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Songs

Songs

Frühlingsglocken (1883)


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 Sarah-Jane Brandon and Sholto Kynoch, or click here to buy the CD from Stone Records.

Frühlingsglocken

Schneeglöckchen tut läuten:
Was hat das zu bedeuten? –
Ei, gar ein lustig Ding!
Der Frühling heut’ geboren ward,
Ein Kind der allerschönsten Art;
Zwar liegt es noch im weissen Bett,
Doch spielt es schon so wundernett,
Drum kommt, ihr Vögel, aus dem Süd’
Und bringet neue Lieder mit!
Ihr Quellen all,
Erwacht im Tal!
Was soll das lange Zaudern?
Sollt mit dem Kinde plaudern!
Maiglöckchen tut läuten!
Was hat das zu bedeuten? –
Frühling ist Bräutigam:
Macht Hochzeit mit der Erde heut’
Mit grosser Pracht und Festligkeit.
Wohlauf denn, Nelk’ und Tulipan,
Und schwenkt die bunte Hochzeitfahn’!
Du Ros’ und Lilie, schmücket euch,
Brautjungfern sollt ihr werden gleich!
Ihr Schmetterling’
Sollt bunt und flink
Den Hochzeitreigen führen,
Die Vögel musizieren!
Blauglöckchen tut läuten!
Was hat das zu bedeuten? –
Ach, das ist gar zu schlimm!
Heut’ nacht der Frühling scheiden muss,
Drum bringt man ihm den Abschiedsgruss:
Glühwürmchen ziehn mit Lichtern hell,
Es rauscht der Wald, es klagt der Quell,
Dazwischen singt mit süssem Schall
Aus jedem Busch die Nachtigall,
Und wird ihr Lied so bald nicht müd’,
Ist auch der Frühling schon ferne –
Sie hatten ihn alle so gerne!

Spring bells

Snowdrop bells are ringing!
What does this mean?
Ah! such happy tidings!
Spring was born today,
A child of matchless beauty;
Though he still lies in his white bed,
He already plays so prettily.
So come, you birds, from the South
And bring new songs with you!
And all you streams,
Wake up in the valley!
Why this long delay?
You must chatter with this child!
The lily-of-the-valley rings!
What does this mean?
Spring is a bridegroom!
Today he’s marrying the earth
With great pomp and ceremony.
Come, then, carnations and tulips,
And wave your bright wedding banners!
Roses and lilies, adorn yourselves!
Today you are to be bridesmaids!
You butterflies,
Nimble and many-coloured,
Shall lead the wedding dance,
The birds shall provide the music!
Bluebells are ringing!
What does this mean?
Ah, that’s truly too bad!
Spring must depart tonight,
So all have come to say goodbye.
Glow-worms appear with bright lights,
The forest rustles, the stream laments,
And all the while from every bush
The nightingale sings sweetly,
And does not quickly tire of singing,
Though Spring’s already far away –
Each one of them loved him so!
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

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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Poet

Robert Reinick was a German painter and poet, associated with the Düsseldorf school of painting. One of his poems, Dem Vaterland, was set to music by Hugo Wolf.

Reinick was born in Danzig (Gdańsk) and died in Dresden.

Taken from Wikipedia. To view the full article, please click here.


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