Sunday, July 19, 2015

Grieg - Song Cycle 'Haugtussa' Opus 67

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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