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Songs

Nixe Binsefuß

Nixe Binsefuß

Des Wassermanns sein Töchterlein
Tanzt auf dem Eis im Vollmondschein,
Sie singt und lachet sonder Scheu
Wohl an des Fischers Haus vorbei.
»Ich bin die Jungfer Binsefuß,
Und meine Fisch' wohl hüten muß,
Meine Fisch' die sind im Kasten,
Sie haben kalte Fasten;
Von Böhmerglas mein Kasten ist,
Da zähl' ich sie zu jeder Frist.
Gelt, Fischermatz? gelt, alter Tropf,
Dir will der Winter nicht in Kopf?
Komm mir mit deinen Netzen!
Die will ich schön zerfetzen!
Dein Mägdlein zwar ist fromm und gut,
Ihr Schatz ein braves Jägerblut.
Drum häng' ich ihr, zum Hochzeitsstrauß,
Ein schilfen Kränzlein vor das Haus,
Und einen Hecht, von Silber schwer,
Er stammt von König Artus her,
Ein Zwergen-Goldschmids-Meisterstück,
Wer's hat, dem bringt es eitel Glück:
Er läßt sich schuppen Jahr für Jahr,
Da sind's fünfhundert Gröschlein baar.
Ade, mein Kind! Ade für heut!
Der Morgenhahn im Dorfe schreit.«

The water-sprite Reedfoot

The water spirit's little daughter
Dances on the ice in the full moon,
Singing and laughing without fear
Past the fisherman's house.
'I am the maiden Reedfoot,
And I must look after my fish;
My fish are in this casket,
Having a cold Lent;
My casket's made of Bohemian glass,
And I count them whenever I can.
Not so, Matt? Not so, foolish old fisherman,
You cannot understand it's winter?
If you come near me with your nets,
I'll tear them all to shreds!
But your little girl is good and devout,
And her sweetheart's an honest huntsman.
That's why I'll hang a wedding bouquet,
A wreath of rushes outside her house,
And a pike of solid silver,
From King Arthur's time,
The masterwork of a dwarf goldsmith,
Which brings its owner the best of luck:
Each year it sheds its scales,
Worth five hundred groschen in cash.
Farewell, child! Farewell for today!
The cock in the villages cries morning.'

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Composer

Pauline Viardot, née Garcia (1821-1910) was one of the most remarkable, accomplished musical professionals of the 19th century. Born into a family of music professionals, she wanted to be a pianist, but following the early death of her sister soprano Maria Malibran, her family insisted that she train as a singer. She enjoyed a stellar, international career initially as a singer, then as a sought-after teacher. She composed all her life, moving with protean ease between the various national styles she assimilated: Spanish, French, Italian, English, German and Russian.

Many composers turned to her not only to sing in their operas, but to offer considerable assistance with composition, including Meyerbeer, Berlioz (who also fell in love with her), Gounod and Massenet. Brahms asked her to sing the first performance of his Alto Rhapsody.

Pauline Garcia made the wise decision to marry Louis Viardot, who was considerably older than she was, and supported her career unstintingly. The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev fell in love with her and remained her lifelong companion, often living with or near to her family. However, the unusual ménage-à-trois was harmonious, and she had the best of both worlds. Unlike her friend Clara Schumann, she made careful decisions about the number of children she could sustain. Two of her children became musicians in turn, and Louise Héritte-Viardot was a composer in turn.

During the 1860s, the Viardots – who were committed republicans – moved to Baden-Baden, where she composed operettas for her many students and hosted an important salon. They returned to Paris after the defeat of Napoléon III, where she continued to teach and host her salon for several decades more.

Viardot wrote more than 100 songs, exploring the best of contemporary poetry in the texts of Musset, Turgenev, Pushkin, Gautier, Mörike, Goethe and others. She also made extremely popular arrangements of Chopin’s mazurkas with added texts. Her style is elusive, absorbing the best of the German, Russian, French, Spanish and Italian influences which surrounded her. Her formal range is vast, from simple folk-like songs to through-composed large-scale structures. She deserves far greater recognition for her compositional achievements.

Most of her songs were published during her lifetime, but Viardot did not maintain a work catalogue or chronology; moreover, many of the songs were translated into different languages, so exist under multiple titles. A complete, searchable list of songs can be found here: https://www.pauline-viardot.de/Werkverzeichnis_englisch.htm

A full catalogue with musical incipits can be found here: https://prism.ucalgary.ca/handle/1880/49849. There is no complete critical edition or recording of the songs although a wide selection is available. Thanks to her vast stylistic range, it is easy to incorporate her songs into recital programmes.

© Natasha Loges, 2022

 


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Poet

Eduard Friedrich Mörike was a German Romantic poet.

Mörike was born in Ludwigsburg. His father was Karl Friedrich Mörike (d. 1817), a district medical councilor; his mother was Charlotte Bayer. He attended the Latin school at Ludwigsburg, and the seminary at Urach (1818) where he made the acquaintance of Wilhelm Hartlaub and Wilhelm Waiblinger. He then studied theology at the Seminary of Tübingen where he met Ludwig Bauer, David Friedrich Strauss and F. T. Vischer.

He followed an ecclesiastical career, becoming a Lutheran pastor. In 1834 he was appointed pastor of Cleversulzbach near Weinsberg, and, after his early retirement for reasons of health, in 1851 became professor of German literature at the Katharinenstift in Stuttgart. This office he held until his retirement in 1866; but he continued to live in Stuttgart until his death. In what political and social views he espoused, he was monarchist and conservative.

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