"O is for orchestra? But you shared just a few songs with orchestra!" Well, that's the point. I realized when I chose the letter, and thought that our alphabet would give me a chance for self-examination. To begin with, how many different kinds of songs with orchestra are there? Let's see.
  • There are orchestral songs, without piano version (as far as I know). So my only options are to share them and not to share them. Of course, I share them, but, in fact, there aren't so many... For example, we listened to one of the Ernest Bloch's Poèmes d'Automne, or Richard Strauss' Hymnus.
  • Then we have the songs with two versions simultaneously published, with piano and with orchestral accompaniment; That meaning mostly Mahler, and I've posted often his orchestral songs. Sometimes it's because I especially liked the performance, for example the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau or the Kindertotenlieder with Kathleen Ferrier; Sometimes it's because of his great imagination and Mahler's mastery of the orchestration, I love three songs as different as Rheinlegendchen, Der Tambourg'sell or Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt.
  • There are songs originally written with orchestral accompaniment and arranged for piano by the composer. Which one to choose? It depends. I shared the orchestral performance of Toldra's La rosa als llavis that I have heard at the Palau de la Música Catalana just some days before I wrote the post. From the Five Mystical Songs, we heard a song with piano, Easter, and another one with orchestra, The Call. And some day we could listen to a third version written by Vaughan-Williams, with piano and string quintet.
  • There is a particular case of orchestral songs with a posterior piano version. When I talked about the Vier letzte Lieder, composed for orchestra, I shared... yes, the piano version, not even written by Strauss himself. Why should someone do that? That way other singers, not only sopranos, could sing them. Let's say... yes, a baritone; We listened to Beim schlafengehen beautifully sang by Konrad Jarnot. We listened later to September in its orchestral form (and in two different performances).
  • Finally, there are the lieder originally written for piano and orchestrated later, either by the same composer, or by someone else. I must admit that I'm a bit reluctant to share these orchestrated songs, but not because I'm a purist (then I wouldn't talk you about baritones that sing songs written for soprano). It's because, generally speaking, I don't think that they really improve the original (maybe that's not the aim of the orchestration). I just shared a Wolf's song orchestrated by himself, Harfenspieler III, out of a curiosity, I really prefer the piano version.

    Some Lieder by Strauss are often performed with orchestra (just in case you are interested, I wrote some notes on that subject, in Spanish). Unlike Wolf, he was not a great piano composer, and he's a much better composer for orchestra; however, his piano songs have something special, a charm that I miss when I listen to them with an orchestra (rarely at home, usually in concert). For example, the magical atmosphere created by the piano in Morgen is incomparable, no matter how beautiful is the violin obbligato in the orchestrated version. And the light steps of the elves that walk from flower to flower in Ständchen are blurred by the orchestra (although, in this case, I shared both versions, mostly because Wunderlich sang them).
  • One more particular case, this time of piano songs orchestrated at a later date. The Wesendonck Lieder are mostly performed in the orchestrated version; Felix Mottl knew Wagner's work very well and did a great job. I shared just one of these lieder, Im Treibhaus, with orchestra. With orchestra... and sung by a tenor, Jonas Kaufmann. By the way, he announced he's singing soon the Vier letzte Lieder, I hope we can listen to him here on Liederabend.
  • To try to redeem myself, I'll add that I recently talked about a recording with some new orchestrations of songs by Sibelius, written by Einojuhani Rautavaara; we listened to the two versions of Die stille Stadt.
Today we'll listening to Ich liebe dich, a Strauss' Lied orchestrated by himself in 1943, more than forty years after the composition (Ständchen's orchestration was made by Felix Mottl). We already listened to the piano version, which I think is a much more daring version: if the tenor can become a fanfare, who needs horns and trumpets? We will listen to Ich liebe dich with Piotr Beczala and Christian Tielemann conducting the Munich Philharmonic. And who knows, maybe someday I could even share with you an orchestrated song by Schubert...
Ich liebe dich

Vier adlige Rosse
Voran unserm Wagen,
Wir wohnen im Schlosse
In stolzem Behagen.
Die Frühlichterwellen
Und nächtens der Blitz,
Was all sie erhellen,
Ist unser Besitz.

Und irrst du verlassen,
Verbannt durch die Lande,
Mit dir durch die Gassen
In Armut und Schande!
Es bluten die Hände,
Die Füße sind wund,
Vier trostlose Wände,
Es kennt uns kein Hund.

Steht silberbeschlagen
Dein Sarg am Altar,
Sie sollen mich tragen
Zu dir auf die Bahr',
Und fern auf der Heide
Und stirbst du in Not,
Den Dolch aus der Scheide,
Dir nach in den Tod!

Four noble horses
 for our carriage,
 we live in the castle
 in proud comfort.
 The early brightness
 and the lightning at night -
 everything that they shed light upon
 belongs to us.
 Although you wander forsaken,
 an exile, through the world,
 I am with you in the streets
 in poverty and shame!
 Our hands will bleed,
 our feet will ache,
 the four walls will be without comfort,
 and no dog will know us.
 If, fitted with silver,
 your coffin will stand at the altar,
 they shall bear me as well
 on the bier to you.
 And if, far away on the heath,
 you die in anguish,
 I shall draw my dagger from its sheath
 and follow you in death! 

(translation by Emily Ezust)


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