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Songs

Songs

In meines Vaters Garten (1910)


Part of a series or song cycle:

Fünf Lieder (Mahler, Alma)


In meines Vaters Garten

In meines Vaters Garten -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
in meines Vaters Garten
stand ein schattender Apfelbaum -
Süsser Traum -
stand ein schattender Apfelbaum.
Drei blonde Königstöchter -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
drei wunderschöne Mädchen
schliefen unter dem Apfelbaum -
Süsser Traum -
schliefen unter dem Apfelbaum.
Die allerjüngste Feine -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
die allerjüngste Feine
blinzelte und erwachte kaum -
Süsser Traum -
blinzelte und erwachte kaum.
Die zweite fuhr sich übers Haar -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
sah den roten Morgentraum -
Süsser Traum -
Sie sprach: Hört ihr die Trommel nicht -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
Süsser Traum -
hell durch den dämmernden Traum?
Mein Liebster zieht in den Kampf -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
mein Liebster zieht in den Kampf hinaus,
küsst mir als Sieger des Kleides Saum -
Süsser Traum -
küsst mir des Kleides Saum!
Die dritte sprach und sprach so leis -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
die dritte sprach und sprach so leis:
Ich küsse dem Liebsten des Kleides Saum -
Süsser Traum -
ich küsse dem Liebsten des Kleides Saum. -
In meines Vaters Garten -
blühe mein Herz, blüh auf -
in meines Vaters Garten
steht ein sonniger Apfelbaum -
Süsser Traum -
steht ein sonniger Apfelbaum!

In my father's garden

In my father’s garden –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
In my father’s garden
grew a shady apple tree –
Sweet dream –
grew a shady apple tree.
Three blond princesses –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
three wonderfully beautiful girls
slept beneath the apple tree –
Sweet dream –
slept beneath the apple tree.
The youngest of the three beauties –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
the youngest of the three beauties
blinked and hardly awoke –
Sweet dream –
blinked and hardly awoke.
The second ran her hand through her hair –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
Saw the red morning dream –
Sweet dream –
She said: ‘Don’t you hear the drums?
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
Sweet dream –
Brightly through the dawn?
My beloved is going to war
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
My beloved is going to war,
Kisses as victor the hem of my dress
Sweet dream –
Kisses the hem of my dress.
The third spoke, and spoke so quietly –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
The third spoke and spoke so quietly:
I kiss the hem of my beloved’s coat –
Sweet dream –
I kiss the hem of my beloved’s coat.
In my father’s garden –
blossom, O my heart, blossom –
In my father’s garden
grew a shady apple tree –
Sweet dream –
grew a shady apple tree.
Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

Alma Schindler (1879-1964) was born in Vienna into an artistic inclined family. As a child, her musical gifts were encouraged to some extent with piano and composition lessons, including with Alexander Zemlinsky, although in 1898 her father vetoed more advanced piano lessons. Schindler-Mahler’s musical legacy is heavily overshadowed by her relationships with famous, creative men such as Mahler, the architect Walter Gropius and the artist Franz Werfel, alongside relationships with her composition teacher Alexander von Zemlinsky and the artist Oskar Kokoschka.

As a composer, she is most readily identified under the name ‘Alma Schindler-Mahler’. This reflects the fact that she wrote nearly all her songs before her first marriage, to Gustav Mahler, but these were only published after her marriage, from 1910 onwards. Nevertheless, Schindler-Mahler was serious about composition as a young woman; her diaries evaluate potential suitors according to whether they would allow her to compose. Her choice of Mahler, nearly twenty years older, therefore provokes many questions, since he famously insisted that she either renounce composition or break their engagement. During their marriage, she not only protected him from mundane demands, but also acted as his assistant by preparing piano scores for many of his works.

For most of the twentieth century, Schindler-Mahler was regarded as a ‘muse’, a role she herself willingly played. Equally significant, however, is her support for the careers of contemporaries such as Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg (reflected, for example, in Berg’s dedication of Wozzeck to her in recognition of her financial support). Schindler-Mahler’s life was personally and politically turbulent. By 1938, she and her husband Franz Werfel had to flee Vienna for the USA, where they settled along with many other émigrés, in Los Angeles. Following Werfel’s death, she eventually settled in New York.

Schindler-Mahler published various memoirs and correspondence which shed light on her personality and milieu, including two autobiographies: And the Bridge is Love and Mein Leben. Many written traces of her are also found in the letters and memoirs of Berg, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky, Bruno Walter, and others like Elias Canetti, Nina Kandinsky, the Mann family, Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Werfel, and Berta Zuckerkandl.

Like many of her contemporaries including Brahms and Berg, Schindler-Mahler began her compositional life with songs, and there is evidence that she would have attempted other, larger genres had she been in more supportive circumstances. Indeed, it took a marital crisis for Gustav finally to pay attention to her as a creative person in her own right, and facilitate the publications with the prestigious Universal Edition.

The style of her songs is lyrical and late Romantic, with a fondness for the lower range of the keyboard, atmospheric textures and a rhapsodic, through-composed approach to form. Songs like ‘Bei dir ist es Traut’ achieve a mesmerising, transparent stillness, combining a persuasive form with harmonic adventurousness. ‘Ansturm’ from Vier Lieder shows her ability to craft exquisite piano textures.

During her lifetime, three sets of songs appeared: Fünf Lieder (1910), Vier Lieder (1915) and Fünf Gesänge (1924). Fourteen other songs have been published in different collections since then. According to her diary, at least forty unpublished songs remain, dating mainly from 1898-1901, including settings of Goethe, Rilke, Heine and Falke and cycles. She had a strong preference for contemporary poets such as Dehmel, Bierbaum and Falke, alongside established figures like Goethe and Heine. She set no poetry by women, to our knowledge.

Useful modern collections include Frauen komponieren - 25 Lieder für Singstimme und Klavier, edited by Eva Rieger und Käte Walter (Schott). David and Colin Matthews have also orchestrated seven of her songs for medium voice; see Alma Mahler: Sieben Lieder für mittlere Stimme und Orchester (Vienna 1995). The best account of her as composer is Susanne Rode-Breymann’s Die Komponistin Alma Mahler-Werfel (1999).

There exists a growing number of recordings which usually pair Schindler-Mahler’s songs with those of women like Clara Schumann or Fanny Mendelssohn (despite their vastly different circumstances), or position her within her male musical circle. A useful resource is Alma Mahler-Werfel: Complete Songs (Ruth Ziesack, Iris Vermillion, Christian Elsner and Cord Garben, 1997).

© Natasha Loges, 2022

 


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