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Program Notes and Translations: Op. 37/12

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Friends, Siblings, Spouses
Program Notes of the September 12, 1994 Recital
David Kenneth Smith

The siblings Fanny and Felix Mendelssohn were both accomplished performers and composers. Though Felix was permitted to pursue a public musical career, and Fanny was not encouraged by family to do likewise, they were both educated by the finest music teachers and were prolific composers. They often exchanged compositions for critique, and were greatly influenced by each other. Felix was known as a composer and conductor, and Fanny composed privately and organized Sunday morning concerts in the Mendelssohn house.

Both Fanny and Felix composed in a wide scope of genres, but Fanny favored songs and piano pieces. Her Op. 1 was not the first collection she wrote, nor the first printed. In 1828, six were published under Felix's name, and those who knew her writing considered her the equal of her brother. Among her 250 songs, this opus was actually produced during her mature composing years, between 1837 and 1841. The Heine and Lenau settings by Felix span the 1830s and 40s. His song output began at age 11, and he composed over 100 songs before his death in 1847, only six months after his sister. Fanny had lived in Berlin most of her life, married Wilhelm Hensel in 1829, and travelled through Italy around 1840.

It was in Leipzig that Felix had so much interaction with the Schumanns, both at dinner parties and concerts of each other's music. Felix also provided valuable suggestions to Robert in his orchestration.

On the day following their wedding, Robert Schumann gave a new diary to Clara for her birthday, recommending that they write and exchange the diary weekly, so that each could pen reflections on music they had heard, projects they were working on, people they had met and dined with, and any personal notes to the other that spoken words could not express. They continued this diary for several years. It serves as an intimate narrative of the lives of two artists, and in its recent English translation, provides to us a detailed chronicle of their creative offspring.

Around the same time, during the year of his most productive songwriting (he wrote over 300), Robert suggested that Clara join him in composing a group of songs and publish them intermingled. She began by writing Am Strande, and gave it to him as a gift for Christmas, 1840. Later, they chose poems to set to music from the collection Love's Springtime by Friedrich Rückert; Clara's were written in June 1841, while she was 6 months pregnant with their first child, Marie. Robert secretly had the 12 songs printed in two volumes and presented them to Clara on their first anniversary, September 12, 1841.

Tonight's recital, celebrating the 154th wedding anniversary Robert and Clara, features eight of those songs, with Am Strande, which was published separately, to conclude the section. Three from the Rückert collection were duets, and are thus excluded from this program, along with one other. Robert and Clara selected quite distinct poems for their songs. Clara chose poems of devotion and passion uniquely from a woman's perspective; Robert preferred poetry full of metaphor, vivid imagery, and classical themes, but likewise revealing a man's viewpoint. As they alternate, the songs reflect the conversation found in the diary itself, an intimate and touching dialogue of two loving and creative souls.

The songs of Fanny and Felix are the more conservative of the four, with primarily strophic settings. Fanny tends to establish a texture and deviates only a little, as does Felix; but his ear for mood and narrative makes for exciting pieces, whether scherzo-like or meditative. Robert's songs show tremendous variety in shape and quality, and seem more experimental, especially in his response to the words. Of Clara's 26 songs, these here are either simple and heartfelt, or dramatic displays of piano virtuosity. Her expression of text is direct but full of nuance.

We extend our warmest thanks to Giorgio Tozzi, my voice teacher; to Leonard Hokanson and Gary Arvin for coaching sessions; and to Thomas Dunn for advice on the translations.

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Clara Wieck Schumann (Translations by David Kenneth Smith)

Gedichte aus Friedrich Rückert's Poems from Rückert's Liebesfrühling
Liebesfrühling (Op. 37/12) Love's Springtime

Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen He came in storm and rain
(Op.12 No. 2)

Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen, He came in storm and rain,
ihm schlug beklommen mein Herz entgegen. my anxious heart beat against his.
Wie konnt' ich ahnen, das seine Bahnen how could I have known, that his path
sich einen sollten meinen Wegen. itself should be my way?

Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen, He came in storm and rain,
er hat genommen mein Herz verwegen. he boldly seized my heart.
Nahm er das meine? Nahm ich das seine? Did he seize mine? Did I seize his?
Die beiden kamen sich entgegen. Both came together.

Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen, He came in storm and rain,
Nun ist gekommen des Frühlings Segen. Now has come the blessing of spring.
Der Freund zieht weiter, ich seh' es heiter, My love travels abroad, I watch with cheer,
denn er bleibt mein auf allen Wegen. for he remains mine, on any road.

Liebst du um Schöheit (Op. 12 No. 4) If you love for beauty

Liebst du um Schöheit, If you love for beauty,
o nicht mich liebe! oh, do not love me!
Liebe die Sonne, Love the sun,
sie trägt ein gold'nes Haar! she has golden hair!

Liebst du um Jugend, If you love for youth,
o nicht mich liebe! oh, do not love me!
Liebe den Frühling, Love the spring,
der jung ist jedes Jahr! he is young every year!

Liebst du um Schätze, If you love for treasure,
o nicht mich liebe! oh, do not love me!
Liebe die Meerfrau, Love the mermaid,
sie hat viel Perlen klar! she has many clear pearls!

Liebst du um Liebe, If you love for love,
o ja, mich liebe! oh yes, do love me!
liebe mich immer, Love me ever,
dich lieb' ich immerdar! I'll love you evermore!

Warum willst du and're fragen Why will you question others
(Op. 12 No. 11)

Warum willst du and're fragen, Why will you question others,
die's nicht meinen treu mit dir? who are not faithful to you?
Glaube nicht, als was dir sagen Believe nothing but what
diese beiden Augen hier! both these eyes say!

Glaube nicht den fremden Leuten, Believe not strange people,
glaube nicht dem eignen Wahn; believe not peculiar fancies;
nicht mein Tun auch sollst du deuten, even my actions you shouldn't interpret,
sondern sieh die Augen an! but look in these eyes!

Schweigt die Lippe deinen Fragen, Will lips silence your questions,
oder zeugt sie gegen mich? or turn them against me?
Was auch meine Lippen sagen, Whatever my lips may say,
sieh mein Aug', ich liebe dich! see my eyes: I love you!

Am Strande (1840) On the shore (poetry by Robert Burns,
translated into German by Wilhelm Gerhard)

Traurig schau ich von der Klippe Sadly I gaze from the cliff
auf die Flut, die uns getrennt, on the tide which separates us,
und mit Inbrunst fleht die Lippe, and with ardor my lips implore,
schone seiner, Element! Spare him, Elements!

Furcht ist meiner Seele Meister, Fear is my soul's master,
ach, und Hoffnung schwindet schier; alas, and hope shrinks away;
nur im Traume bringen Geister only in dreams do spirits bring
vom Geliebten Kunde mir. tidings from my Beloved to me.

Die ihr, frühliche Genossen Which you, happy companions--
gold'ner Tag' in Lust und Schmerz, golden days of joy and pain,
Kummertränen nie vergossen, tears of grief never forgotten,
ach, ihr kennt nicht meinen Schmerz! alas, --you know not my pain!

Sei mir mild, o nächtge Stunde, Be kind to me, oh nightly hours,
auf das Auge senke Ruh, may rest descend upon my eyes,
holde Geister, flüstert Kunde gracious spirits, whisper tidings
vom Geliebten dann mir zu. from my Beloved then to me.

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