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Songs

Songs

Der Kuß (1840) Op. 10 no.3

Der Kuß

Ich will meine Seele tauchen
In den Kelch der Lilie hinein;
Die Lilie soll klingend hauchen
Ein Lied von der Liebsten mein.
Das Lied soll schauern und beben,
Wie der Kuss von ihrem Mund,
Den sie mir einst gegeben
In wunderbar süsser Stund’.

The Kiss

Let me bathe my soul
In the lily’s chalice;
The lily shall resound
With a song of my beloved.
The songs shall tremble and quiver
Like the kiss that her lips
Once gave me
In a wondrously sweet hour.
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

Johanna Kinkel (1810-58), née Mockel, was born in Bonn and died in London. Her parents did not particularly encourage her musical and poetic talents, but she was encouraged through her lessons with Franz Anton Ries, who gave her the opportunity to conduct a small choir comprised of his students. Her Opus 1 Vogelkantate was composed for this group. She married a publisher, Johann Paul Mathieux when she was 22 years old but separated from him within six months and returned to her parents’ home. After some time, she resumed her musical activities.

In order to further her musical studies, Kinkel decided to travel to Berlin in 1836. On the way, in Frankfurt, she met Felix Mendelssohn, who praised her musical gifts and encouraged her to study in Berlin, where she had piano lessons with the virtuoso Wilhelm Taubert and composition with Karl Böhmer. For five months she lodged with Bettina von Arnim, at whose salon she became acquainted with Fanny Mendelssohn; she participated in the latter’s famous Sonntagsmusiken. She then moved into her own apartment, where she could dedicate more time to composition; this period saw the composition of many Lieder. Her Op. 7 songs were praised by the influential critic Ludwig Rellstab.

In 1839, she returned to Bonn to finalise her divorce from Mathieux. This protracted and complex process forced her to alter her plan to return to Berlin. She threw herself into music again, teaching, conducting, hosting musical evenings and, through her writing, gathering an impressive circle of colleagues from the literary world; literature grew increasingly important to her.

At this time she met the theologian Gottfried Kinkel, with whom she ran the society called the Maikäferbund, which was dedicated to discussion of culture; Kinkel was the only woman to compose for this group. They married in 1843 and had four children, the last of whom was born in the revolutionary year 1848.

Kinkel and her husband held firmly liberal views and were politically active. In 1849, she took over editing the Neue Bonner Zeitung, turning it into a radical mouthpiece. Her husband was arrested but she arranged his escape and the family emigrated to London in 1851, where Kinkel worked as a piano teacher. After a spell of severe financial need, the family income stabilised and Kinkel turned her energies to musicological studies at the British Museum. Sadly, her health declined and in 1858, she died after falling out of a window – whether through accident or suicide remains unclear.

Kinkel’s works appeared under the name ‘Mathieux’ (Op. 1, 6-16 and 18) as well as Kinkel. She wrote approximately 80 songs, including political works, as well as ca. 12 duets (including Op. 11 and 12), and several larger ensemble works. Her numerous stage works remain unpublished in Bonn, although they have attracted growing interest. Her style is original, with unexpected modulations and phrasing, and a strong affinity to the Mendelssohns when it comes to piano writing. She favoured the poetry of her contemporaries, such as Emanuel Geibel, Heinrich Heine and Adelbert von Chamisso, although she also set her own poetry.

Songs like ‘Vorüberfahrt’ Op. 7 no. 3 have tremendous energy, while ‘Der Müllerin Nachbar’ is a thrilling, turbulent account of sexual jealousy. Like many contemporaries, she set poetry which evoked – and romanticised – other lands, such as the stamping, strumming ‘Der spanische Zitherknabe’ Op. 8 no.1 or her ‘Beduinromanze’ Op. 19 no. 4. Her ‘Nachtlied’ Op. 7 no. 1 (the same text Clara Schumann set as ‘Der Mond kommt still gegangen’) has exquisite grace and delicacy. ‘Oh! Open the door, Lord Gregory’ is heart-rending, and shows Kinkel’s versatility in setting English. Altogether, this exceptional, imaginative and determined figure’s songs deserve to be far better known.
 

© 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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