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Gutmann und Gutweib (1889) no.13

Part of a series or song cycle:


This song was recorded live at the Oxford Lieder Festival as part of Hugo Wolf: The Complete Songs on Stone Records.
Click here to listen to this song with Rowan Hellier and Sholto Kynoch, or click here to buy the CD from Stone Records.

Gutmann und Gutweib

Und morgen fällt St. Martins Fest,
Gutweib liebt ihren Mann;
Da knetet sie ihm Puddings ein
Und bäckt sie in der Pfann’.
Im Bette liegen beide nun,
Da saust ein wilder West;
Und Gutmann spricht zur guten Frau:
„Du riegle die Türe fest.“
„Bin kaum erholt und halb erwarmt,
Wie käm’ ich da zur Ruh;
Und klapperte sie einhundert Jahr,
Ich riegelte sie nicht zu.“
Drauf eine Wette schlossen sie
Ganz leise sich ins Ohr:
So wer das erste Wörtlein spräch’,
Der schöbe den Riegel vor.
Zwei Wanderer kommen um Mitternacht
Und wissen nicht, wo sie stehn,
Die Lampe losch, der Herd verglomm,
Zu hören ist nichts, zu sehn.
„Was ist das für ein Hexenort?
Da bricht uns die Geduld!“
Doch hörten sie kein Sterbenswort,
Des war die Türe schuld.
Den weißen Pudding speisten sie,
Den schwarzen ganz vertraut;
Und Gutweib sagt sich selber viel,
Doch keine Silbe laut.
Zu diesem sprach der eine dann:
„Wie trocken ist mir der Hals!
Der Shrank, der klafft, und geistig riecht’s,
Da findet sich’s allenfalls.
Ein Fläschchen Schnaps ergreif’ ich da,
Das trifft sich doch geschickt!
Ich bring’ es dir, du bringst es mir,
Und bald sind wir erquickt.“
Doch Gutmann sprang so heftig auf
Und fuhr sie drohend an:
„Bezahlen soll mit treurem Geld,
Wer mir den Schnaps vertan!“
Und Gutweib sprang auch froh heran,
Drei Sprüng’, als wär’ sie reich:
„Du Gutmann sprachst das erste Wort,
Nun riegle die Türe gleich!“

Goodman and Goodwife

It is Saint Martinmas eve,
Goodwife loves her husband;
She’s been preparing him puddings
And now cooks them in the pan.
Both of them now lie in bed,
A furious west wind starts to blow;
And Goodman says to his good wife:
‘Get up and bar the door.’
‘I’ve hardly had time to warm myself,
How would I ever get to sleep;
And though it banged for a hundred years,
I would never bar that door.’
Whereupon they whispered a bet
Into each other’s ear:
Let him who speaks the first word
Get up and bar the door.
Two travellers arrive as midnight strikes,
Without knowing where they were,
The lamp went out, the coals burned low,
There was neither light nor sound.
‘What kind of haunted place is this?
Our patience is at an end!’
But there was not a word in reply,
For that the door was to blame.
And first they ate the white pudding,
And then they ate the black;
And Goodwife says much to herself,
But not a word out loud.
One traveller now said to the other:
‘My throat’s so parched and dry!
The cupboard’s wide open, it smells of spirits,
That’ll be where they keep it.
I’ll grab a bottle of Schapps,
Just what the doctor ordered!
I’ll serve you and you’ll serve me,
And soon we’ll be refreshed.’
But Goodman leapt wildly to his feet,
And bellowed in their face:
‘Whoever’s wasted my own Schnapps
Shall pay for it in cash!’
At which our Goodwife started up
And skipped about with glee:
‘Goodman, you’ve spoken first,
Get up and bar the door!’
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Hugo Filipp Jakob Wolf was born on 13 March 1860, the fourth of six surviving children, in Windischgraz, Styria, then part of the Austrian Empire. He was taught the piano and violin by his father at an early age and continued to study piano at the local primary school. His secondary education was unsuccessful, leaving his school in Graz after one term and then the Benedictine abbey school in St Paul after two years for failing Latin. When, in 1875, his lack of interest in all subjects other than music led to him leaving his next school in Marburg after another two years, it was decided that he should live with his aunt in Vienna and study at the conservatoire.

In Vienna he attended the opera with his new circle of friends, which included the young Gustav Mahler, and became a devotee of Wagner. However, after only two years he was unfairly dismissed from the conservatoire for a breach of discipline, after a fellow student sent the director a threatening letter, signing it Hugo Wolf.

He continued to compose and returned to Vienna in 1877 to earn a living as a music teacher, but he did not have the necessary temperament for this vocation and would, throughout his life, rely on the generosity of friends and patrons to support him. The composer Goldschmidt took him under his wing and introduced him to influential acquaintances, as well as lending him books, music and money. It was, however, under Goldschmidt’s guidance that he paid a visit to a brothel in 1878, resulting in him contracting syphilis, which later led to his insanity and early death. This sexual initiation coincided with his first major burst of songwriting.

His mood swings and sporadic creativity were now quite pronounced, and he stayed with friends who could offer him the tranquillity and independence he needed to work. In 1881, Goldschmidt found him a post as second conductor in Salzburg, where his musical talents were greatly appreciated, but his violent quarrelling with the director led to his return to Vienna early the following year. For a while his mood brightened, but by 1883, the year of Wagner’s death, he had stopped writing music.

At this point, his future seemed uncertain. His work had been declined by publishers Schott and Breitkopf, he had writer’s block, and he quarrelled with friends. He had been teaching Melanie Köchert since 1881, and with the influence of her husband he was appointed music critic of the Sunday journal Wiener Salonblatt, for which he spent three years writing pro- Wagnerian, anti-Brahmsian pieces. Although this was useful, it did get in the way of his composition, and attempts to have his own works played were thwarted by musicians who had fallen foul of his sharp criticism.

He began to write music again in 1886, finally confident in his talents. In May 1887, his father died, and although Wolf wrote little for the rest of the year, a publisher did produce two volumes of his songs, one dedicated to his mother, the other to the memory of his father.

Again taking refuge with friends, Wolf now began a sudden, spontaneous burst of songwriting, emerging from years as a music critic and coinciding with the start of his love affair with Melanie Köchert. By March, after 43 Mörike settings, he took a break with friends and then began another spate of songwriting in September resulting in thirteen Eichendorff and more Mörike songs. He returned to Vienna and in February 1889 had finished all but one of the 51 songs of his Goethe songbook. After another summer break, he returned to writing and April 1890 saw him complete his 44 Spanish songs. By June 1890, this creative period of two and a half years had produced a total of 174 songs.

Wolf’s fame had now spread beyond Austria, with articles being written in German publications. His exhaustion and bouts of depression and insomnia meant that he wrote very little for most of 1891, but at the end of December wrote another 15 Italian songs. For the next three years, he barely wrote a note.

In April 1895, spurred on by Humperdinck’s operatic success of Hänsel und Gretel, he again began composing from dawn till dusk. By early July the piano score of his four-act opera Der Corregidor was complete, with the orchestration taking the rest of the year. It was turned down by Vienna, Berlin and Prague but finally staged in Mannheim to great success. He completed his Italian songbook with 24 songs written in the period from 25 March to 30 April 1896.

In March 1897, he wrote his last songs: settings of German translations of Michelangelo sonnets. He was, by now, clearly a sick man, but nevertheless in September he embarked on a new opera, feverishly completing sixty pages in three weeks. It was at this point that he succumbed to madness, claiming to have been appointed the director of the Vienna Opera. Under restraint, he was taken to an asylum, and although he returned home to Vienna briefly in 1898, he was returned to an institution later that year after trying to drown himself. His devoted Melanie visited him regularly until his death on 22 February 1903. He is buried in the Vienna Central Cemetery beside Schubert and Beethoven.

© 2011, Mark Stone

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Johann Wolfgang Goethe was a German writer and statesman. His body of work includes epic and lyric poetry written in a variety of metres and styles; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; treatises on botany, anatomy, and colour; and four novels. In addition, numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him exist. A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Karl August in 1782 after first taking up residence there in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe served as a member of the Duke's privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar's botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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