Adorazione dei Magi - Andrea Mantegna
Adorazione dei Magi - A. Mantegna
My dearest, happy 2016! This is my first post this year and the third during Christmas Time, advanced to Tuesday because tomorrow is Three Kings' Day. Today, it is a good day to reread (relisten, in our case) Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or What You Will, a play which, if I'm not wrong, was written in 1600 to be represented precisely on that night when the Twelve Days of Christmas are over. Twelfth Night is a charming comedy with the usual love affairs and their happy end. Among so many gentlemen and ladies in love, there is a character that keeps out it and watches; it's a Clown, who during the play sings five pieces that eventually, became songs thanks to composers like Korngold, Quilter, Vaughan Williams and Sibelius. In fact, we could spend a few years listening to one of those songs every Twelfth Night. Three years ago, we listened to Come away, death by Erich Korngold and today we're listening to the same poem musicalized by Jean Sibelius, to close our mini tribute to the composer in the 150th anniversary of his birth.

In 1909, the Swedish translation of Twelfth Night, Trettondagsafton (by Carl Harberger) was played. Sibelius wrote incidental music for the play; according to the Sibelius Edition published by BIS, there were only two pieces, two songs that a baritone performed on stage with guitar accompaniment. I don't know if any other composer wrote more incidental music for that play, it's unusual that it was so short. Anyway, the point is that those two songs were published by Sibelius in a transcription for voice and piano as opus 60; they were Kom nu hit, Död (Come away, death), the second song of Clown, and Hållilå, uti storm ach i reign (For the rain, it raineth every day), the last one, that ends the play. Many years later, in 1957, the composer made an arrangement for voice, harp and strings; it was his last work, premiered on 14th June, three months before his death, on September 20th.

As I said when I talked about Korngold's song, the verses are misleading if we take them out of context. The clown sings the song at Orsino’s request, Duke of Illyria, who suffers lovesickness. The clown, as it usually happens in plays, is intelligent enough to realize that the situation is not that bad. When the Duke asks him to go because he wants be left alone with his sorrows, the clown says ironically "Now, the melancholy God protect thee; and the tailor make thy doublet of changeable taffeta, for thy mind is a very opal." That's to say, no matter how sad the song is, you shouldn't be because they aren't. We're listening to Kom nu hit, död performed by Jorma Hynninen and Ralf Gothóni.

Twelfth Night begins with these verses:
If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again!
I hope the new year brings you all your wishes and lots of music; it has not been proved that music can be taken in excess nor our appetite gets sicken.
Kom nu hit, död

Kom nu hit, kom nu hit, död!
I krusflor förvara mig väl;
Hasta bort, hasta bort, nöd!
Skön jungfrun har tagit min själ.
Med svepning och buxbom på kistans lock
Håll dig färdig;
Mång trogen har dött, men ingen dock
Så värdig.

Ingen ros, ingen ros, då
Månde strös på mitt svarta hus;
Ingen vän, ingen vän, må
Störa hvilan i jordens grus.
Mig lägg, för tusen suckars skull,
Åt en sida,
Der ej älskande se min mull
Och kvida.

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid.
Fly away, fly away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
 Did share it.

Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strown.
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown.
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
 To weep there!

(William Shakespeare)



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