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.

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