Singin' in the rain
Gene Kelly a Singin' in the rain (S. Donen & G. Kelly, 1952)
We are beginning the 2013-2014 season. If you have just returned from holiday, welcome back! What about opening September with one of our ten happiest Art Songs?

Emanuel Geibel is a poet known by Art Song lovers as one of the editors, together with Paul Heyse, of the Spanisches Liederbuch (Book of Spanish Songs), a compilation of Spanish poetry published on 1852 that inspired many songs to several composers, the most important of which was Hugo Wolf. Also, Robert Schumann selected ten poems to his Spanisches Liederspiel (Spanish Songs Spiel) and we already listened to Geistliches Wiegenlied by Brahms on this blog some months ago, which is a Geibel's translation of a poem by Lope de Vega.

The taste for exotic lands like Spain was not new and by 1843 Geibel had already published a first volume of translated Spanish poems, Volkslieder und Romanzen der Spanier (Folksongs and ballads from Spain) which also had been published earlier in literary magazines. Even earlier, in 1834, Geibel had published in his first collection of poetry, the poem chosen by Schumann to write Der Hidalgo in August 1840.

I haven’t been able to find the original Spanish poem but I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t exist at, because it's said that some of the poems that Geibel presented as translations were actually written by himself. The poem shows us an hidalgo, a nobleman, who is getting ready at sunset in search for love, a fight or both of them together in the streets of Seville; he is wearing both his sword and his mandolin and he graciously acknowledges that, at dawn, he would be wearing something red, either blood from his own wounds or roses from loving ladies. This nobleman is a sort of Don Giovanni but without his all negative connotations.

Are you wondering why this hidalgo is in the list of happy songs? Please, wait untill you listen to it. When I presented you that list I mentioned Gene Kelly, dancing soaked and elated in the famous scene of Singin' in the rain; That's the image that comes to my mind every time I hear this song and likewise I imagine Schumann dancing all around his house. That's why this week there isn’t a painting illustrating my post, in my opinion, there isn’t a better way to illustrate it.

And why this scene? Perhaps you remember we talked about the importance of the year 1840 in the life and work of Schumann. After five difficult years, eventually Schumann and Clara got married, once the Leipzig court consented to a marriage of that underage girl that her father had refused to grant. The sentence arrived in September the 1st. The very same day that Schumann wrote Der Hidalgo, as he wrote on the sheet. Isn't this a good reason to be euphoric?

Schuman wrote a sparkling song, linking skillfully and with elegance, in bolero rhythm, the two faces of the hidalgo, seducer and quarrelsome. The character is marked "etwas Kokett", literally, "a bit coquettish", but it’s difficult to imagine a coquettish nobleman... In this case, I would translate kokett as a self-assured and unconcerned man. In my opinion, the performers should give this song a light air and we should hear them smiling. Have a look at what the three first verses say: "It is so sweet to play with songs and with hearts and with serious war!" For me, this song is precisely that, a joke, a sweet play: the nobleman sings happily to every women and jokes with every men; in fact, his only real fight is with the pronunciation of "Sevilla" and "mantilla"... (I know… I’m being unfair here… it's so easy to me!)

Der Hidalgo hasn’t been recorded many times, and it's not usually sung in recitals either. I don't know the reasons; I think that it is, at least, an ideal encore; very theatrical, such a feel good song... a relaxing way of ending the recital?. I love this song. We'll be listening to it performed by Simon Keenlyside and Graham Johnson; I really hope you enjoy it.
Der Hidalgo 

Es ist so süss zu scherzen
Mit Liedern und mit Herzen
Und mit dem ernsten Streit!
Erglänzt des Mondes Schimmer,
Da treibt’s mich fort vom Zimmer,
Durch Platz und Gassen weit;
Da bin zur Lieb’ ich immer
Wie zum Gefecht bereit.

Die Schönen von Sevilla
Mit Fächern und Mantilla
Blicken den Strom entlang;
Sie lauschen mit Gefallen,
Wenn meine Lieder schallen
Zum Mandolinenklang,
Und dunkle Rosen fallen
Mir vom Balkon zum Dank.

Ich trage, wenn ich singe,
Die Zither und die Klinge
Vom Toledan’schen Stahl.
Ich sing an manchem Gitter
Und höhne manchen Ritter
Mit keckem Lied zumal,
Den Damen gilt die Zither,
Die Klinge dem Rival.

Auf denn zum Abenteuer!
Schon losch der Sonne Feuer
Jenseits der Berge aus.
Der Mondnacht Dämmrungsstunden,
Sie bringen Liebeskunden,
Sie bringen blut’gen Strauss,
Und Blumen oder Wunden
Trag’ morgen ich nach Haus.

It is so sweet to play
with songs and with hearts
and with serious war!
When the moon's gleam shines,
it draws me from my room
through the squares and streets;
For Love I am always
ready, just as I am for battle.

The fair ladies of Seville
with their fans and mantillas
gaze along the river;
they listen with pleasure
when my songs peal forth
to the strums of the mandoline.
And dark roses fall
to me in gratitude from the balconies.

I carry, when I sing,
the zither and the sword
of Toledo steel.
I sing at many grilles,
and sneer at many knights
many times with my bold song;
my zither is for the ladies,
my sword for my rival.

Off then, to adventure!
already the sun's fire has gone out;
it is on the other side of the mountains.
The twilight hours of moon-lit night
will bring tidings of love,
wll bring bloody combat;
and flowers or wounds
I will bear home tomorrow.

(translation by Emily Ezust)


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