Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday Classics: And then came "Widmung"


In Clarence Brown's Song of Love (1947), Paul Henreid as Robert Schumann introduces the newly composed "Widmung" to Katharine Hepburn as Clara; later Henry Daniell as Liszt plays his version, and finally Clara has her turn with it. (All the piano-playing is by Arthur Rubinstein, whom we'll hear playing the Liszt version straight through in the click-through.)

by Ken

Among the great creative feats on record, I'm not sure that any surpasses what is often referred to as Robert Schumann's Year of Song, 1840, the year in which he married Clara Wieck, which we talked about back in April 2010. As Eric Sams has put it, "In the 12 months beginning 1 February 1 1840 he wrote over 160 vocal works, including at least 135 of the 246 solo songs in the complete Peters Edition."

Near the head of the list is the collection of 26 songs published as Schumann's Op. 25, Myrthen (myrtles -- "European evergreen shrubs with white or rosy flowers that are often used to make bridal wreaths"), which the composer presented to Clara as a wedding gift and of course dedicated to her. And at the head of Myrthen is "Widmung" ("Dedication"), the exhilarating song we previewed Friday night.

SCHUMANN: "Widmung" ("Dedication"), Op. 25, No. 1

Baritone Hermann Prey, with pianist Leonard Hokanson (1975)
German text by Friedrich Rückert

You my soul, you my heart,
you my joy, o you my pain,
you my world in which I live,
my heaven you in which I soar,
o you my grave in which
I have buried my sorrows forever.

You are rest; you are peace;
you were destined for me by heaven.
That you love me makes me feel worthy;
your glance has transfigured me;
you lift me, loving, above myself --
my good spirit, my better "I"!

You my soul, you my heart,
you my joy, o you my pain,
you my world, in which I live,
my heaven you, in which I soar --
my good spirit, my better "I"!

In the click-through we're going to have much more of and about "Widmung," and then, well, as I mentioned Friday night, it was a recital this past week by pianist Anne-Marie McDermott that set me to thinking about the song, in both its original form and the bravura solo-piano expansion of it created by Liszt. This is all leading up to my threatened reflections on that recital and an attempt to describe, if not explain, the effect Ms. McDermott's performance of the Liszt version had on me; more about that in the click-through.



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