black shine of unruly curls.
My darling I curse my harsh fate,
the pain and tortures of my heart
my darling!
Oh why did your mother give
you such beauty to spite me!
I will die of hopeless love
if you will not love me
my darling!

I don't know what it means...
I dreamed in a magical sleep
I was in a fishing boat.
I cruised on the stormy wave.
My boat has no oars – I threw them away...
The waves foam angrily – try to sink my vessel.
But, bravely I speed on through the
dark through the enormous waves,
because in this fishing boat
on the sea's unruly depths
speed you also, my proud one.
Speed together with me
and it seems as if you love me.
O my dove! Look now
how towards you in his fragile little boat,
poor fellow that loves you so strongly!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Berlioz - Les Nuits d'été (Summer Nights)

The works of Hector Berlioz that are most well known are works that display his flair for orchestral color such as the  Symphonie Fantastique.  He also composed many works for voice; opera, choral works and songs for soloist. His most popular work for solo voice is set to poems by French poet Théophile Gautier, a neighbor and friend to Berlioz.  The songs were set to poems taken from Gautier's book La comédie de la mort (The Comedy of Death). Berlioz came up with the title Les Nuits d'été for the set of six songs but it is unclear why he used the name.

The songs were written for mezzo-soprano or tenor with piano accompaniment in 1841. He eventually orchestrated all six by 1856 and it is in this form that they are usually heard. The first version with piano accompaniment was not very popular due to the ineffective piano part. Berlioz was not a pianist, a rare thing for composers of his time. His instrument was the guitar, which freed his orchestrations up from the influence of the piano. His orchestrations are for what was a modest orchestra for Berlioz, and his deft use of orchestral color has made this version of the songs one of his most popular works for solo voice.

Country Song
When the new season comes,
When the cold has vanished,
We will both go, my lovely,
To gather lily of the valley.
Gathering the pearls underfoot,
That one sees shimmering in the morning,
We will hear the blackbirds

Spring has come, my lovely,
It is the month blessed by lovers;
And the bird, preening his wing,
Speaks verse from the edge of his nest.
Oh! come now to this mossy bank
To talk of our beautiful love,
And say to me in your sweet voice:

Théophile Gautier
Far, far away, straying from our path,
Causing the hidden rabbit to flee
And the deer, in the mirror of the spring
Bending to admire his great antlers,
Then home, completely happy and at ease,
Our hands entwined round the basket,
Returning carrying strawberries
From the wood.

The Spectre Of The Rose
Open your closed eyelids
Touched by a virginal dream!
I am the ghost of a rose
That you wore yesterday at the ball.
You took me, still pearly
With silver tears, from the watering can,
And in the starlit party,
You carried me all evening.

O you who caused my death
Without being able to chase it away
Every night my rose-colored spectre
Will dance by your bedside.
But fear not, I claim neither
Mass nor De Profundis.
This light scent is my soul
And I come from Paradise

My destiny is enviable
And to have a fate so beautiful
More than one would have given his life;
For on your breast I have my tomb,
And on the alabaster on which I repose
A poet with a kiss
Wrote, "Here lies a rose
Of which all kings will be jealous."

On The Lagoons: Lament
My beautiful love is dead,
I shall weep forever;
Into the grave she takes
My soul and my love.
To Heaven, without waiting for me,
She has returned;
The angel who took her
Did not want to take me.
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! Without love to go over the sea!

The white creature
Lies in a coffin;
How all of nature
Seems to me in mourning!
The forgotten dove
Weeps and dreams of the absent one.
My soul weeps and feels
That it is deserted!
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! Without love to go over the sea!

Over me the vast night
Spreads like a shroud.
I sing my song
That only Heaven hears:
Ah! How beautiful she was
And how I loved her!
I shall never love
A woman as much as her…
How bitter is my fate!
Ah! Without love to go over the sea!

Come back, come back, my beloved!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life is closed
Far from your bright red smile!

Between our hearts what a distance!
So much of space between our kisses!
O bitter fate! O harsh absence!
O great desires unappeased!

Come back, come back, my beautiful beloved!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life is closed
Far from your bright red smile!

Between here and there what fields,
What towns and hamlets,
What valleys and mountains,
To tire the hoofs of the horses.

Come back, come back, my beautiful beloved!
Like a flower far from the sun,
The flower of my life is closed
Far from your bright red smile!

The Cemetery: Moonlight
Do you know the white tomb,
Where there floats with a plaintive sound
The shadow of a yew tree?
On the yew a pale dove
Sitting sad and alone at sunset,
Sings its song:

An air morbidly tender
At once charming and deadly,
That hurts you
And that one would like to hear for ever
An air like the sigh in Heaven
Of a loving angel.

One might say that an awakened soul
Weeps under the ground in unison
With the song,
And for the misfortune of being forgotten
Complains, cooing
Very softly.

On the wings of the music
One feels slowly returning
A memory.
A shadow, an angelic form
Passes in a shimmering ray
In a white veil.

The belle de nuit flowers, half closed,
Cast their weak and sweet scent
Around you,
And the ghost in a gentle pose
Murmurs, stretching its arms to you:
Will you return?

Oh! Never again by the grave
Will I go, when evening falls
In a black cloak,
To hear the pale dove
Singing at the top of the yew
Its plaintive song.

The Undiscovered Isle
Tell me, young beauty,
Where do you want to go?
The sail swells its wing,
The breeze begins to blow.

The oar is of ivory,
The flag is of moire,
The rudder of fine gold;
I have for ballast an orange,
For sail an angel's wing
For cabin boy a seraph.

Tell me, young beauty,
Where do you want to go?
The sail swells its wing,
The breeze begins to blow.

Is it to the Baltic?
To the Pacific Ocean?
The isle of Java?
Or perhaps to Norway,
To pick the snow-flower
Or the flower of Angsoka?

Tell, me, tell me, young beauty, tell me, where do you want to go?

Take me, says the beautiful one,
To the faithful shore
Where one loves for ever!
That shore, my dear,
Is almost unknown In the land of love.

Where do you want to go?
The breeze begins to blow .

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Haydn - Motet 'Insanae et vanae curae'

The beginnings of Haydn's motet Insanae et vanae curae (Insane and stupid worries flood our mind) began in 1775 with the composition of his first oratorio Il ritorno di Tobia (The Return of Tobias). The work written to an Italian liberetto was first performed in 1775 in Vienna and was a resounding success. But by 1781 the public's musical taste had changed so much that another planned performance in Vienna in 1781 failed to materialize due to lack of interest. Haydn revised the work and in 1784 a performance of the revision was performed in a benefit concert in Vienna. The oratorio had one more performance in 1808, after which Haydn took one of the choral numbers from the oratorio and rewrote it to a Latin text.

While Il ritorno di Tobia was popular in its day, it could not compete with Haydn's two masterpieces in the form The Creation and The Seasons. Perhaps that is why Haydn extracted this fine choral piece from it and revised it as a stand-alone work.  The piece is in two contrasting sections. The first section is one of fear and dread, the second section is a more lyrical one. Each section is repeated. The original was written for choir and orchestra, but there is a version for choir and organ that was not written by Haydn that is sometimes performed.

Insane and stupid worries flood our minds,
often mad fury fills the heart, robbed of hope,
O mortal man, what good does it to strive for worldly things,
if you neglect the heavens?
All things work in your favor, with God on your side.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Grieg - Song Cycle 'Haugtussa'

Born in Norway, Edvard Grieg was educated at the Leipzig Conservatory and steeped in the German tradition of serious music, but came to use the folk music of his native country.  His Piano Concerto In A Minor is one of the most well-known concertos in the literature, and although it has been compared to the Piano Concerto In A Minor of Robert Schumann, Grieg's work has examples of the folk music of his native Norway. The other work by Grieg that is very well known is his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. His use of folk melodies made him the first Norwegian composer of international reputation.

Grieg's song cycle Haugtussa (literally translated from Norwegian as maid of the hill spirits) is based on a  book of poems by the same title that were written by Arne Garborg.  The book consisted of 71 poems and was published in 1895.  Grieg read the book shortly after publication and was quite taken with the book and the musical quality of the poems.  He began to envision settings for some of the poems and wrote a letter to friend that said:
I have been deep in a highly remarkable poem … Haugtussa. It is a quite brilliant book, where the music is really already composed. One just needs to write it down.
Grieg worked with some of the poems and finally settled on eight of them to tell the story of a maid in the mountains and of her first love and heartbreak. Haugtussa was the only song cycle Grieg wrote, and some consider it his finest set of songs. The songs range in mood from happy to contemplative to sad, with the final song being sung to the ever-present babbling brook of the Romantic era poets and composers.

Oh, if you know the dream, and if you know the song,
you will always retain the notes.
And though time and again you may go astray,
you will never be able to forget.
Oh you enchantress!
you shall live with me,
on Blue Mountain you shall turn your silver spinning wheel.

You shall not fear the gentle night
when the dream spreads out its wings
to softer strains than daylight can offer,
and music from more delicate strings.
The hill rocks us gently;
all strife fades away,
and daylight does not know these hours of bliss.

You shall not tremble at fiery passion,
that sins and weeps and forgets
Arne Gaborg
 His arms are hungry, his heart is meek,
and he can tame wild bears.
Oh you enchantress!
you shall live with me,
on Blue Mountain you shall turn your silver spinning wheel.

The Little Maid
She is small and dark and slender
with dusky, pure features and deep gray eyes
and a soft and dreamy manner.
It is almost as though a spell lay over her.
In her movements, in her speech
there is this muted calm.

Beneath her forehead, lovely but low,
her eyes shine as if through a mist.
They seem to be staring
deep into another world.
Only her breast is tight and heavy,
and there is a quiver about her pale mouth.
She is tremblingly frail and delicate,
and at the same time, charming and young.

Blueberry Hill
Just look how blue it is here!
Now, my cows, we can rest.
Oh, what splendid berries
the hillside's fairly teaming with them!
Never have I seen the like!
How good it is on the mountain.
Now I shall eat my fill;
I shall stay here till evening!

But what if the great bear should come!
There's room here for both of us.
I'd never dare say a word
to such a splendid fellow.
I'd say only: "Help yourself!
Now you mustn't be shy.
I won't bother you a bit;
take as much as you like."

But if it were the red fox,
he'd get a taste of my stick;
I would strike him dead
even if he were the Pope's brother.
Such a sly, scheming rascal!
He steals both cows and lambs,
And even though he is so handsome,
he has neither pride nor shame.

But if it were the wicked wolf,
as mean and mad as the bailiff,
I'd take myself a birch club
and fetch him one on the snout.
He's forever slaughtering
Mother's sheep and lambs;
Oh yes, just let him show his face,
he'll get what's coming to him!

But if it were the nice boy
from over in Skare-Brôte,
He too would get something on the mouth,
but, I hope, something quite different.
Oh, rubbish, what am I thinking of!
The day is getting on...
I'd better see to the herd;
there's "Dolly" dreaming of salt.

One Sunday she sits pensive on the hillside,
while sweet thoughts flow over her,
and her heart beats full and heavy in her breast,
and a shy dream wakens within her.
Suddenly, enchantment steals along the hilltop.
She blushes red; there he comes, the boy she loves.

She wants to hide in her confusion,
but timidly she raises her eyes to him;
their warm hands reach out for one another,
and they stand there, neither knowing what to say.
Then she bursts out in admiration:
"My, how tall you are!"

The crazy boy has bewitched my mind.
I am caught like a bird in a net.
The crazy boy, he struts so confidently.
He knows the bird won't try to escape.

Oh, if only you would beat me with rushes,
beat me till they burned to ashes!
If only you would draw me so tightly to yourself
that the whole world vanished for me!

If I could work magic, do witchcraft,
I would like to grow inside that boy,
I would like to grow inside you,
and be only with my own boy.

Oh, you who live deep in my heart,
you have taken hold of my thoughts,
so that every fluttering fancy
whispers only of you, of you.

When the sun shines from the brilliant sky,
she sees you, who are in my every thought.
When the day sinks and darkness falls:
Will he really think of me tonight?

Young Goats Dance
Oh hip and hop,
and tip, and top,
on such a day.
Oh nip and nap,
and trip and trap,
in just this way.
And it's stay-in-the-sun,
and it's play-in-the-sun,
and it's shimmer-on-the-hill,
and it's glimmer-on-the-hill,
and it's laughter
and commotion
on a sunny day.

Oh a nip on the neck,
and a dip to the slope,
and all on tiptoe.
Oh run in a ring,
and trip and swing,
and heigh-ho.
And it's lick-in-the-sun,
and it's lie-in-the-sun,
and it's joy-on-the-hill,
and it's noise-on-the-hill,
and it's twittering
and glittering
and a quiet corner.

Oh trip and trap,
and a tap on the noggin
is what you'll get!
Oh snip and snap,
and a kiss on the nose,
this you can take.
And it's roll-in-a-ring,
and it's song-in-a-swing,
and it's up-on-your-toes,
and it's speed-on-your-toes,
and it's heisa,
and it's hoppsa,
and tra-la-la.

Sorrowful Day
She counts the days and hours and endless evenings
till Sunday comes; he has promised so faithfully
that even if hailstones fall on the mountaintop
they will meet in the "Gjætarstova."
But Sunday comes and goes in rain and mist;
she sits all alone, weeping, under the bushes.

As a bird, wounded beneath its wing,
drips blood, so her hot tears fall.
She drags herself sick and shivering home to bed,
and tosses and sobs all night long.
Her heart is broken and her cheeks are burning.
Now she must die; she has lost her lover.

At Gjaetle Brook
You swirling brook,
you rippling brook,
you flow along so warm and clear.
And splash yourself clean,
and glide over stones,
and sing and whisper
so softly to yourself,
and glitter in the sunlight with your soft waves.
Oh, here I shall rest, rest.

You tickling brook,
you trickling brook,
you run so gaily along the bright slope.
With splashing and gurgling,
with singing and sighing,
with rustling and murmuring
through your leafy house,
with a wonderful surge and a restful sleep
Oh, here I shall dream, dream.

You whispering brook,
you humming brook,
you make your bed beneath the soft moss.
Here you dream
and lose yourself,
and whisper and sing
in the great stillness,
with healing for heartache and sick longing.
Oh, here I shall remember, remember.

You wandering brook,
you foaming brook,
what did you think about on your long journey?
Through empty spaces,
among bushes and flowers?
When you slipped into the earth,
when you found your way out?
Did you ever see anyone so much alone as I am?
Oh, here I shall forget, forget.

You hissing brook,
you rippling brook,
you play in the branches, you sing in the stillness.
And smile at the sun,
and laugh in your solitude,
and wander so far
and learn so much,
oh, do not sing of what I am thinking now.
Oh, let me close my eyes!


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