Becalmed off Halfway Rock - Fitz Henry Lane
Becalmed off Halfway Rock - Fitz Henry Lane

Which are the literary works more frequently used in Lied? I would say, without doubt, they're Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship, by Goethe, and Buch der Lieder, by Heine. Because of the huge number of Lieder written from their poems and the quality of many of them, and because of the great number of composers who inspired in them since their publication to this day. I spoke in detail about Goethe's work some time ago, but I hardly mentioned that of Heine when talking about some of its songs; that's why last time I thought of dedicating it an article.

The name itself of the collection, Buch der Lieder (Book of songs) seems an invitation to music. It wasn't unusual that the words lied (song) and gedicht (poem) were used as synonymous at the time, but we know that two words are rarely synonymous at 100 %; there are nuances that we only detect if we are native speakers. In this case, I would say that when Heine uses the term lied, as his friend Wilhelm Müller does, he is referring to a kind of poetry that leans towards a popular spirit, because of its content, language or structure; poems that could easily be sung, whether or not that was the poet's ultimate intention. To give a counterexample, I only know a few poems by Schiller, but I would never say they are lieder. As I tell you, it's a matter of nuances that I just can’t seem to grasp.

In any case, this is the title chosen by Heinrich Heine, Buch der Lieder. The first edition was published in 1827, in Hamburg. According to a letter written by the poem, some friends recommended that he published his poetic work in a single volume, sure that this would increase Heine's prestige that by then, at his thirty, was considerable (it's easy to place Heine temporarily if we think in Art Song terms: he was born in 1797, like Schubert, and died in 1856, like Schumann). Most of the poems included in the collection had already been published in different volumes, and some of them also in newspapers and magazines, which had a larger reach. The publication of the collection was a great success, as the poet's friends predicted; in 1837 the second edition was released (by then, Heine had been living in exile in Paris for years), in 1839 the third, 1841 the fourth, and in 1844 the fifth and last while alive. It wasn't until that year that he published a new volume of poetry, Neue Gedichte.

The two hundred and thirty-seven poems are divided into five parts that coincide with the collections already published; some of these, besides, are divided into several cycles, and within a cycle, some poems have also several parts. Here you are the structure, and the link to the Buch der Lieder on the University of Mainz website:

I. Junge Leiden, 1817-1821 (published in 1822)
II. Lyrisches Intermezzo, 1822 - 1823 (published in 1823)
III. Die Heimkehr, 1823 - 1824 (published in 1826)
IV. Aus der Harzreise, 1824 (published in 1826)
V. Die Nordsee, 1826 - 1826
Erster Zyklus (published in 1826)
Zweiter Zyklus (published in 1827)

Most Lieder upon Heine's poems came from the Buch der Lieder; as far as Liederabend can be representative, only five out of the thirty we heard so far belong to other collections of poems. If we look in detail the songs from the Buch der Lieder, the distribution of songs isn't uniform, most of them belonging to the first three parts. On the one hand, it's natural, because the last two parts add up only thirty poems, but I'm surprised that virtually none of the usual composers pay attention to them.

Schumann is the main composer with Heine's poems. He set into music all the Lieder, the second part of Junge Leiden, in his Liederkreis, Op. 24; for Dichterliebe, he chose twenty poems from the Lyrisches Intermezzo (four of the songs weren't finally included in the cycle). Apart from these two works, he composed other songs from Romanzen, Die Heimkehr and Lyrisches Intermezzo itself. Before Schumann, however, there was Schubert, who chose the six poems of Heine that he set to music (all included in the Schwanengesang) among the ninety-three of Die Heimkehr. Other composers, at least the most representative, chose mostly poems from the second and third parts. To sum up, I list the Lieder with poems from the Buch der Lieder that we have heard so far (that is, the list will become eventually out of date).

I. Junge Leiden (1817-1821)
Die beiden Grenadieren (R. Schumann) | Les deux grenadiers (R. Wagner)
Belsatzar (R. Schumann)
Wasserfahrt (Felix Mendelssohn) | Ich stand gelehnet an den Mast (Fanny Mendelssohn)
II. Lyrisches Intermezzo (1822 - 1823)
Dichterliebe (R. Schumann)
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (Felix Mendelssohn)
Die Lotosblume (R. Schumann) | Lotoren lorak (P. Sorozábal)
III. Die Heimkehr (1823 - 1824)
Schwanengesang (Schubert)
Schlechtes Wetter (R. Strauss)
Das Traumbild (J. Lang)

The song of the week also belongs to Buch der Lieder, of course; a third version of Ich stand gelehnet an den Mast, that of Hans Pfiztner; we know those of Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, and, as you will perceive, this one has a very different character. Wasserfahrt will be performed by Matthias Goerne and Seong-Jin Cho.

And next week, the second part of this article, a kind of corollary.



Ich stand gelehnet an den Mast,
Und zählte jede Welle.
Ade! mein schönes Vaterland!
Mein Schiff, das segelt schnelle!

Ich kam schön Liebchens Haus vorbei,
Die Fensterscheiben blinken;
Ich guck' mir fast die Augen aus,
Doch will mir niemand winken.

Ihr Tränen, bleibt mir aus dem Aug',
Daß ich nicht dunkel sehe.
Du armes Herz, brich mir nicht
Vor allzugroßem Wehe!

I stood leaning against the mast
and counted every wave.
Adieu, my fair fatherland!
My ship, it sails so swiftly!

I passed my fair sweetheart's house,
the windowpanes flashing;
I almost stared my eyes out,
but no one waved to me.

You tears, stay away from my eyes,
for you make it too dark to see.
My sick heart, do not break
from this overwhelming grief.

(translation by Emily Ezust)


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