Book XXXVII of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (illuminations completed c1480) - Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.

"Love, that moves the sun and the other stars."

I read this sentence somewhere when I was at school and I jotted it down in my notebook (yes, back then I already wrote in notebooks). Later, I found out that it was the last verse of Dante's Divine Comedy and it spoke about transcendent love. Still, damage was already done and the quote was engraved in that teenager's memory without further reflection, only for its beauty. Love moves the sun and the other stars and moves also poets to write verses (sometimes) so unforgettable as those of Dante; many of these poems became songs so it was just very easy to choose that word, love, to start a new series of songs.

As I explained last week, this series is an alphabet where each letter corresponds to a word that has been important to Liederabend. Among those twenty-five words, singers, composers and usual issues in songs or posts will be found. If we consider web position, they would be (more or less) our keywords. A is for "Amor", that's to say, for Love (I'm afraid the words first letters won't usually match those in Catalan or English). Don't think that all words were so easy to decide, sometimes the problem was to pick one among three or four, other times the problem was to find a single one. But now I have all of them!

We’ve listened to many love songs. We’ve heard about expectant, unconsolable, secret, deepest or silent loves; love like subtle electric fire or even green as lilacs love (and I chose seven songs from seven different composers). Of course today we're listening to one more love song, that would be... a love that looks into each other's eyes and stops the time. As an example. The author is the love songs composer par excellence (he hardly ever wrote about another subject), Richard Strauss, and I'm talking about Morgen, one of the best-known songs from his repertoire. No wonder, it's a great song. Besides being a love song, Morgen is a wedding gift, the last of Vier Lieder, Op. 27, composed in 1894 and given to Pauline de Ahna the day before their wedding. Pauline and Richard lived a long love story that lasted more than fifty years; probably it wasn't as a fairy tale but, who wants such a boring love story?

I chose Morgen to illustrate this post because of the story and also, because of something that Dorothea Röschmann told me when I interviewed her last summer, the day before her song recital at the Schubertiade Vilabertran. Talking about her pianists, she said that Malcolm Martineau didn't usually play complete songs during his rehearsals; those days they had rehearsed several times An eine Äolsharfe and she had not heard its postlude yet. And she added: "but pay attention tomorrow, because it will be magical" (not that I need much ecouragement to pay attention to every note that Martineau plays). She also explained that not playing the whole pieces had some advantages; for instance, during a rehearsal of Morgen for recording Portraits, she wasn't able to sing because she was too moved after listening to the prelude.

Next day, the postlude of An eine Äolsharfe was in fact magical; you could say that I was biased but my companions weren't, they didn't know about that conversation, and the first thing that one of them said after the concert was: "How wonderfully Martineau played the end of An eine Äolsharfe! " By a happy coincidence of agendas, Catalunya Música will broadcast that song recital on February 16th at 20 pm, please don't miss it! (we listened to the studio recording when I made the introduction to the SV15). And today, we're listening, needless to say, to Dorothea Röschmann and Malcolm Martineau performing Morgen.

Strauss creates a very special atmosphere in this song that reminds me somehow what Schumann gets in Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, and he does it, as Schumann, with only the first measures of the piano; the prelude transports us and we won't come back until the piano, smoothly, brings us back to reality. Strauss perfectly describes the feelings of the lovers with the accompaniment. Lovers who only need to look at each other and enjoy silently their happiness. I hope you’ll like the version, even if you prefer the orchestral version that Strauss made some years later. To be honest with you, I fully understand that Dorothea Röschmann was moved when she listened to the prelude.

Within a few weeks we will have a post with the second letter of the alphabet. Guess which word it is, I'm sure you'll get it right (same first letter both in Catalan and English).
Und morgen wird die Sonne wieder scheinen
und auf dem Wege, den ich gehen werde,
wird uns, die Glücklichen sie wieder einen
inmitten dieser sonnenatmenden Erde…
und zu dem Strand, dem weiten, wogenblauen,
werden wir still und langsam niedersteigen,
stumm werden wir uns in die Augen schauen,
und auf uns sinkt des Glückes stummes Schweigen...
And tomorrow the sun will shine again,
and on the path I will take,
it will unite us again, we happy ones,
upon this sun-breathing earth...
And to the shore, the wide shore with blue waves,
we will descend quietly and slowly;
we will look mutely into each other's eyes
and the silence of happiness will settle upon us.

(translation by Emily Ezust)


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