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An die Nachtigall (1868) Op. 46 no.4

An die Nachtigall

Geuß nicht so laut der liebentflammten Lieder
Tonreichen Schall
Vom Blütenast des Apfelbaums hernieder,
O Nachtigall!
Du tönest mir mit deiner süßen Kehle
Die Liebe wach;
Denn schon durchbebt die Tiefen meiner Seele
Dein schmelzend Ach.
Dann flieht der Schlaf von neuem dieses Lager,
Ich starre dann
Mit nassem Blick’ und totenbleich und hager
Den Himmel an.
Fleuch, Nachtigall, in grüne Finsternisse,
Ins Haingesträuch,
Und spend’ im Nest der treuen Gattin Küsse;
Entfleuch, entfleuch!

To the Nightingale

Do not pour so loudly the full-throated sounds
Of your love-kindled songs
Down from the blossoming boughs of the apple-tree,
O nightingale!
The tones of your sweet throat
Awaken love in me;
For the depths of my soul already quiver
With your melting lament.
Sleep once more forsakes this couch,
And I stare
Moist-eyed, haggard and deathly pale
At the heavens.
Fly, nightingale, to the green darkness,
To the bushes of the grove,
And there in the nest kiss your faithful mate;
Fly away, fly away!
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

Johannes Brahms (7 May 1833 – 3 April 1897) was a German composer, pianist, and conductor of the Romantic period. Born in Hamburg into a Lutheran family, Brahms spent much of his professional life in Vienna. 

Brahms has been considered, by his contemporaries and by later writers, as both a traditionalist and an innovator. His music is firmly rooted in the structures and compositional techniques of the Classical masters. While many contemporaries found his music too academic, his contribution and craftsmanship have been admired by many. 

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Poet

Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty, was German poet who is considered the most gifted lyric poet of the Göttinger Hain, a group of young poets who saw themselves as heirs of the great lyric poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and whose work was characterized by love of nature and the expression of national feeling.

He was influenced by Johann Uz and Friedrich Klopstock, but his love for the Volkslied and his delight in nature preserved him from the artificiality of Uz and the unworldliness of Klopstock. A strain of melancholy runs through all his lyrics. His ballads are the pioneers of the rich ballad literature on English models, which sprang up in Germany over the next few years.

To many, the opening lines of Hölty's poem Der alte Landmann an seinen Sohn ("he Old Farmer to His Son) are the very embodiment of all Prussian virtues. This poem was set to music by Mozart to a melody adapted from the aria Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen from his 1791 opera The Magic Flute. It was played daily by the carillon of the Potsdam Garrison Church where Frederick the Great was initially buried.

Many of Hölty's poems were set to music by composers including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms. Several streets and schools in Germany are named after him, including the Hölty-Gymnasium in Wunstorf near Hanover; in 2008, the biennial poetry prize Hölty-Preis was created in his name.

Among the many poems set by Schubert are An den Mond (D193 and D468),  An die Nachtigall (D196), Blumenlied (D431), Frühlingslied (D243 and D398), Klage (D436), Mailied (D129, D199 and D202), Minnelied (D429), Die Nonne (D208), Seligkeit (D433), Totengräberlied (D38 and D44) and Winterlied (D401).

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