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Songs

Songs

Bergeslust

Bergeslust

O Lust vom Berg zu schauen
Weit über Wald und Strom,
Hoch über sich den blauen,
Den klaren Himmelsdom.
Vom Berge Vögel fliegen,
Und Wolken so geschwind,
Gedanken überfliegen
Die Vögel und den Wind.
Die Wolken zieh’n hernieder,
Das Vöglein senkt sich gleich,
Gedanken geh’n und Lieder
Bis in das Himmelreich.
Fort bis ins Himmelreich.

Mountain rapture

Ah, the joy of gazing from the mountain
Far over wood and stream,
With the blue, pellucid vault of heaven
Arching overhead!
Little birds and clouds
Fly swiftly from the mountain,
Thoughts skim past
The birds and the wind.
The clouds drift down,
The little bird plummets,
Thoughts and songs go winging on
Till they reach the kingdom of heaven.
Till they reach the kingdom of heaven.

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Composer

Fanny Hensel, née Mendelssohn (1805-47), was an exceptionally gifted musician whose potential was stifled by the gendered social conventions of her upper-middle-class background in mid-19th-century Berlin. She came from a wealthy and cultivated family, distinguished especially by its women. Alongside her brother Felix, she enjoyed an excellent general and musical education throughout her childhood, but while he was encouraged to pursue music professionally, she was prevented from doing so by her father. Nevertheless, music remained centrally important to her within private spaces such as the salon.

In 1825, the Mendelssohns moved to Leipziger Straße 3, a large property which allowed the family to establish one of the most impressive musical salons of the century. In 1829, Fanny Mendelssohn married the painter Wilhelm Hensel, whose active support of her gifts meant that – exceptionally –marriage and motherhood did not spell the end of her compositional life. She collaborated closely with her husband in a purpose-built studio, Hensel responding to her music with drawings, and she composing songs to his poetry.

From 1831, Mendelssohn organised the Sonntagsmusiken, informal private concerts in the garden room of the family home which involved attendees as impressive as Liszt, Paganini, Clara Schumann, Bettina von Arnim and Heine. The programmes mixed chamber music and songs, alongside some choral works and the occasional orchestra. In this ostensibly private milieu, she could flourish as a composer, conductor, performer and organiser. Maintaining the series was no small task, especially in the face of family bereavements and illnesses, and her own numerous but rarely mentioned miscarriages and still-births.

A long-desired trip to Italy from 1839 to 1840 with her family signalled the start of her liberation from her brother’s influence. Most importantly, her music was highly praised by the professional musicians she encountered in Rome. Fanny Mendelssohn was forty when she finally decided she would publish her music, in defiance of her brother.

Towards the end of her life, her self-confidence was boosted by the interest and encouragement of a young, musically inclined lawyer Robert von Keudell. By spring 1847, six opus numbers had appeared. Tragically, she suffered a stroke in May 1847 and died the following night. Felix Mendelssohn arranged the posthumous publication of two groups of songs and her Piano Trio Op. 11.

Fanny Mendelssohn wrote well over two hundred songs. As noted in Stephen Rodgers’s recent book songs, ‘Hensel’s music is tonally adventuresome, … free and flexible, often with a feeling of having been improvised on the spot; it can be at times wildly virtuosic…and at other times stripped to the barest essentials, so that every note, every moment of dissonance, speaks volumes; and it shows little obeisance to orthodox formal models,…pursuing unexpected musical narratives tailored to the needs of each expressive context.’

Hensel knew not only German but also French and English, and her output contains several French and English settings. Her taste in German poetry was discerning and high-quality, including Heine, Goethe, Eichendorff, Rückert, Lenau and her husband’s work.

Scores of all her songs are available on this site: https://henselsongsonline.org/, edited by Tim Parker-Langston, and many are easily available in print editions and recordings.

© Natasha Loges, 2022


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Poet

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff was a German poet, novelist, playwright, literary critic, translator, and anthologist. Eichendorff was one of the major writers and critics of Romanticism. Ever since their publication and up to the present day, some of his works have been very popular in Germany.

Eichendorff first became famous for his novella Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts (Memoirs of a Good-For-Nothing) and his poems. The Memoirs of a Good-For-Nothing, a typical romantic novella, whose main themes are wanderlust and love. The protagonist, the son of a miller, rejects his father's trade and becomes a gardener at a Viennese palace where he subsequently falls in love with the local duke's daughter. As, with his lowly status, she is unattainable for him, he escapes to Italy - only to return and learn that she is the duke's adopted daughter, and thus within his social reach. With its combination of dream world and realism, Memoirs of a Good-For-Nothing is considered to be a high point of Romantic fiction. One critic stated that "Eichendorff’s 'Good-For-Nothing' is the "personification of love of nature and an obsession with hiking." Thomas Mann called Eichendorff's Good-For-Nothing a combination of "the purity of the folk song and the fairy tale."

Many of Eichendorff's poems were first published as integral parts of his novellas and stories, where they are often performed in song by one of the protagonists. The novella Good-For-Nothing alone contains 54 poems.

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


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