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Songs

Songs

Abendbilder


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 Marcus Farnsworth and Sholto Kynoch, or click here to buy the CD from Stone Records.

Abendbilder

Friedlicher Abend senkt sich aufs Gefilde;
Sanft umschlummert Natur, um ihre Züge
Schwebt der Dämmrung zarte Verhüllung, und sie
Lächelt, die holde;
Lächelt, ein schlummernd Kind in Vaters Armen,
Der voll Liebe zu ihr sich neigt; sein göttlich
Auge weilt auf ihr, und es weht sein Odem
Über ihr Antlitz.
Schon zerfliesst das ferne Gebirg mit Wolken
In ein Meer; den Wogen entsteigt der Mond, er
Grüsst die Flur, entgegen ihm grüsst das schönste
Lied Philomelens
Aus dem Blütenstrauche, der um das Plätzchen
Zarter Liebe heimlichend sich verschlinget:
Mirzi horchet am Busen des Jünglings ihrem
Zaubergeflöte.
Dort am Hügel weiden die Schafe beider
Traulichen Gemenges in einer Herde,
Ihre Glöcklein stimmen so lieblich ein zu
Frohen Akkorden.
Stille wird’s im Walde; die lieben kleinen
Sänger prüfen schaukelnd den Ast, der durch die
Nacht dem neuen Fluge sie trägt, den neuen
Liedern entgegen.
Bald versinkt die Sonne; des Waldes Riesen
Heben höher sich in die Lüfte, um noch
Mit des Abends flüchtigen Rosen sich ihr
Haupt zu bekränzen.
Schon verstummt die Matte; den satten Rindern
Selten nur enthallt das Geglock am Halse,
Und es pflückt der wählende Zahn nur lässig
Dunklere Gräser.
Und dort blickt der schuldlose Hirt der Sonne
Sinnend nach; dem Sinnenden jetzt entfallen
Flöt’ und Stab, es falten die Hände sich zum
Stillen Gebete.

Images of evening

A peaceful evening descends on the fields;
Nature gently falls asleep, around her features
Floats the soft veil of twilight, and she,
The gracious one, smiles;
Smiles, a slumbering child in the arms of her father,
Who bends lovingly over her; his divine
Eye dwells on her, and his breath passes
Over her countenance.
Now the far mountains dissolve with the clouds
Into a sea; the moon emerges from the waves, and
Greets the meadow, and Philomel’s song returns
Its greeting
From the flowering shrub that secretly garlands
This place of tender love:
Mirzi, in her lover’s arms, listens to the
Magical fluting.
There on the hillside both their herds graze
Close together in a single pasture,
Their little bells ringing in charming
Harmony.
Silence falls on the forest; the dear little
Singers, shaking the branch that
Bore them during the night, test it for their new flights,
And new songs.
Soon the sun sinks, the forest giants
Reach higher into the air, to garland
Their heads awhile yet with evening’s
Fleeting roses.
The meadow now falls silent; the sated bullocks
Only rarely tinkle the bells round their necks,
And only casually do they munch
From darker grasses.
And there the innocent shepherd looks pensively
At the sun; meditatively he lets fall
His flute and staff and folds his hands
In silent prayer.
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

Nikolaus Lenau was the nom de plume of Nikolaus Franz Niembsch Edler von Strehlenau, a German-language Austrian poet.

He was born at Schadat, now Lenauheim, Romania, then in Hungary. His father, a Habsburg government official, died in 1807 in Budapest, leaving his children in the care of their mother, who remarried in 1811. In 1819 Nikolaus went to the University of Vienna; he subsequently studied Hungarian law at Pozsony (Bratislava) and then spent the next four years qualifying himself in medicine. Unable to settle down to any profession, he began writing verse. The disposition to sentimental melancholy inherited from his mother, stimulated by disappointments in love and by the prevailing fashion of the romantic school of poetry, descended into gloom after his mother's death in 1829.

Soon afterwards, however, a legacy from his grandmother enabled him to devote himself wholly to poetry. His first published poems appeared in 1827, in Johann Gabriel Seidl's Aurora. In 1831 he moved to Stuttgart, where he published a volume of Gedichte (1832) dedicated to the Swabian poet, Gustav Schwab. He also made the acquaintance of Ludwig Uhland, Justinus Kerner, Karl Mayer and others. His restless spirit longed for change, and he determined to seek peace and freedom in America.

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


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