Edvard Grieg: Jeg elsker dig (I love you / Ich liebe dich)

4 04 2009
Thought of my thoughts alone have you become

"Thought of my thoughts alone have you become"

The thought of being so in love with someone that you want to be near them into eternity is quite romantic, so romantic, in fact, that once Grieg set Hans Christian Andersen’s poem Jeg elsker dig to music, it soon had multiple singing translations in German, English, and other languages (I have located numerous editions, all widely published and performed, with no less than two in German and five in English!) The song was included in the 1944 operetta Song of Norway by Robert Wright and George Forrest.





Hermann Bemberg: Chant Hindou (Hindu Song)

3 04 2009
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The Temple of Brahma in Pushkar

The West has always had a fascination with the East, and in the Romantic period,  “Orientalism” in the arts was a particularly strong trend. Hermann Bemberg’s Chant Hindou was quite popular as a result, though the music itself shows little to no eastern influence. Today, Bemberg would be called a one-hit wonder, Chant Hindou being his hit song.

A note on this recording: There are no indications in the music that the interludes in this piece should move along at a quicker pace than the rest of the music as they do here. I presume this is due to the 78 RPM disc on which it was recorded — in order not to go beyond the disc’s three-minute length, tempi were often incredibly quick, particularly in piano interludes.

There is no translation at recmusic, so I have submitted one. It appears below:

Read the rest of this entry »





Antonio Vivaldi: Vedrò con mio diletto (I will see with delight)

2 04 2009
Soul of my soul, heart of my heart

"Soul of my soul, heart of my heart"

Researching yesterday’s post, I discovered countertenor Philippe Jaroussky (well, I guess he was “discovered” long before yesterday, lol!). I am so taken with his voice and interpretation, particularly of this aria. The strings staccato playing are a lovely counterpoint to Jaroussky’s angelic voice.

There is an audio recording on last.fm, but there’s something much more exciting and spontaneous in the live performance. Perhaps the nerves leading up to his announcement of French Singer of 2007 had something of an intensifying effect?





Ernest Chausson: Le charme (The Charm)

1 04 2009

I did not know I loved you until I saw that first tear

I did not know I loved you till I saw that first tear

With a falling melody, Chausson shows the singer literally falling in love as the song progresses. There is a sense, though, that the singer is resisting — the melody avoids falling down to the tonic note of the scale. Finally, the singer reaches resolution at t’aimais – “I loved you.” The singer does not hold that tonic pitch, and the line continues to descend as the tear falls; even the final note in the piano does not reach a definitive resolution, with the final pitch played being the third, not the tonic. A beautifully captured sense of both the beauty and the tentativeness of falling in love!





Roger Quilter: Now sleeps the crimson petal

30 03 2009

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"The fire-fly wakens; waken thou with me"

There is a tenderness to this song which is quite fetching. The piano is light and delicate, gentle. The voice must also maintain a certain tender quality throughout. And yet, the love the singer feels is powerful, palpable, sensuous.





Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Call

29 03 2009

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"Such a heart as joys in love"

The fourth movement of Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs for choir and baritone soloist, full of light and festivity, calls to mind the joyful banquet of heaven.  I particularly enjoy the recording of the St. Paul’s Cathedral Choristers because the purity of the voices seems appropriate for the music.





Cécile Chaminade: L’anneau d’argent (The Silver Ring)

27 03 2009
Obstinate receiver of so many memories

"Obstinate receiver of so many memories"

Shimmering sounds emanate from the piano and the singer sings a simple melody. The image of a glinting silver ring is easy to call to mind. Chaminade avoids low notes until the singer considers that they want the ring to shine on, even after they have died.

Cecile Chaminade was a pianist who wrote lovely character pieces for piano and for voice at the turn of the Century; clubs devoted to her music sprang up in Europe and America, and she was a regular contributor to popular womens’ magazines, where her music was included along with articles on “How to play my music.” Her works usually have a lovely, catchy main melody, a contrasting middle section, and finally a return to the main melody.

This song is familiar to singers and teachers from its inclusion in Joan Frey Boytim’s First Book of Mezzo-Soprano Solos, but her lovely works in several volumes are definitely worth investigation. The first volume is available online (see above), and additional volumes can be found in libraries and in reprints.

I have submitted a translation to recmusic.org, but until it is posted, I’ve included it here Read the rest of this entry »





Francesco Paolo Tosti: Ideale (The Ideal)

26 03 2009
Come back, dear ideal one, to smile on me again for a moment

"Come back, dear ideal, to smile on me again"

Francesco Paolo Tosti was something of an in-between composer. His works lived between the world of the classical and the popular, causing critics to judge his works harshly, precisely because of his songs’ popular appeal. Today, that distinction has faded, and all one hears is Tosti’s ability to write glorious melodies and set texts beautifully.

This piece is one of the tenor “national anthems” with so many recordings that it is difficult to make a selection. I hesitate to include one particular recording as the model, but feel it is worth noting; Alessandro Moreschi is the only male castrato soprano to have made recordings, and if you’ve never heard him– well, judge for yourself.





Johannes Brahms: Liebesklage des Maedchens (The maiden’s love lament)

24 03 2009
So hat mich Liebe verwundt

"So hat mich Liebe verwund't"

Brahms’s songs sound simple. The mark of a master, though, is to make the difficult seem effortless, and Brahms, Norman, and Barenboim accomplish that in this lover’s lament.

I initially was seeking Brahms’s Ophelia-Lieder, but could not locate a score online. The five songs last less than four minutes, and have also been recorded by Jessye Norman. They are lovely, but almost too simple — after all, they were intended to be sung unaccompanied and have a folk character.





Jean Sibelius: Flickan kom från sin älsklings möte (The Tryst, “The girl came from meeting her lover”)

21 03 2009

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"What has made your cheeks so pale?"

So often, songs are about young love and the loss of innocence. Sibelius’ takes the story of a girl who comes home with telltale signs of her adventures — red fingers and red lips — which Sibelius depicts both heroically and nervously in music. But when she comes home pale and her mother asks why, the music turns dramatic and the girl announces her grave should read that it was her lover’s infidelity that made her pale.

This is a perfect opportuntiy to address the problem of singing works in translation. Though the English version in the score (which, unfortunately, lacks the Swedish) is fairly close to the Swedish, the French singing translation keeps calling the girl “Gretchen,” a clear reference to Goethe’s Faust. There is nothing in the poet’s words to suggest this; Gretchen was certainly not the only girl to be betrayed by a lover!