Last weekend I was reflecting on my progress as a practitioner for my end of year critical commentary. One of the area of my practice that I want to improve upon over this next year is : Repertoire and contextual analysis.
In order to improve this, I have started a project which will entail, analysis of texts, research into Historical eras as well as researching into composers lives and possible influences on a compositions. I feel this research will give me even more to imagine about when I perform my pieces in order to give an exciting performance.
In this piece I will be focusing on a piece called ‘O Lieb’ by Liszt.
At first I created a word by word translation of the German Text and then I created my own poetic English translation:
Oh love, Oh love as long as you can!
Oh love, Oh love as long as you wish!
The hour will come, when you will stand by graves and mourn.
And worry, that your heart glows,
And cares for and carries love,
So long as his, a different heart beats lovingly in reply.
And whoever opens their heart to you.
Oh to him, love as much as you can!
And make each of his hour’s happy
And make no moment dull for him
And look after your happy tongue,
Too soon a bad word can be said
Oh God, even if it was not said with bad intentions
It can cause the other to leave and cry.
Oh Love, oh love as long as you can!
Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810-76) wrote the original German poem in 1845. In 1838, he wrote his first poems, ‘Gedichte’. The popularity of these poems enabled him to leave his career at the Bank as he received a pension from the Prussian King Frederick William IV. However in 1844, Freiligrath renounced his pension in order to release a collection of radical, political poetry. This publication exposed him to political persecution and Freiligrath fled Germany only to return in the last years of his life.
Franz Liszt (1811-86) was a virtuosic pianist, conductor and composer. Often Liszt’s Lieder can be found in two or more versions. In a letter to Josef Dessauer, Liszt wrote “Meine früheren Lieder sind moistens zu aufgebläht sentimental, und häufig zu vollgepropft in der Begleitung.” (My earlier songs are often too inflatedly sentimental, and frequently too overladen in the accompaniment). The later editions tend to be more serious, and the melody tries to match the syllabic rhythms of the text more. This song was later arranged for solo piano under the new title ‘Liebesträume’.
In this video the famous German actress and singer Marlene Dietrich recites the poem ‘O Lieb’ alongside Maximilian Schell who was a Swiss film and stage actor who later filmed extensive autobiographies of Dietrich. An interesting fact about Dietrich is that when her daughter was doing a Circus Benefit show in Madison Garden (1953) and all the famous stars were sitting on elephant backs, she asked if instead she could be the ring master. This fashion concept was then highlighted by Vogue and could be the inspiration for modern short shorts! 🙂
This video is really interesting as it shows the power of the text at the end of the clip. Where Dietrich appears lost for words. At the end I can roughly translate her words to:
“I know it might be considered a cheesy poem, but my mother loved it very much.
Maybe too sentimental nowadays…maybe.”
Her uneven spoken tone and possible whimpers could demonstrate how powerful these texts can effect peoples lives.
Here is one of my favorite recordings of the piece by the wonderful Diana Damrau. I would love to hear her perform live.