Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Von Ewiger Liebe (Brahms)

Brahms (1833-1897) wrote 196 art songs. This is one of his masterpieces.

Fassbaender's recording was the one I listened to, many years ago — along with Fischer Dieskaus's — when I first learned this piece. Fassbaender is a great singer, who sings with commitment, passion, beauty of tone, great phrasing and attention the text. Never sentimental, she tells the story in the most direct and compelling way. I can't think of a better recording of this great piece. Irwin Cage plays beautifully.

It is important to note that the text has been falsely attributed in many additions to Joseph Wenzig. The error was made by Brahms when the piece was published and has been passed down by subsequent editions, but the text is from August Heinrich Hoffman von Falersleben's Gedichte of 1837 and is a free transcription of a translation from the Wendish by Leopold Haupt.

Von Ewiger Liebe/ Eternal Love

Dark, how dark it is in the forest and field!
It's already evening; now the world is silent.
Nowhere anymore light and nowhere anymore smoke.
Yes, and the lark is now silent too.

The lad is coming from the village,
He escorts his sweetheart home.
He leads her past the willow bushes,
Talking so much, and of so many things:

"If you suffer shame and if you grieve,
If you suffer disgrace before others because of me,
Then our love shall break apart as quickly as we came together.
Depart with the rain and depart with the wind,
As we were once united."

The maiden says, the maiden says:
"Our love cannot be torn asunder!
Steel is firm and iron very much so,
Yet our love is firmer still.

Iron and steel can be reforged.
But our love--who will transform it?
Iron and steel can disintegrate;
Our love, our love must endure eternally!"

Translation: Milagro Vargas

Here's Alexander Kipnis' version with Gerald Moore playing the piano for an excellent version with a male voice.

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