Eichendorff: Intermezzo

18 05 2011

by thetrial

Your image wonderfully holy
I have in the base of my heart,
that peers so fresh and merrily
at me in every hour.

My heart sings peacefully within itself
An old beautiful song
which vibrates itself on the air
And rapidly spreads to you.

With a title like “Intermezzo,” I believe it best not to read too much into this poem, but to take it exactly as it appears to be: a lover who takes solace in the deep love for another person, even though that person is not near. I particularly like the image of that love spreading out as soundwaves through the air, radiating outward until it reaches the beloved.

Love is ancient, divine, inherent to the human condition. Even when two lovers are apart, they feel connected, and this feeling often continues after death. We like to imagine that even if the beloved has died (or the relationship has), there remains an ongoing deep connection. The mysticism of this poem makes it unclear as to whether the speaker is referring to an individual or God or both, and whether the individual is alive or dead, and whether or not the beloved is in fact still in love with the speaker.

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Eichendorff: In der Fremde

12 05 2011

"Red Sky Lightning" By Luis Argerich (CC)

In the foreign place

From the homeland behind the lightning red,
From there, the clouds come here,
But father and mother are long dead,
And no one knows me there anymore.

How soon, ah, how soon will come the quiet time
where I will rest, too, and above me
will rush the beautiful solitude of the woods,
and no one will know me here anymore.

From the title alone — In the foreign place — we immediately sense discomfort and detachment. The first lines make us aware of the turbulence associated with leaving home, with the images of lightning and clouds. The further reflection that family is gone and “no one knows me there” makes it clear that, even if the speaker were to return home, that place would be just as foreign as wherever he is now.

The speaker becomes reflective in the second stanza, and one cannot help but wonder exactly what “the quiet time” means (The German word stille could also mean “still” as in peaceful and without movement). I believe the imagery of the solitude of the woods rushing over the implies mental peace and freedom from anxiety. Ultimately, however, freedom from anxiety is only fully experienced in death, which is unfortunately why many people with mental illness commit suicide. Whether the speaker is suicidal, reflecting on death, or simply seeking freedom from his cares is left to interpretation.

Regardless of his mental state, the speaker realizes that inevitably and in fact very soon he will be completely forgotten.

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Schumann Liederkreis, op. 39 – Introduction

11 05 2011

The academic year has come to a close, and with it, my absence from this blog! In this welcome hiatus from the daily routine of teaching lessons and classes, I am excited to work on my own projects.

On October 14th, 2011 at 7:30 PM, I am scheduled to give a recital with pianist Andrew Fleser at Concordia College in Moorhead. On the program (tentatively) are Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 39 (Literally, “Song Cycle”), John Duke’s 3 “people” songs, and Auric’s Huit poemes de Jean Cocteau. I have performed the Duke and Auric before, but not the Schumann. I know I have heard the Liederkreis in the past, but it has never gripped me the way Schumann’s iconic song cycles Dichterliebe and Frauenliebe und -leben have. I think it’s time that changed.

I am going to take a new approach to learning this cycle by translating, considering, meditating upon, and memorizing the texts first, without the aid of music. I want to come up with my own sense of the story and become intimately familiar with the words and the characters before I begin to be influenced by Schumann’s ideas. This may be difficult as I have already spent a bit of time looking over the pieces this spring while trying to decide whether or not to commit to the cycle, but I intend to try.

I invite you to come with me on this journey over the next several weeks. I’m going to write about a song text each day, without sheet music (readily available at IMSLP or in many published editions) and without performance examples. Particularly because the title “Song Cycle” does not imply any story or anything other than the fact that the pieces are part of a whole, it will be an adventure!