There is no Lied without a poem. Stating the obvious, I know, but sometimes we forget it, and so do forget also how important knowing the poem is. If that "we" refers only to listeners, well, it is our problem; it’s up to us to enjoy a recital by just focusing on the music or instead, also immerse ourselves in the poem. But everything changes if the programmers or the artists forget about the poems, because they prevents us, the audience, from choosing.

Weekly, we enjoy a micro-recital, just one song on Liederabend, and every week I share the poem so as you can choose. That's why in our alphabet, T is for translations: since the poem is often written in a language we don’t master, a translation is needed. It's a delicate subject; If the translation of a literary text, overall, is complicated (you know, traduttore, traditore), with poetry the complications push boundaries to the extend that many people only read poetry in its original language. We need translations, as we have discussed so many times, so not translating it is not an option. Ideally, translations should be literary ones, but I hardly ever have them (I mean, sometimes I have at home literary translations of our poems, but into Catalan), so those translations I suggest are purely functional. That is, there are useful to know roughly what the poem says, but other important aspects such as metrics, rhyme or alliterations are lost. This is how Liederabend works and that's how it works in almost every recital I attend (for this reason, among others, we should always have the original version of the poem too). We're supposed to translate only to our own language, so I'm very grateful to Emily Ezust and all the translators that allow me to use their English translations on this website.

Right now, you're reading my post English version, that meaning that you're reading a translation from my original Catalan post. In fact, not a translation per se, but a roughly version of the original (precisely this week, both versions are quite different). I don't think I’ve never told you why I write in two languages, this is a good moment to explain. During my first year on Liederabend I only posted in Catalan; some friends tried to read my articles in English by using an automatic translator, and it was frustrating. Or really funny, depending on the day. They asked me to write in English too and, honestly, I refused, basically for two reasons: my English was not that good and all in all, it meant much more work. Of course, I kept to myself this second reason and their answer to the first one was: sure your English can't be worse than the automatic translation. They smashed all my arguments and I began to post in two languages. In those days, I still worked with Blogger which didn't have any multilingual options, so I had to create a second blog linked to the first one... that's another, long, technical story.

Sometimes, even the composers use translations. For example, we heard Schumann's version of the well known Kennst du das Land, one of Mignon's poems, and Duparc's song from its French version, by Victor Wilder; From another of the Wilhelm Meister's songs, Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt, we heard the German version by Schubert and that of Tchaikovsky, from the Russian translation by Lev Mei. Today, we're also listening to a song composed after a translation. In 1927, Joseba Arregi, an engineer who had studied and lived in Germany, published Heine'ren Olerkiak, a collection of poems by Heine translated into the Basque language. Shortly after, in 1929, Pablo Sorozábal musicalized seven of them, including Lotoren lorak (Die Lotosblume). This is our song today; I am afraid I don't have an English translation of the Basque text, but since we already heard Schumann's song a while ago, I'll use the same translation from German into English I used back then...

Sorozábal orchestrated his songs in 1957; I'm sharing this last version of Lotoren lorak, performed by Maite Arruabarrena and the Basque National Orchestra, conducted by Cristian Mandeal.

Lotoren Lorak
Eguzkiaren argi izpipean
Lotoren lorak min dauko
Bere burua makurtzen daula
Gabaren begira dago.

Maitalea den gabeko izarrak
Iratzartzen du lorea,
Ta agertzen dio poliki poliki
Bere aurpegi leleun leuna.

Ta dizdiratsu zabalten dela
Muturik dago lorea
Begiak goruntz malkoz beterik
Maitasun garrak hartuta.

The lotus flower is anxious
In the Sun's radiance,
And with hanging head
Waits, dreaming, for Night.

The moon, who is her lover,
Awakens her with his light,
And for him she smilingly unveils
Her innocent flower-face.

She blooms and glows and gleams
And gazes silently upwards;
She sends forth fragrance, and weeps and trembles,
With love and love's torment.

(translation by Lawrence Snyder)


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