Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mahler - Songs From Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Des Knaben Wunderhorn or The Boy's Magic [Hunting] Horn is one of the most important early Romantic era collections of German poetry and songs that was published in three volumes from 1805 to 1808.  The poems were idealized Romantic versions of folk poems as well as original poems written by the editors of the collection.  The collection was very popular across German-speaking Europe and was an influence on early German nationalism.

Poems from the collection were set to music by many composers, including Gustav Mahler. He first
read the collection in 1887 and was immediately attracted to the unsophisticated naivety of  the style of the poems as well as the subject matter of the poems. Mahler, a great lover of nature, explained his attraction to these songs in a letter of 1905:
I have devoted myself heart and soul to that poetry (which is essentially different from any other kind of ‘literary poetry’ and might almost be called something more like Nature and Life - in other words, the sources of all poetry—than art) in full awareness of its character and tone.
He set two dozen poems from the collection in his life; for piano and voice, for orchestra and voice and for orchestra with no voice. Indeed, his first four symphonies incorporate various Wunderhorn songs in vocal as well as instrumental versions. A twelve song collection published in 1899 was titled Humoresken. This set was written for voice and orchestra between 1892 and 1898. Two other songs were removed from this collection and replaced by two others. Modern day performance practices can add or subtract songs at the conductor's discretion. The version in the link below contains 14 songs:

Revelge - (Reveille) -  Mahler was a composer who used the sounds and impressions of street music he heard during his youth in his works. One of his first musical memories was of a military band as he related to a friend:
"One day when I was not yet four, a funny thing happened. A military band, something I delighted in all my childhood came marching past our house one morning. I no sooner heard it than I shot out of the living room. Wearing scarcely more than a chemise I trailed after the soldiers with my little accordion until some time later a couple of ladies from nearby discovered me at the marketplace. By that time I was feeling a bit frightened and they said they would only promise to take me home if I played them something the soldiers had been playing, on my accordion. I did so straight away, upon a fruit stand where they set me, to the utter delight of the market women, cooks, and other bystanders."
The music for this poem about a fallen drummer boy is a intense military march as soldiers proceed on their way, leaving the drummer boy for dead. The atmosphere turns eerie toward the end of the song when the strings play col legno in depicting the skeletons of the dead soldiers standing in rank and file.  Written in 1899, this was one of the replacement songs for one of the original twelve.

In the morning between three and four,
we soldiers must march
up and down the alley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
my sweetheart looks down!

Oh, brother, now Iʼve been shot,
the bullet has struck me hard,
carry me to my billet,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
it isnʼt far from here!

Oh, brother, I canʼt carry you,
the enemy has beaten us,
may dear God help you!
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
I must, I must march on until death!

Oh, brothers, oh, brothers,
you go on past me
as if I were done for!
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
youʼre treading too near to me!

I must nevertheless beat my drum,
I must nevertheless beat my drum,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,
otherwise I will die,
trallali, trallaley, trallala.

His brothers, thickly covering the ground,
lie as if mown down.
Up and down he beats the drum,
he wakes his silent brothers,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley,
they battle and they strike their enemy,
enemy, enemy,
trallali, trallaley, trallalerallala,
a terror smites the enemy!

Up and down he beats the drum,
there they are again before their billets,
trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley.
Clearly out into the alley!

They draw before the sweetheartʼs house,
trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
they march before his sweetheartʼs house, trallali.

In the morning there stand thebones
in rank and file like tombstones,
in rank, in rank and file.

The drummer stands in front
for her to see.
Trallali, trallaley,
trallali, trallaley, trallalera,
for her to see!

Verlorne Mühʼ! - (Lost Effort) -  A song that has a woman trying to entice a man (with something ot nibble on no less) who will not be enticed.

ʻLaddie, let's go!
Laddie, let's go out and look at the lambs!
Shall we?
Look at the lambs?
Come, come, dear laddie!
Come, I beg you!ʼ

ʻSilly lassie,
I donʼt like you at all!ʼ

You want perhaps,
You want perhaps a little bit to nibble?
Fetch yourself something out of my bag!
Fetch it, dear laddie!
Fetch it, I beg you!ʼ

ʻSilly lassie,
Iʼll nibble nothing of yours at all!ʼ

Should I give you my heart?
So you'll always think of me?
Take it! Dear laddie!
Take it, I beg you!ʼ

Silly lassie,
I donʼt care for you at all!

Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt - (St. Anthony of Paduaʼs Sermon To The Fish) -  A swirling figure in the strings represents water as the fish listen to the sermon. But at the end of the sermon they leave unchanged. This song was the inspiration for the scherzo of Mahler's 2nd Symphony 'Resurrection'.

At sermon time Anthony
finds the church empty!
He goes to the rivers
and preaches to the fish!
They flap with their tails!

They gleam in the sunshine!

The carp with roe
have all congregated;
their jaws gaping,
intent on listening!
Never did a sermon
so please the fish!

Sharp-snouted pike,
that fight continually,
swam up in a hurry
to hear the holy man!
Even those odd creatures
that continually fast:
I mean the codfish,
appear for the sermon!
Never did a sermon
so please the codfish!

Good eels and sturgeon
that people of quality relish,
even they condescend
to attend the sermon!
Crayfish, too, and turtles,
usually slow movers,
climb hurriedly from the depths
to hear this voice!
Never did a sermon
so please the crayfish!

Fish big and fish small!
Of quality and common!
They raise their heads
like rational creatures!
At Godʼs command
they listen to the sermon.

When the sermon is finished,
each one turns away!
The pike remain thieves,
the eels great lovers;
the sermon was pleasing,
they all stay the same!

Das Irdische Leben - (The Earthly Life) -  A morbid song (written by a composer whose emotions could run to the exceedingly morbid) with words set against divided strings that play a restless accompaniment. Mahler makes the music as stark as the words.

Mother, oh mother, Iʼm hungry!
Give me some bread or I shall die!
Just wait! Just wait, my dear child!
Tomorrow we shall hurry to harvest!

And when the grain was harvested,
the child still cried out:
Mother, oh mother, Iʼm hungry!
Give me some bread or I shall die!
Just wait! Just wait, my dear child!
Tomorrow we shall hurry and go threshing!

And when the grain was threshed,
the child still cried out:
Mother, oh mother, Iʼm hungry!
Give me some bread or I shall die!
Just wait! Just wait, my dear child!
Tomorrow we shall hurry and bake!

And when the bread was baked,
the child lay on the funeral bier!

Trost im Unglück -  (Solace In Misfortune) -  A man soothing himself after a lost love.

Now then! The time has come!
My horse, it must be saddled!
Iʼve made up my mind,
I must ride away!
Off you go!
I have my due!
I love you only in folly!

Without you I can well live!
Yes, live!
Without you I can well exist!
So Iʼll sit on my horse
and drink a glass of cool wine,
and swear by my beard,
to love you forever!

You think, you are the handsomest
in the whole wide world,
and also the most pleasant!
But you are far, far off the mark!
In my fatherʼs garden
thereʼs a flower growing!

Iʼll keep waiting
till it is bigger!
And off you go!
I have my due!
I love you only in folly!
Without you I can well live!
Without you I can well exist!

You think Iʼm going to take you!
That I would not think of ever!
I am ashamed of you,
when I am in public!

Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen - (Where the Fair Trumpets Sound) -  Two lovers part as the man goes off to war.  The trumpets softly remind the man of his fate, and he describes his probable fate: the home of the green grass of the grave.

Who then is outside and who is knocking,
that can so softly awaken me?

It is your dearest darling,
get up and let me come to you!
Why should I go on standing here?
I see the red of morn arise,
the red of morn, two bright stars.
I long to be with my sweetheart!
With my dearest darling.

The maiden got up and let him in;
she bade him welcome, too.
Welcome, my dear lad!
You have been standing so long!
She offered him her snow-white hand.

From far away the nightingale sang,
then the maiden began to weep.
Ah, do not weep, beloved mine
after a year you will be my own.
My own you shall become,
as is no other on earth!
Oh love on the green earth.
Iʼm off to war, on the green heath,
the green heath is so far away!
Where there the fair trumpets sound,
there is my home, my home of green grass!

Wer hat dies Liedel erdacht? - (Who Thought Up This Little Song?) -  A song of a lover in a house on a mountain, with some pretty silly lyrics, quite typical of some of the poems of the Wunderhorn collection.

Up there on the mountain,
in the high house,
in the house!
There peers out a dear maiden!
There is her home!
She is the innkeeperʼs daughter!
She lives on the green heath!

My heart has a wound!
Come, sweetheart, make it well!
Your dark brown little eyes,
they have wounded me!
Your rosy mouth
makes hearts well.
It makes young people rational,
brings the dead back to life,
makes the ill healthy,
yes, healthy.

Who then thought up this little song?
Three geese have brought it over the water!
Two grey and one white!
And whoever cannot sing this little song,
they can whistle it!

Lob des hohen Verstands - (Praise Of Lofty Judgement) -  A singing match between a cuckoo and a nightingale, with an ass as the judge. The beginning of the song inspired the motives for the finale of Mahler's 5th Symphony.

Once in a deep valley
the cuckoo and the nightingale
struck a wager.
Whoever sang the masterpiece,
whether won by art or won by luck,
Would take the prize.

The cuckoo spoke: ʻIf you agree,
I have chosen the judge,ʼ
and he at once named the ass.
ʻFor since he has two large ears,
he can hear all the better,
and recognize what is right!ʼ

Soon they flew before the judge.
When he was told the matter,
he decreed that they should sing!
The nightingale sang out sweetly!
The ass spoke: ʻYou muddle me up!
You muddle me up! Heehaw! Heehaw!
I canʼt get it into my head!ʼ

There upon the cuckoo began quickly
his song in thirds and fourths and fifths.
It pleased the ass, and he spoke out:
ʻWait! Wait! Wait!
I will pronounce thy judgement,
yes, pronounce.

You have sung well, nightingale!
But, cuckoo, you sing a good chorale!
And hold the beat precisely!
I speak from higher understanding!
And even if it cost a whole country,
I thus pronounce you the winner, the winner!ʼ
Cuckoo, cuckoo! Heehaw!

Der Tamboursg'sell - (The Drummer Boy) -  Another song about a drummer boy, this time one that is condemned to death by hanging. The words are accompanied by a slow funeral march. This song was the last poem set in 1905.

I am a poor drummer boy!
They are leading me out of the dungeon!
If Iʼd remained a drummer,
I would not be imprisoned!

Oh, gallows,
you look so frightening!
I wonʼt look at you any more!
Because I know thatʼs where I belong!

When soldiers march past,
that are not billeted with me.
When they ask who I was:
Drummer of the first company!

Good night! You marble rocks!
You mountains and hills!
Good night, officers,
corporals and musketeers!
Good night!
Good night, officers!
Corporals and grenadiers!

I cry out with a clear voice:
I take leave of you!
Good night!

Das himmlische Leben - (The Heavenly Life) -  This song was not included in the original set of Wunderhorn songs for voice and orchestra. It is used as the final movement of Mahler's 4th Symphony.

We enjoy heavenly pleasures and
therefore avoid earthly ones.
No worldly tumult is to be heard in heaven
 All live in greatest peace.
We lead angelic lives,
yet have a merry time of it besides.
We dance and we spring,
We skip and we sing.
Saint Peter in heaven looks on.

John lets the lambkin out,
and Herod the Butcher lies in wait for it.
We lead a patient,
an innocent, patient,
dear little lamb to its death.
Saint Luke slaughters the ox
without any thought or concern.
Wine doesn't cost a penny in the heavenly cellars;
The angels bake the bread.

Good greens of every sort grow
in the heavenly vegetable patch,
good asparagus, string beans,
and whatever we want.
Whole dishfuls are set for us!
Good apples, good pears and good grapes,
and gardeners who allow everything!
If you want roebuck or hare,
on the public streets they come running right up.

Should a fast day come along,
all the fishes at once come swimming with joy.
There goes Saint Peter running
with his net and his bait
to the heavenly pond.
Saint Martha must be the cook.

There is just no music on earth
that can compare to ours.
Even the eleven thousand virgins
venture to dance,
and Saint Ursula herself has to laugh.
There is just no music on earth
that can compare to ours.
Cecilia and all her relations
make excellent court musicians.
The angelic voices gladden our senses,
so that all awaken for joy.

Lied des Verfolgten im Turm - (Song of the Prisoner in the Tower) -  Another military style song that incorporates a dialog between a prisoner and his sweetheart that stands outside the tower he is imprisoned in.

The prisoner:
Thoughts are free,
who can guess them;
they rush past
like nocturnal shadows,
no man can know them,
no hunter can shoot them,
it remains thus:
thoughts are free!

The maiden:
Summer is a time for merriment
on high, wild mountains.
There one finds a green place,
my loving sweetheart,
I do not wish to part from you!

The prisoner:
And if they lock me up
in a dark dungeon,
all this is but in vain;
for my thoughts
tear the bars apart
and the walls destroy,
thoughts are free!

The maiden:
Summer is a time for merriment,
on high, wild mountains.
There one is always quite alone,
on high, wild mountains.
There one hears no children yelling!
There the air invites one to himself,
yes, the air invites one to himself.

The prisoner:
So may it be the way it is!
And if it happens,
may it all happen in the silence,
only everything in the silence!
My wish and desire
can be restrained by no one!
It remains thus,
thoughts are free!

The maiden:
My sweetheart, you sing as cheerfully here
as a little bird in the grass.
I stand sadly at the prison door,
if I only were dead, if I only were with you,
alas, must I then always complain?

The prisoner:
And since you complain so,
Iʼll renounce you and your love!
And if I dare, nothing can worry me!
Then in my heart I can always
laugh and be jovial.
It remains thus:
Thoughts are free!
Thoughts are free!

Rheinlegendchen - (Rhine Legend) -  A dream of a maiden that longs to find a sweetheart by throwing her ring in the Rhine. 

Now I mow by the Neckar,
now I mow by the Rhine;
now I have a sweetheart,
now Iʼm alone!

What good is mowing
if the sickle doesnʼt cut;
what good is a sweetheart,
if he  doesnʼt stay with me!

So when I mow
by the Neckar, by the Rhine,
I will throw
my little gold ring in.

It will float in the Neckar
and float in the Rhine,
it shall swim right down
into the deep sea.

And when it swims, the little ring,
a fish will eat it!
The fish will land
on the kingʼs table!

The king would ask,
whose ring can it be?
Then I would say:
ʻThe ring belongs to me!ʼ

My sweetheart would spring
up hill and down hill,
would bring back to me
my fine little gold ring!

You can mow by the Neckar,
you can mow by the Rhine!
You can always toss in
your little ring for me!

Der Schildwache Nachtlied - (The Sentinelʼs Nightsong) -  Another dialog song.  Military style music of the sentinel  is interrupted by tender music that accompanies the words of his sweetheart.

I cannot and will not be cheerful!
When everyone is asleep,
then I must keep watch!
Yes, keep watch!
Must be sorrowful!

Dear lad, you mustnʼt be sad!
Iʼll wait for you
in the rose-garden!
In the green clover!

To the green clover I will not go!
To the armory!
Full of halberds!
I am posted!

If you are on the battlefield, may God help you!
On Godʼs blessing
is everything dependent!
Whoever believes it!

He who believes it is far away!
Heʼs a king!
Heʼs an emperor!
He wages war!
Halt! Whoʼs there!
Stand back!
Who sang here? Who sang just now?!
A solitary field sentinel
sang it at midnight!
Field sentinel

Urlicht - (Primeval Light) -  Another song that was used in Mahler's 2nd Symphony. For many years it was not included in performances of the Wunderhorn songs. 

O little red rose!
Man lies in greatest need!
Man lies in greatest pain!
I would rather be in heaven!

Then I came upon a broad path.
There came an angel and wanted to turn me away.
Ah no, I would not be turned away!
Ah no, I would not be turned away:
I am from God and want to return to God!
The loving God will give me a little of the light,
will illuminate me into eternal blessed life!

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