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Songs

Was will die einsame Träne? (1908)

Was will die einsame Träne?

Was will die einsame Träne?
Sie trübt mir ja den Blick.
Sie blieb aus alten Zeiten
In meinem Auge zurück.
Sie hatte viel leuchtende Schwestern,
Die alle zerflossen sind,
Mit meinen Qualen und Freuden
Zerflossen in Nacht und Wind.
Wie Nebel sind auch zerflossen
Die blauen Sternelein,
Die mir jene Freuden und Qualen
Gelächelt ins Herz hinein.
Ach, meine Liebe selber
Zerfloß wie eitel Hauch!
Du alte, einsame Träne,
Zerfließe jetzunder auch!

Why this solitary Tear?

Why this solitary tear?
It troubles my gaze.
It has remained in my eye
From days long past.
It had many shining sisters
Who have all vanished,
Vanished with my joys and sorrows
In night and wind.
Like mist, those tiny blue stars
Have also vanished
That smiled those joys and sorrows
Into my heart.
Ah, my love itself
Vanished like a mere breath of air!
Old, solitary tear,
Vanish now as well!

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Composer

Nadia Boulanger and her immensely gifted younger sister Lili came from a family of musicians. Boulanger joined the Paris Conservatoire aged ten, studying harmony and composition, alongside private organ lessons. Gabriel Fauré, who taught her composition, encouraged and supported her.  The virtuoso Raoul Pugno championed her as a performer, often sharing the stage with her before his death in 1914.

Boulanger stopped composing around 1919 (the year of her sister’s death), after which she dedicated herself to teaching, becoming one of the foremost composition teachers within the twentieth-century art music traditions, as well as one of the first professional female conductors. Her influence was international, not least because she lived and worked in the USA during World War II.

She energetically promoted the music of her sister and students, especially Stravinsky. An important patron between the wars was the indefatigable heiress Winnaretta Singer, Princesse de Polignac, who created conducting opportunities for Boulanger in the 1930s. In addition, she contributed to the 20th-century rediscovery of early music. By the end of her life, she had gained many honours.

Boulanger and Pugno co-composed the song cycle Les heures claires (1909) to poems by the great Belgian poet Émile Verhaeren, as well as an opera La ville morte. She wrote over thirty songs, favouring chromatic and modal harmony. Her choice of poet ranged from established favourites such as Heine and Verlaine (one setting each), to important contemporaries like Maurice Maeterlinck.

A list of her songs is below:

- Five Songs (Soleils couchants/Paul Verlaine, Cantique/Maurice Maeterlinck, Élégie/Albert Samain, Prière/H. Bataille, Was will die einsame Träne/Heinrich Heine), 1909

- Les heures claires (Le ciel en nuit s’est déplié; Avec mes sens, avec mon cœur; Vous m’avez dit; Que tes yeux claires, tes yeux d’été; C’était en juin; Ta bonté; Roses de Juin; S’il arrive jamais,)1909-1912

- Mélodies, 1910

- Seven Songs (Soir d’hiver/Nadia Boulanger, L’Échange/Camille Mauclair, Chanson/Camille Mauclair, Le Couteau/Camille Mauclair, Au bord de la route/Camille Mauclair, Doute/Camille Mauclair, J’ai frappé/J.-F. Bourguignon), 1915 (oder 1916)/1922.

All her songs are recorded and available in recent editions.

© Natasha Loges, 2022


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Poet

Heine was born of Jewish parents. Much of his early life was influenced by the financial power of his uncle Salomon Heine, a millionaire Hamburg banker, with whom he remained on an awkward footing for many years. After he had been educated in the Düsseldorf Lyceum, an unsuccessful attempt was undertaken to make a businessman of him, first in banking, then in retailing. Eventually, his uncle was prevailed upon to finance a university education, and Heine attended the universities of Bonn, Göttingen, Berlin, and Göttingen again, where he finally took a degree in law with absolutely minimal achievement in 1825. In that same year, in order to open up the possibility of a civil service career, closed to Jews at that time, he converted to Protestantism with little enthusiasm and some resentment. He never practised law, however, nor held a position in government service; and his student years had been primarily devoted not to the studies for which his uncle had been paying but to poetry, literature, and history. 

When the July Revolution of 1830 occurred in France, Heine did not, like many of his liberal and radical contemporaries, race to Paris at once but continued his more or less serious efforts to find some sort of paying position in Germany. In the spring of 1831 he finally went to Paris, where he was to live for the rest of his life. 

Heine’s early years in Paris were his happiest. From an outcast in the society of his own rich uncle, he was transformed into a leading literary personality, and he became acquainted with many of the prominent people of his time.  However his critical and satirical writings brought him into grave difficulties with the German censorship, and, at the end of 1835, the Federal German Diet tried to enforce a nationwide ban on all his works. He was surrounded by police spies, and his voluntary exile became an imposed one. In 1840 Heine wrote a witty but ill-advised book on the late Ludwig Börne (1786–1837), the leader of the German radicals in Paris, in which Heine attempted to defend his own more subtle stand against what he thought of as the shallowness of political activism; but the arrogance and ruthlessness of the book alienated all camps.

Though never destitute, Heine was always out of money; and when his uncle died in 1844, all but disinheriting him, he began, under the eyes of all Europe, a violent struggle for the inheritance, which was settled with the grant of a right of censorship over his writings to his uncle’s family; in this way, apparently, the bulk of Heine’s memoirs was lost to posterity

The worst of his sufferings, however, were caused by his deteriorating health. An apparently venereal disease began to attack one part of his nervous system after another, and from the spring of 1848 he was confined to his “mattress-grave”. His third volume of poems, Romanzero (1851), is full of heartrending laments and bleak glosses on the human condition; many of these poems are now regarded as among his finest. A final collection, Gedichte 1853 und 1854 (Poems 1853 and 1854), is of the same order. After nearly eight years of torment, Heine died and was buried in the Montmartre Cemetery.

Heine's international literary reputation was established with the publication of Buch der Lieder in 1827, a collection of already published poems, several of which were set as Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and others.

Schwanengesang (Swan song), D 957, is the title of a collection of songs written by Franz Schubert at the end of his life in 1828 and published iin 1829, just a few months after his death. The collection was named by its first publisher Tobias Haslinger, presumably wishing to present it as Schubert's final musical testament to the world. Unlike the earlier Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, it contains settings of three poets, Ludwig Rellstab (1799–1860), Heinrich Heine(1797–1856) and Johann Gabriel Seidl (1804–1875). 

In the original manuscript in Schubert's hand, the first 13 songs were copied in a single sitting, on consecutive manuscript pages, and in the standard performance order. All the song titles are by Schubert, as the poet did not give names to the poems. The six poems by Heine, set as part of D 957, are Der Atlas , Ihr Bild, Das Fishermädchen, Die Stadt. Am Meer  and Der Doppelganger.

Taken from Encyclopedia Britannica (to view the full article, click here), and Wikipedia (to view the full article, click here.)

To read some of his poetry, click here
 


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