At a Glance
By intermingling well-known settings of Goethe's poetry with
unfamiliar ones, tonight's program offers a fresh approach to
famous words and characters.
We begin with Schubert's and Fanny Mendelssohn's songs to poems by
Marianne von Willemer, who was "Suleika" to Goethe's "Hatem" in an
anthology of poetry modeled on ancient Persian poems. Felix
Mendelssohn, who as a child visited Goethe, set one of his
sonnets—a woman's love letter—to music.
Wagner, the genius who transformed opera, wrote incidental music
for Faust, including "Gretchen am Spinnrade," as a
teenager. Two other Gretchen songs from Faust follow
on its heels: one by little-known 19th-century composer Hans
Sommer, and the other by Russian émigré to England Nicolas Medtner.
Beethoven is much better known, and we hear his version of Goethe's
beautiful poem hymning melancholy and pain as evidence of a feeling
heart. Hans Sommer's setting of one of the famous poems in the
German canon—"Wandrers Nachtlied II"—is next.
A miniature song by Hanns Eisler and a large concert aria by Ernst
Krenek (both exiles from Nazi Germany) are also on offer, with one
of 19th-century Romantic composer Max Bruch's last works in
Five songs—by Alphons Diepenbrock, Tchaikovsky, Wolf, and
Schumann—belong to the character Mignon, the tragic waif at the
heart of Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre.
Two songs, one by the famous Franz Liszt, the other by the not so
famous Walter Braunfels, are settings of extracts from the drama
Egmont, whose tragic heroine Klärchen sings several songs
in the drama, followed by a nocturnal song by Medtner, worthy of
inclusion with Schubert's, Schumann's, Liszt's, etc. settings of
this same poem.
The program closes with Hermann Reutter's song of Adam and Eve,
Manfred Trojahn's soliloquy by Helen of Troy from Goethe's
Faust, Part II, and another Braunfels setting of one of
Goethe's most passionate poems.