Saturday, May 01, 2010

Im wunderschönen Monat Mai...

In the wondrously lovely month of May...

From Shumann's sublime Dichterliebe, this is one of the loveliest of all songs in all of human history, in my opinion.

In beautiful May,
when the buds sprang,
love sprang up in my heart:

in beautiful May,
when the birds all sang,
I told you my
suffering and longing.)

A superb setting of the text of German Romantic poet Heinrich Heine's verses, the elegance of Shumann's austere tonal architecture is shown to best advantage in Dichterliebe. Listen to how the tones build a framework. I always think of this piece as the ribs of a ship, of all the wooden planking falling in order, a bark bearing up the text of the piece, with not a stray note, not a single note too many or too few. Notice how the suspension of the final tone leaves you yearning for something more. I always hear a resolution after that final tone -- my mind's ear shoots out in the direction Shumann had been aiming it all along, but he makes the listener fill in the gaps. This is very intellectual music in a very small serving. I recommend you digest then entire song cycle, if you've ever the opportunity.

There are many recordings of this on YouTube, but I chose this for the mastery of the musican's piano, as well as the plaintive yearning of his voice. Good audio for the piano here.

Another recording of this song sung by a young singer with a gorgeous voice is here.

My favorite, though, is Austrian baritone Thomas Quasthoff. This song cyle is often sung by a tenor, but baritone makes my heart sing.
May we all have a wondrously lovely time, this month.


Vinogirl said...

Happy May Day!

Buck said...

Happy May Day, Phlegmmy. One just never knows what one will find on these pages... but it's ALWAYS excellent. "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai" is a beautiful counterpoint to the gray cold of MY May Day (speaking only of the weather).