Friday, December 14, 2012

SONGS ON THE DEATH OF CHILDREN

by Gustave Mahler

Thomas Hampson, baritone soloist 
with The Vienna Phulharmonic 
under the direction of Leonard Bernstein
In honor and loving memory of the victims 
of the senseless slaughter that took place 
Friday, December 14, 2012

"If you have tears, prepare to shed them now ..." 


SONGS ON THE DEATH OF CHILDREN

1. Now the sun will rise as brightly 
Now the sun will rise as brightly
as if no misfortune had occurred in the night.
The misfortune has fallen on me alone.
The sun - it shines for everyone.

You must not keep the night inside you;
you must immerse it in eternal light.
A little light has been extinguished in my household;
Light of joy in the world, be welcome.


2. Now I see well why with such dark flames 
Now I see well why with such dark flames
your eyes sparkled so often.
O eyes, it was as if in one full glance
you could concentrate your entire power.

Yet I did not realize - because mists floated about me,
woven by blinding fate -
that this beam of light was ready to be sent home
to that place whence all beams come.

You would have told me with your brilliance:
we would gladly have stayed near you!
But it is refused by Fate.

Just look at us, for soon we will be far!
What to you are only eyes in these days -
in future nights shall be stars to us.

3. When your mother steps into the doorway  
When your mother steps into the doorway
and I turn my head
to see her,
my gaze does not alight
first on her face,
but on the place
nearer to the threshhold;
there, where 
your dear face would be
when you would step in
with bright joy,
as you used to, my little daughter.

When your mother steps
into the doorway
with the gleam of a candle,
it always seems to me as if
you came in as well,
slipping in behind her,
just as you used to come into the room!
O you, a father's cell,
Alas! too quickly 
you extinguish the gleam of joy!


4. Often I think that they have only stepped out 
Often I think that they have only stepped out -
and that soon they will reach home again.
The day is fair - O don't be afraid -
They are only taking a long walk.

Yes: they have only stepped out
and will now return home.
O don't be anxious - the day is fair.
They are only taking a walk to those hills.

They have simply gone on ahead:
they will not wish to return home.
We'll catch up to them on those hills.
In the sunshine the day is fair.


5. In this weather, in this windy storm

In this weather, in this windy storm
I would never have sent the children out;
They were carried outside -
I could say nothing about it!

In this weather, in this roaring storm,
I would never have let the children out.
I was afraid they had falllen ill,
but these thoughts are now idle.

 In this weather, in this cruel storm,
 I would never have let the children out;
 I was worried they would die the next day -
 but this is now no concern.

 In this weather, in this cruel storm,
 I would never have sent the children out;
 They were carried outside -
 I could say nothing about it!

 In this weather, in this roaring, cruel storm,
 they rest as they did in their mother's house:
 they are frightened by no storm,
 and are covered by the hand of God.

~ § ~

[NOTE: Translation from German to English by Emily Ezust 
of original German text by Friedrich Rueckert (1788-1866)]

30 comments:

Thersites said...

Nothing like a remake. The opposite of Pi is to live in fear of the reaper... and to not catch a fever and start giving it more cowbell. ;)

Always On Watch said...

they rest as they did in their mother's house:
they are frightened by no storm,
and are covered by the hand of God.


Let it be so!

A beautiful post, FT.

As one who was herself briefly held hostage with the entire student body in a school when a teacher's estranged and physically-abusive husband went off the deep end, I again think how lucky we all were that day -- that the maniac did nothing but scream and wave around a rifle, then drive away. He had a good lawyer, who pled temporary insanity, so no accountability ever ensued. The teacher quit and went into hiding for years so as to get away from him.

Joe Conservative said...

We need to learn to live with the tiger. We can't give in to our fears, and lose our liberties in the process. Because the "keepers of the cage" AREN'T EVER giving up THEIR guns.

Ducky's here said...

Well Farmer, your "Well-Regulated Militia" shot up another school.
Please tell the children's parents you were "protecting their freedom".

-FJ said...

Ducky,

A mentally challenged young man just met his Richard Parker, and instead of learning to tame him, blew his brains out. It's a tragedy that 300 million sharp-clawed but de-fanged Americans living inside a tiger's cage can't and won't reverse.

FreeThinke said...

When we have no words, AOW, it's best to let great artists speak for us.

I know of no more eloquent evocation and outpouring of the kind of grief a loving parent must feel at the death of a child than these sings by Gustave Mahler.

I had hoped to find a video of the complete cycle sung either by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerard Suzay, or Thomas Allen, but none were available on YouTube.

Kathleen Ferrier, Maureen Forrester and Brigitte Fassbaender have each given a good account of these pieces, but I have always felt the poignancy of the Kindertotenlieder is better expressed when sung by a sensitive man.

The poems after all are written by a man (Friedrich Rueckert) from the masculine point of view.

Contemporary American culture mocks and scorns the sensitive, compassionate, considerate man foolishly regarding him as weak or effeminate. Sensitivity is no sign of weakness. Instead it is one of the essential components of Civilization.

If our culture had not grown so brutish, coarse and lacking in subtlety, it's likely we would not be seeing the sickening trend that regards it as Fashionable to commit wholesale slaughter of the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

~ FreeThinke

-FJ said...

Meerkat Island is floating away, ducky. But you keep promising to "pilot" us there. Have YOU ever been to Larissa?

-FJ said...

The "floating island" of Delos?

FreeThinke said...

Spare us your cheap polemics and feigned outrage, Canardo. This is no time -- and certainly no place -- to entertain the tub-thumping, grandstanding, strident histrionics of Marxists on the rampage.

Thomas Hampson and Leonard Bernstein's heartfelt performance Gustave Mahler's Songs on the Death of Children is the focus here today.

It may require some time -- and effort -- to appreciate what they have given us, and to show it the respect it has earned, but it would be time better spent than all the bitter denunciations born of impotent outrage, the showy handwringing, and the unbearably crass attempts to EXPLOIT profound tragedy for POLITICAL gain we see everywhere from the left.

Go grind your bloody axe over at Regressive Corruptions where Shaw Kenawe has already made a contemptible Feces Festival of of this tragic incident. Go revel in the dung -- where you belong. You're not welcome here today -- unless you behave like a gentleman.

~ FT

FreeThinke said...

"Often I think that they have only stepped out -
and that soon they will reach home again. ..."
the fourth of the set has always struck me as the most beautiful of the five. It is almost unbearably touching.

That a singer could perform it with such empathetic understanding as that displayed by Thomas Hampson and not break down in tears is one of the miraculous things about art on this high a level. It takes real guts to present so demanding a work as this -- to bare your soul before an audience who may or may not have the faintest idea of what you and Mahler are trying to say to them.

Performing artists who succeed in casting the kind of spell that draws audiences in and holds their attention while shedding light on challenging material ought to be recognized for the great heroes they are.

Thersites said...

Get your own lifeboat, duckman.

Thersites said...

...and yes, FT, a spell of magnetism lies in the performing artist's (rhapsode's) "rhetorical" net (Plato, "Ion").

Ducky's here said...

@Farmer --- A mentally challenged young man just met his Richard Parker, and instead of learning to tame him, blew his brains out. It's a tragedy that 300 million sharp-clawed but de-fanged Americans living inside a tiger's cage can't and won't reverse.
--------
Bull. A mentally challenged adolescent took his mother's guns, shot her and then executed another 25 people, mostly young children.

Now first thing I'm going to do is get down to realpolitik and point out that there are holes in the "well regulated" implementation.

Stop with the pop culture dog poop and suggest how we can deal with this issue without the twin bugaboo of the idiots who think more guns is the answer and the defeatists.

Maybe we can't stop the school shootings but maybe we can stop poor neighborhoods from being flooded with guns.
Maybe we back track and admit stand your ground laws aren't a good idea.

The most pathetic image of all after these horrors is the useless freaking SWAT teams running around swinging their big dicks and nobody calling out these clowns for what they are. Yet we are creating them in every small town thinking they keep us safe while the militarization of this culture proceeds apace.

We are a sorry people.

-FJ said...

Who knew that GUNS. and culture would lead to the first ever recorded murder of children in history....

oooops, it wasn't. How do you explain that duckman?

-FJ said...

How many kids did Herrod have killed? Pharoah? Hitler?

Hitler didn't need guns... he just gassed them.

-FJ said...

btw - So duckman, how many abortion infanticides did you help facilitate world wide this year? A million? Ten million?

When you have the answer, then we can decide whether a 2nd Amendment revisit should be in order.

Z said...

thank God for SWAT teams who have protected so many of us. It's a shame we need them so much.
If we stop taking heroes away from our children, if we stop the ridiculous video games where one shoots at the first thing around the corner, if we pay attention to mentally ill signs..............if only.
Take all guns away? How idealistically stupid and laughable.

Lieder bores me to tears, but the poetry is beautiful...poignant.

FreeThinke said...

Take my good advice:

Speak quietly. It helps to soothe the nerves.
Yelling –– any harshness –– is abrasive ––
An agitating force no one deserves
Denying peace, obnoxious and invasive.
Refresh the soul with calm, sweet introspection.
Opening the mind clears out the dross.
Find serenity under prayer’s direction.
Needs depart, as does the pain of loss,
Only when we lift our thoughts to Heaven.
Images of all that’s bright and clean
Transcend gloom and sagging spirits leaven,
As on the rock of Truth we safely lean.
Leave resentment, fear, distrust behind;
Endure with patience, and sweet peace you’ll find.


~ FreeThinke - 12/12/12

I didn't write that as either a joke or a stunt. The bitter ravings and agitated polemics are DESTRUCTIVE. They are not welcome here.

One of the first lessons we must learn -- and probably the hardest -- is to ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CANNOT CHANGE.

Personally, I'm fed up with anger, derision and righteous wrath. So, if you want to hang arujd here, GET WITH THE PROGRAM.

Have a Merry Christmas or ELSE!!! GOD DAMN IT! ;-)

~ FT

Waylon said...

"The most pathetic image of all after these horrors is the useless freaking SWAT teams running around swinging their big dicks and nobody calling out these clowns for what they are. Yet we are creating them in every small town thinking they keep us safe while the militarization of this culture proceeds apace."

Ducky, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in a while. But if private citizens are disarmed why do you think the SWAT teams wouldn't still come to any neighborhood to swing their "big dicks", which will be even bigger if there is no question that the citizenry is disarmed. Didn't you come across in your Communist Reader?

FreeThinke said...

"Lieder bores me to tears ..."

Well, that's your prerogative, dear Z. No one can command anyone to like something for which they may have no feeling. What we present here reflects the taste and judgment of the management. It's offered strictly on a take it or leave it basis.

These songs, while sober in the extreme, as they should be given the subject matter, are recognized as an important milestone in post-Romantic music literature, and considered by those who know and love classical music to be not only sublimely beautiful, but extraordinarily empathetic to those suffering grief at the death of loved ones.

These poems by Rueckert may deal specifically with the loss of children, but the sorrow they evoke applies universally to the loss of anyone precious and significant regardless of age or specific relationship.

"If a piece of the content washes away, Europe is the less ..."

Their parents, siblings and friends are certain to grieve the most, but in a very real sense ALL of us have suffered a great loss as result of this random act of violence.

Mahler never fails to express musical ideas that have universal significance to those who are receptive to style and intricacy of his unique creations.

~ FT



Finntann said...

And after repealing the second amendment, Ducky, think how much safer we will be after we repeal the first.

We can eliminate the religious aspects of violence by making us all one religion.

We can eliminate the temptation to violence when we eliminate free speech and prohibit violent movies, video games, and dissent.

No more riots when we prohibit assembly. Ah, think how easier a balanced budgt will be when we prohibit the redress of grievances.

Think how much money we can shave off the DoD budget by quartering troops in your home. Hanscom's nearby, isn't it?

Certainly if we want to ensure no guns, those prohibitions about unreasonable search and seizure need to go.

All HAIL The Iron Fist

You'll certainly be safer, won't you?



FreeThinke said...

Der Erlkoenig is highly dramatic, Thersites, an actual playlet involving three characters -- four if you count the galloping horse represented by the relentless, rapidly pounding accompaniment. The piano part provides the perfect atmosphere for the terrifying drama that plays itself out in the course of a just few minutes. Schubert was only seventeen when he wrote this masterpiece -- absolute proof he was one of the greatest of musical geniuses.

Mahler's Songs on the Death of Children approaches this kind of mortality from an entirely different perspective. The Kindertotenlieder are retrospective outpourings of anguish and deep regret. The Erlking places us in at the kill, as it were.

Fischer-Dieskau introduced me to the Erlking right after I left high school. I've never been the same since. His clear delineation of the earnest father, the terrified child, and the eerily vicious-yet-seductive Erlking is brilliant in its subtlety.

Bryn Terfel, a magnificent artist in his own rite, gives Fischer-Dieskau a run for his money with this opus. Women have insisted on singing it, but I've never heard one who could pull it off with aplomb.

The accompaniment is the most challenging in all song literature. It's an exhausting tour de force, and very difficult to play quietly enough to maintain the sense of urgency while not drowning out the singer.

~ FT

Thersites said...

the final Mahler piece made me think of it... although you're right about the disparity between the immediacy of events.

Thersites said...

The point that I was trying to make though, is that nothing the father could have done would have prevented the ehrlking from achieving his goal. Nothing.

To believe that we can control his access... is foolhardy.

FreeThinke said...

I can understand that association, Thersites, -- the agitation of Sturm und Drang pervades both the Schubert and the fifth song in this Mahler cycle.

The final song seems to me to represent the feelings of a grieving parent struggling with thoughts of guilt that perhaps he could have prevented the tragedy if only ... or possibly an attempt to rationalize his culpability?

Since you seem to believe satisfaction in life is derived primarily from acquiring power, think how hideous it must be for the man who has been suddenly deprived of his most precious possessions by circumstances completely beyond his control.

Mahler and Schubert both had an extraordinary capacity to empathize with devastating grief and to transform it into eloquent musical utterances of sublime beauty that evoke a similar degree of empathy in the sensitive, receptive listener.

It pained to be reminded anew that judy is not the reincarnation of Madeleine after all. ;-)

And A Cheery Good Season to You, Thersites!

~ FT

FreeThinke said...

HAH! You and I just wrote each other simultaneously.

Further proof that "Great minds think alike" -- at least some of the time.

Z said...

Sorry, I even speak German and most lieder's too dull for me.

And yes, our blogs reflect our tastes.......I took a risk saying that, didn't mean to offend or chastise or be churlish! I like almost every other musical genre but ukelele or bad mariachi, so....go figure. And I LOVE rock, as you know.

Glad you liked my trick of soaking bourbon in raisins for apple pie (just saw it at my food blog)..bourbon adds an amazing flavor to the pie! I hope you try it! xx

Z said...

by the way, I LOVE Wanger..RIENZI is my fave opera!

FreeThinke said...

If you love Wagner, Z, you might also love Mahler, whose work is heavily influenced by both Wagner and Richard Strauss. The contrapuntal use of leitmotivs in a context of rich chromatic harmonies and complex orchestral textures in all three are remarkably similar without really being the same.

The songs of Mahler bear a closer resemblance to the operas of Wagner and Strauss in many ways than they do to the lieder of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Hugo Wolf.

One of the things it's sometimes hard for singers to grasp is that the main interest often lies in the orchestral accompaniment and not so much in the vocal line. All three of these late-Romantic and post-Romantic composers used the voice as part of the orchestra.

Bach did that too -- used his soloists as an orchestral instrument -- although the forms Bach used and characteristic harmonies differ greatly from the later composers.

Nevertheless, all are branches of the same tree.

FreeThinke said...

If I were as wise and resourceful a cook as you, Z, I would keep two jars of raisins -- one soaked in Bourbon, as you suggested, and the other in Rum.

Raisins are an indispensable part of great cuisine, if used sparingly.

As I've written before, raisins, walnuts, apples and cranberries with a little butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar make a terrific Holiday Pie filling. If the raisins were soaked in Bourbon, I'm sure it would make it that much better.

Have a Joyful Christmas -- no matter what!