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 ex patriot 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!

Ronda
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!

Dream
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
Whistle.

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:
"Always!"

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!

Absence
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.

Enticement
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.

Meeting
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!"

Love
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!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shostakovich - From Jewish Folk Poetry, Opus 79a

After the successful premiere of his First Symphony in 1926, Dmitri Shostakovich was the darling of the Communist Government in Russia. But with the rise in power of Stalin the political climate changed. In 1936 Shostakovich was no longer the pride of the Soviet government. This was the year of the beginning of the Great Purge of anyone that the paranoid Stalin considered a rival or a danger to his authority. This purge affected the leadership of the Red Army, members of government,  all areas of Soviet life including the arts. Shostakovich lost many friends and colleagues in the years 1936-1938 and he feared for his own life as well.

Shostakovich managed to weather the storm of 1936 and by the time of the outbreak of World War Two his reputation had improved considerably, so much so that Stalin used his music as propaganda in the Russian war effort. But Shostakovich was not one to stay out of trouble for long. In 1948 he was denounced again. He lost his position at the Conservatory along with a considerable part of his income and once again he expeected to be hauled off in the middle of the night, never to return. He wrote film scores and other works to try and rehabilitate his official image again, but by this time Shostakovich also was writing works that were not meant for performance. He wrote these works purely out of an inner need to do so.  One of these private works was the song cycle From Jewish Folk Poetry.

Antisemitism in Russia ran so deep that it was considered a tradition. Shostakovich was not raised in this tradition by his liberal-minded parents, and as a result he was sensitive to the plight of Jewish people all his life. This deepened late in 1944 as news about the Nazi death camps was being brought to light. Stalin was also carrying out a campaign against the Jews in Russia beginning in 1948, when they were removed from public life with many being executed.

Shostakovich took his text from a collection of Jewish Folk Poetry that was published in 1947. He set eight songs and after a private performance he wrote three additional songs to lyrics he thought would be more acceptable to the authorities. But by that time antisemitism was running rampant with the government and the song cycle didn't have its premiere until 1955 after Stalin's death. The original version of the song cycle is for soprano, mezzo-soprano and tenor with piano accompaniment. Shostakovich orchestrated the songs later for chamber orchestra and it is this version heard at the link.

1) Lament For A Dead Child
Sun and rain, shine and mist, the fog has descended,
the moon has grown dim.
Whom did she give birth to?
To a boy, to a boy.
And how did they name him?
Moyshele, Moyshele.
And in what did they rock Moyshele?
In a cradle.
And what did they feed him with?
With bread and onions.
And where did they bury him?
In a grave. Oy, little boy in the grave,
 in the grave, Moyshele in the grave.

Shostakovich was influenced not only by Jewish poetry but by Jewish klezmer  music. This influence can be heard in many of his compositions and especially in this song cycle.
2) The Thoughtful Mother And Aunt
Bye, bye, bye, to the village, Daddy go!
Bring us an apple, so our eyes won’t hurt! Bye…
Bye, bye, bye, to the village, Daddy, go!
Bring us a chicken, so our teeth won’t hurt! Bye…
Bye, bye, bye, to the village, Daddy, go!
Bring us a duck, so our chest won’t hurt! Bye…
Bye, bye, bye, to the village, Daddy, go!
Bring us a goose, so our stomach won’t hurt! Bye…
Bye, bye, bye, to the village, Daddy, go!
Bring us some seeds, so our crown won’t hurt! Bye…
Bye, bye, bye, to the village, Daddy, go!
Bring us a rabbit, so our fingers won't hurt! Bye…

3) Lullaby
My son who is the most beautiful in the world,
sleep, but I’m not sleeping.
Your father is in chains in Siberia,
The Tsar holds him in prison,
Sleep, lu-lu-lu, lu-lu.
Rocking your cradle, your mother sheds tears.
Later you will understand yourself what grieves her heart.
Your father is in far Siberia, and I suffer in misery.
Sleep while you’re still carefree, and lu-lu-lu, lu-lu-lu.
My grief is darker than the night, sleep, but I’m not sleeping.
Sleep, my beautiful, sleep, my son, sleep, lu-lu-lu, lu-lu-lu.

4) Before A Long Parting
Soprano: Oy, Abram, how will I live without you?
Me without you, you without me,
how will we live apart?

Tenor: Do you remember when we were under the porch,
what you told me in secret?
Oy, oy, Rivochka, let me kiss your lips, my darling!

Soprano: Oy, Abram, how will we live now?
Me without you, you without me,
oy, such a door without latch.

Tenor: Do you remember when we were walking hand in hand,
what you told me on the boulevard?
Oy, oy, Rivochka, let me kiss your lips, my darling!

Soprano: Oy, Abram, how will we live now?
Me without you, you without me,
How will we live without happiness?
Tenor: Oy, Rivochka, how will I live without you?
Me without you, you without me,
How will we live without happiness?

Soprano: Do you remember when I was wearing a red skirt?
Oy, as I was beautiful then! Oy, Abram ,! Oy, Abram!
Tenor: Oy, oy, Rivochka, let me kiss your lips, my darling!

5) A Warning
Listen, Khasya, You must not go out,
Do not adventure out,
Don’t date anyone,
Take care, take care!

If you go out, and if you
walk until morning, oy,
Then you will weep bitterly,
Khasya! Hear! Khasya!

6) The Abandoned Father
Mezzo-soprano: Heleh the old man put on his coat.
His daughter ran off with a policeman.

Tenor: Tsirélé, girl! Come back to your father,
I will give you a beautiful dress for your wedding.
Tsirélé, girl! I will buy you earrings and rings for your fingers.
Tsirélé, girl! And a fine young man,
a young man I will give you also.
Tsirélé, girl!

Mezzo-soprano: I do not need clothes, I do not need rings.
I will marry my policeman. Mr. Policeman Please, hurry, hurry up and drive
This old Jew away!
Tenor: Tsirélé, girl! Come back to me!
Tsirélé, girl! Come back to me!
Oy, come back to me, come back to me.
Tsirélé, girl!

7) The Song of Misery
The roof sleeps sweetly in the attic under the straw.
In the cradle sleeps a child without swaddling, all naked.

Hop, hop, higher, higher!
A goat eats straw from the roof!
Hop, hop, higher, higher!
A goat eats straw from the roof, oy!

The cradle is in the attic,
In it a spider weaves misfortune.
It sucks away my happiness,
Leaving me only misery.

Hop, hop, higher, higher!
A goat eats straw from the roof!
Hop, hop, higher, higher!
A goat eats straw from the roof, oy!

A rooster is in the attic,
With a bright red comb.
Oy, wife, borrow for the children
A piece of stale bread.

Hop, hop, higher, higher!
A goat eats straw from the roof!
Hop, hop, higher, higher!
A goat eats straw from the roof, oy!

8) Winter
My Sheyndl is lying on the bed,
with a sick child.
There is not a branch to warm the cottage,
and the wind howls around the walls.
Ah ... 

The cold and the wind have returned,
There is no strength to suffer in silence.
Cry and weep, my children,
winter has returned.
Ah ...

9) A Good Life
Of wide fields, dear friends,
I did not sing songs long ago.
Not for me did the fields bloom,
Not for me did dew-drops flow down.

In a narrow cellar, in humid darkness,
Lived I once, worn out by misery.
And a sad song ascended from the cellar,
Of grief, of my unparalleled suffering.

Kolkhoz river, flow joyfully,
Quickly give my regards to my friends.
Tell them that my home is now in the kolkhoz.
A blossoming tree stands under my window.

Now the fields bloom for me,
They feed me with milk and honey.
I’m happy, and you tell my brothers:
I’ll write songs to the kolkhoz fields.

10) The Young Girl's Song
In a meadow near the forest, from dawn to dusk,
we keep the kolkhoz herd.
And I'm sitting there on a hill, with my little flute,
and I can’t stop to watch enough the beauty of my country.
Trees covered in bright foliage stand so gracefully and so delicately,
in the fields wheat ripens full of goodness and delight.
Oy, oy, Lyou-Lyou!

Now a branch smiles at me, and then a wink,
and a feeling of great joy lights a spark in my heart.
Then sings my little flute! Together we sing quietly!
Mountains and valleys listen to our song full of joy.
But do not cry, my flute! Forget the sorrows of the past,
and let your tunes flow gracefully into the country.
Oy, oy, Lyou-Lyou!

The kolkhoz makes me happy, do you hear? My life is so full!
More cheerfully, more cheerfully, my flute, you must sing!

11) Happiness
I boldly took my husband’s arm,
So what if I’m old and my date is old, too!
I took him with me to the theatre,
And we bought two tickets to the pit.

Sitting there with my husband late into the night,
Everyone succumbed to the happy thoughts
About what wealth surrounds
The Jewish shoemaker’s wife.

Oy, oy, oy, oy, what wealth surrounds
The Jewish shoemaker’s wife. Oy!

And to the whole country will I tell
About my happy and bright lot!
Doctors, doctors, have become our sons – 
A star shines above our heads!

Oy, oy, oy, oy, a star shines,
A star shines,
A star shines above our heads!
Doctors, doctors,
Have become our sons! A star shines
Above our heads. Oy!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Liszt - Two Lieder: Die Lorelei, S. 273 - O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst, S. 298

Franz Liszt as composer is most often thought of a writer of music for the piano and for his thirteen Symphonic Poems, but he also wrote 87 songs.  Although he was Hungarian by birth, he was closely aligned with the German music aesthetic and about 53 of his songs were set to German lyrics.  Liszt's music faded in importance after his death and outside of a handful of works, it was performed little. There is a renewed interest in his music, but his songs are still rarely performed.

The Lorelei
The first song is a setting of the poem Die Lorelei by Heinrich Heine. Heine based his poem on the ancient legend associated with The Lorelei, a large rock formation on the Rhine River. The name comes from old German words that meanmurmuring rock, given to the rock because of the noises given off by a small waterfall and current of the river that can be heard as murmuring echos off the rock face. The name Lorelei is also given to a female water spirit that legend says sits on the top of the rock and murmurs as it combs its hair, and while doing so distracts sailors from guiding their boats around the narrow channel of the river and causes their vessels to destruct on the rocks.

Liszt wrote two versions of the song, the first in 1841. He revised the song in 1854 and it is this second version that is heard at the link below.

Die Lorelei
I can't explain what it means
This haunting pain:
A tale of bygone ages
Keeps running through my brain.

The air cools in the twilight,
Heinrich Heine
And peaceful flows the Rhine,
The rocky summits reflect
The sunset's waning light.

The loveliest maiden is sitting
High-throned on the rock.
Her golden jewels are shining,
She combs her golden hair;

She combs with a comb that is golden,
And sings a strange refrain
That causes a deadly enchantment
In the listener's ear.

The sailor in his drifting sailboat,
Is entranced by sad sweet tones,
He doesn't see the breakers,
He sees the maid alone.

The wind and water engulf him!
So perish sailor and ship;
And this, with her baleful singing,
Is the Lorelei's gruesome work.



The next song is a work that is more often heard in a transcription for solo piano that Liszt had published under the title of Liebesträume No. 3.  The song was set to a poem by German poet Ferdinand Freiligrath in 1845.

O love, love as long as you can!
O love, love as long as you will!
Ferdinand Freiligrath
The time will come, the time will come,
When you will stand mourning at the grave.

And let it be that your heart glows
And nurtures and carries love,
As long as another heart is still
Warmly struck by love for you!

And to one who gives his heart to you,
O to him, do what you can, in Love!
And make him happy every hour
And never let him be gloomy for an hour.

And guard your tongue tightly,
So no angry word spills out,
O God, even if no harm was meant,
The other may recoil, hurt and sighing.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Mozart - Concert Aria For Soprano "Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!" K.418

The world of 18th century opera was a markedly different environment in many ways than the modern day opera house. With no copyright protection for composers, many of them supervised the first productions of their operas to earn some money off of their music before it was pirated by other opera companies and publishers. But the best singers back then, like the best singers now, were the stars of the show. Most opera composers wrote music with specific singers in mind, and the singers themselves would take many liberties with the music for the sake of displaying particular vocal strong points, so much that the original music could get lost in a sea of added ornamentation, runs and long held notes.

Composers could be part of this cavalier attitude towards opera as well. A custom of the time was for composers to write arias for specific singers that were called insertion arias because they would be inserted in place of an original aria written by the opera's composer. In Mozart's time the use of insertion arias had been going on for so long that they had become a tradition, and many of Mozart's concert arias were originally written as insertion arias.  Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! (Let me explain, oh God!) K.418 is just such an insertion aria. Mozart wrote it for his sister-in-law Aloysia Weber, a soprano that had a successful career on the Vienna opera stage. At one time Mozart had wanted to marry Aloysia, but he ended up marrying her sister Constanze instead.  Mozart wrote other insertion arias for Aloysia and she performed roles in some of his operas as well. She must have been a fine singer because the arias Mozart wrote for her are quite demanding.

Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! was written to be inserted in an opera titled  Il curioso indiscreto (The Curious, Indiscreet Man) by the composer Pasquale Anfossi. The libretto was based on the book Don Quixote. The aria begins in a slow tempo with muted strings and a beautiful part for oboe that continues in duet with the soprano who sings the part of Clorinda, who is in love with a Count, who is promised in marriage to another woman named Emilia. Clorinda sings that she wishes she could explain to him why she appears not to return his love. The tempo quickens in the second part of the aria as she urges him to leave her, telling him to go to Emilia.  Mozart puts the soprano through her paces as he uses notes that span over two octaves in this effective and impressive aria.

Let me explain, oh God,
What my grief is!
But fate has condemned me
To weep and stay silent.

My heart may not pine
For the one I would like to love
Making me seem hard-hearted
And cruel.

 Ah, Count, part from me,
Run, flee
Far away from me;
Your beloved Emilia awaits you
 Don't let her languish,
She is worthy of love.

Ah, pitiless stars!
You are hostile to me.
I am lost when he stays.
Part from me, run,
Speak not of love,
Her heart is yours.

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