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Die Loreley

Die Loreley

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten
Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;
Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt
Im Abendsonnenschein.
Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet,
Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.
Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme
Und singt ein Lied dabei,
Das hat eine wundersame,
Gewaltige Melodei.
Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh,
Er schaut nicht die Felsenrisse,
Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh.
Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn.
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
Die Lorelei getan.


I do not know the reason why
To sorrow I’m inclined.
A story from the olden days
Is preying on my mind.
Light’s fading and the air is cool
And quiet flows the Rhine,
The mountain top’s still glowing
As the sun’s last rays decline.
Seated up there, gorgeous,
A maid beyond compare,
Her golden jewellery glitters,
She combs her golden hair.
She combs it with a golden comb
And sings a song betimes,
A song with a strange melody,
With strange and powerful rhymes.
The boatman in his little boat,
Gripped by a savage love,
Does not see the rocky reef,
Sees only what’s above.
I think the waves consumed them,
Boat and boatman, bye and bye.
And that’s what, with her singing,
Was done by Lorelei.

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Ingeborg Bronsart von Schellendorf, née Starck (1840-1913), was born to Swedish parents in St Petersburg. In the late 1850s, she studied with Franz Liszt, who greatly encouraged her; in 1861 she married the composer-conductor Hans Bronsart von Schellendorff (1830-1913)

In the years immediately after her marriage, von Bronsart maintained a glittering concert career across Europe which was halted by her husband’s appointment as Intendant of the Hanover Court Theatre in 1867. No longer permitted to perform in public, she turned her considerable energies to composition and running her influential salon in Hanover, which hosted many of Europe’s leading musicians, writers and artists. While she adhered to some of the traditional gender restrictions of her day, she managed to get her work published by prestigious houses like Breitkopf & Härtel and Schott, and her operas were performed across Germany. Von Bronsart moved to Weimar in 1887 for her husband’s work, and later to Munich.

An ambitious figure, von Bronsart championed an aesthetic shared by Liszt and Wagner, the so-called New German School. Her piano concerto, probably lost, was performed under Joseph Joachim in Hanover in 1863. Having concentrated initially on chamber music for her own performances, she increasingly turned to vocal music from the mid-60s. Her opera Jery und Bätely was performed with great success in Weimar in 1873 before performances in over ten other German cities. Her Kaiser-Wilhelm March was written in 1871 for the triumphant re-entry of the German troops to Berlin after the Franco-Prussian War; it was also performed for the opening of the Women’s Section of the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893.

Her work fell into obscurity after her death and to date, there is still no thorough study of her compositions and very few recordings. However, she composed four operas in total and approximately eighty Lieder, which were published from 1865 onwards. Her style is lavish, dramatic, free in form and reveals her excellent pianistic skills.

Her choice of poets and poetry includes established favourites such as Heine’s ‘Die Lorelei’, as well as figures like Goethe and Rückert; famous Orientalists like Platen and especially Bodenstedt (whose Russian translations were highly influential); and Klaus Groth, who wrote in Low German dialect, and was a good friend of Brahms. Much unpublished music is held in the Berlin State Library and the Deutsches National Theater und Staatskapelle Weimar.

© Natasha Loges, 2022

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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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