Performing this Week

Susan Graham
Susan Graham

Paul Groves
Paul Groves

Tara Helen O’Connor
Tara Helen O’Connor

Allan Vogel
Allan Vogel

Todd Levy
Todd Levy

Christopher Millard
Christopher Millard

Julie Landsman
Julie Landsman

William Preucil
William Preucil

Jennifer Frautschi
Jennifer Frautschi

Teng Li
Teng Li

Eric Kim
Eric Kim

Marji Danilow
Marji Danilow

Jeremy Denk
Jeremy Denk

David Tolen
David Tolen

David Zinman
David Zinman

WFMT Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival

Summer 2011 — Program 14

During the summer of 2010, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham became the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival's first Artist-in-Residence. During her residency, she and tenor Paul Groves sang in a rare chamber rendition of Mahler's masterful Das Lied von der Erde, or "Song of the Earth." Conductor David Zinman led the ensemble that included the two soloists and a small chamber orchestra.

That performance reigned as one of the great highlights of the Festival's season, but at 65 minutes in length it was too long to include in any of the one-hour programs from our regular series of Festival radio concerts. So, here is a little "lagniappe", a little something extra. Show #14 of our thirteen-week series features this very special performance of Das Lied von der Erde. It's available for free to stations as a continuation of the series, or as a one-time broadcast.

In 1907, three catastrophes permanently changed Mahler's life: the death of his beloved elder daughter, Maria, from scarlet fever; his resignation from the directorship of the Vienna Court Opera partly as a result of anti-Semitic press campaigns against him; and the diagnosis of a heart condition that seriously curtailed his activities. In the space of a few weeks, Mahler lost nearly everything: a child, his job, and his own future. At this moment of great personal loss, Mahler struggled to regain a hold on life. In a letter to his protégé, the conductor Bruno Walter, he wrote: "Let me tell you...that I found myself face to face with nothingness and now at the end of my life I am having to learn from the beginning how to walk and stand up."

But "stand up" he did... He moved with his family to New York where he became the Musical Director of the Metropolitan Opera; and, he took long creative breaks in Europe conducting and composing. In 1908, while on a summer retreat in the Dolomites, he began composing Das Lied von der Erde, turning for inspiration to a book called The Chinese Flute, an anthology of 83 ancient Chinese poems loosely translated into German by Hans Bethge. Mahler was entranced by these 8th-century verses and the way they evoked the spectrum of human experience: life's keenest pleasures, and sharpest losses.

At a time when Mahler's works were either reviled or at best, ignored, Arnold Schoenberg championed his music. In 1919, he established the 'Society for Private Musical Performances,' a sort of house concert series, for which he would make chamber arrangements of music that required symphonic forces. One of these works was an unfinished chamber arrangement of Das Lied von der Erde, which the German composer and conductor, Rainer Riehn completed in 1983. The transparency of this arrangement for smaller forces permits more vocal color for the two soloists because they're not having to push quite so much sound out against a huge orchestra. As a result, there is a warm and immediate sense of intimacy.

See below for the texts to Das Lied von der Erde, some audio excerpts of Susan Graham talking about the work and her experience in Santa Fe, as well as a few other related tangents we like to call "web extras."

Ewig, ewig...

Louise Frank
Series Producer

PS - These nationally syndicated radio concerts of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival can be heard in the Chicago area Saturdays at 5pm, from April through June 2011, on 98.7 WFMT. You can also listen anywhere there's Internet. WFMT provides free, live streaming at wfmt.com and via a free, downloadable app for your iPhone.

Gustav Mahler, at the time of his First Symphony

Gustav Mahler, at the time of his First Symphony (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

GUSTAV MAHLER

Das Lied von der Erde (1908)

  • Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
  • Paul Groves, tenor
  • Chamber Orchestra comprised of Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival musicians: Tara Helen O'Connor, flute, piccolo; Allan Vogel, oboe; Todd Levy, clarinet; Stephen Ahearn, bass clarinet; Christopher Millard, bassoon; Julie Landsman, horn; William Preucil & Jennifer Frautschi, violins; Teng Li, viola; Eric Kim, cello; Marji Danilow, bass; Jeremy Denk, piano; Craig Kier, harmonium, celesta; David Tolen & Gregg Koyle, percussion
  • David Zinman, conductor

 

If I am to find the way back to myself again, I must surrender to the horrors of loneliness. But fundamentally I am only speaking in riddles, for you do not know what has been and still is going on in me; but it is certainly not that hypochondriac fear of death, as you suppose. I had already realized that I shall have to die. But without trying to explain or describe you something for which there are perhaps no words at all, I'll just tell you that at a blow I have simply lost all the clarity and quietude I ever achieved...and now at the end of life am again a beginner who must find his feet.

— Gustav Mahler, 1908, in a letter to Bruno Walter

 

Schoenberg self portrait

Arnold Schoenberg was a great champion of Mahler and his music. Schoenberg created this self-portrait in 1921, around the same time he began reworking Mahler's orchestral score for Das Lied von der Erde for a more intimate ensemble.

This is Rainer Riehn, who completed the chamber rendition of Das Lied von der Erde in 1983.

This is Rainer Riehn, who completed the chamber rendition of Das Lied von der Erde in 1983.

It's a strange thing! when I hear music -- even while I am conducting -- I hear quite positive answers to my questions, and feel perfectly clear and confident. Or rather, I feel quite clearly that there are no questions...

— Gustav Mahler

 

L to R: Jeremy Denk, pn;William Preucil, vln; Jennifer Frautschi, vln; Teng Li, vla; David Zinman, cond;  Eric Kim, vc; MarjiDaniow, cb; Paul Groves, tenor; Gregg Koyle, perc; Allan Vogel, ob; Michael Thornton, hn; Todd Levy, cl; Christopher Millard, bsn

L to R: Jeremy Denk, pn;William Preucil, vln; Jennifer Frautschi, vln; Teng Li, vla; David Zinman, cond;  Eric Kim, vc; MarjiDaniow, cb; Paul Groves, tenor; Gregg Koyle, perc; Allan Vogel, ob; Michael Thornton, hn; Todd Levy, cl; Christopher Millard, bsn

Susan Graham

Susan Graham on stage at the St. Francis Auditorium, talking about singing the Mahler for the first time.

"In the blink of an eye, in one chord change, it goes from dark despair into light." … Susan Graham on Das Lied von der Erde.

 

Susan Graham said it was a great honor to be the first Artist-in-Residence at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival... and a lot of fun!

 

L to R: Teng Li, vla; David Zinman, cond; Eric Kim, vc; MarjiDanilow, cb; Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Gregg Koyle, perc; Allan Vogel, ob; Michael Thornton, hn; Todd Levy, cl; Christopher Millard, bsn

L to R: Teng Li, vla; David Zinman, cond; Eric Kim, vc; MarjiDanilow, cb; Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Gregg Koyle, perc; Allan Vogel, ob; Michael Thornton, hn; Todd Levy, cl; Christopher Millard, bsn

It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful.

— Benjamin Britten, 1937, after hearing "Der Abschied"

 

"Schoenberg was of course a great, great fan of Mahler..." observes Christopher Millard as he shares his insights about this intimate chamber rendition of Mahler's score.

 

Christopher Millard is the Principal Bassoonist of the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Canada, and in his spare time, as he puts it, "a fairly expert instrument repairman." He also creates an interesting podcast in which he explores the world of orchestral music and its great composers.

 

Clarinetist Todd Levy is the Principal Clarinet of the Milwaukee Symphony, and during the summer months, the Santa Fe Opera orchestra, too. He has great respect for the human voice.

 

L to R: William Preucil, vln; Jennifer Frautschi, vln; Teng Li, vla; Eric Kim, vc; David Zinman, cond; Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Paul Groves, tenor

L to R: William Preucil, vln; Jennifer Frautschi, vln; Teng Li, vla; Eric Kim, vc; David Zinman, cond; Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano; Paul Groves, tenor

Mahler's writing hut in South Tyrol.

Mahler's writing hut in South Tyrol.


The writer and broadcaster Gavin Plumley goes in search of the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler.

A Chinese dignitary seeking inspiration in music

A Chinese dignitary seeking inspiration in music

Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde
(after Li-Tai-Po)

The Drinking Song of the Earth’s Sorrow

Schon winkt der Wein im goldnen Pokale,
Doch trinkt noch nicht, erst sing ich euch ein Lied!
Das Lied vom Kummer
Soll auflachend in die Seele euch klingen.
Wenn der Kummer naht,
Liegen wüst die Gärten der Seele,
Welkt hin und stirbt die Freude, der Gesang.
Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Tod.

Already the wine beckons in the golden goblet,
But don’t drink yet—first, I’ll sing you a song!
The song of sorrow
Will resound laughingly in your soul.
When sorrow draws near,
The gardens of the soul lie desolate,
Joy and song wilt and die away.
Dark is life, dark is death.

Herr dieses Hauses!
Dein Keller birgt die Fülle des goldenen Weins!
Hier, diese Laute nenn’ ich mein!
Die Laute schlagen und die Gläser leeren,
Das sind die Dinge, die zusammen passen.
Ein voller Becher Weins zur rechten Zeit
Ist mehr wert, als alle Reiche dieser Erde!
Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Tod.

Master of this house!
Your cellar is full of golden wine!
Here, this lute I call my own!
Strumming the lute and emptying glasses&mash;
these are the things that go together.
A full glass of wine at the right time
is worth more than all the riches of the world!
Dark is life, dark is death.

Das Firmament blaut ewig und die Erde
Wird lange fest stehn und aufblühn im Lenz.
Du aber, Mensch, wie lang lebst denn du?
Nicht hundert Jahre darfst du dich ergötzen
An all dem morschen Tande dieser Erde!

The firmament is forever blue, and the earth
Will stand fast for a long time and bloom in spring.
But you, Man, how long will you live?
Not a hundred years are you allowed to revel
In all the rotting trinkets of this earth!

Seht dort hinab! Im Mondschein auf den Gräbern
Hockt eine wildgespenstische Gestalt!
Ein Aff ist’s!
Hört ihr, wie sein Heulen
Hinausgellt in den süssen Duft des Lebens!
Jetzt nehmt den Wein! Jetzt ist es Zeit, Genossen!
Leert eure goldnen Becher zu Grund!
Dunkel ist das Leben, ist der Tod!

Look down there! In the moonlight, on the graves
Crouches a wild, ghostly figure!
It is an ape!
Do you hear how its howling
Shrieks out into the sweet fragrance of life!
Now take the wine! Now is the time, companions!
Empty your golden goblets to the dregs!
Dark is life, dark is death!

Der Einsame im Herbst
(after Chang-Tsi)

The Lonely Man in Autumn

Herbstnebel wallen bläulich überm See;
Vom Reif bezogen stehen alle Gräser;
Man meint, ein Künstler habe Staub von Jade
Über die feinen Blüten ausgestreut.

Bluish autumn mists swell over the lake;
Covered with rime stand all the grasses;
It’s as if an artist had strewn jade dust
Over the delicate blossoms.

Der süsse Duft der Blumen ist verflogen;
Ein kalter Wind beugt ihre Stengel nieder.
Bald werden die verwelkten, goldnen Blätter
Der Lotosblüten auf dem Wasser ziehn.

The sweet fragrance of flowers has faded;
a cold wind bows low their stems.
Soon the withered golden leaves
Of lotus flowers will drift upon the water.

Mein Herz ist müde. Meine kleine Lampe
Erlosch mit Knistern; es gemahnt mich an den Schlaf.
Ich komm zu dir, traute Ruhestätte!
Ja, gib mir Ruh, ich hab Erquickung not!

My heart is weary. My small lamp
went out with a sputter; it puts me in mind of sleep.
I come to you, beloved resting place!
Yes, give me rest—I need to be refreshed.

Ich weine viel in meinen Einsamkeiten.
Der Herbst in meinem Herzen währt zu lange.
Sonne der Liebe, willst du nie mehr scheinen,
Um meine bittern Tränen mild aufzutrocknen?

I weep much in my loneliness.
The autumn in my heart has lasted too long.
Sun of love, will you never shine again,
And tenderly dry my bitter tears?

Von der Jugend
(after Li-Tai-Po)

Of Youth

Mitten in dem kleinen Teiche
Steht ein Pavillon aus grünem
Und aus weißem Porzellan.

In the middle of the small pond
Stands a pavilion of green
And white porcelain.

Wie der Rücken eines Tigers
Wölbt die Brücke sich aus Jade
Zu dem Pavillon hinüber.

Like the back of a tiger
The bridge of jade arches
Over to the pavilion.

In dem Häuschen sitzen Freunde,
Schön gekleidet, trinken, plaudern,
Manche schreiben Verse nieder.

In the little house friends are sitting,
Beautifully dressed, drinking, chatting;
Some are writing down verses.

Ihre seidnen Ärmel gleiten
RückwaÅNrts, ihre seidnen Mützen
Hocken lustig tief im Nacken.

Their silken sleeves slide
Backwards, their silken caps
Perch gaily deep on their necks.

Auf des kleinen Teiches stiller
Wasserfläche zeigt sich alles
Wunderlich im Spiegelbilde.

On the small pond’s still
Surface, all things are reflected
wondrously in a mirror image.

Alles auf dem Kopfe stehend
In dem Pavillon aus grünem
Und aus weißem Porzellan.

Everything is standing on its head
in the pavilion of green
and white porcelain.

Wie ein Halbmond steht die Brücke,
Umgekehrt der Bogen. Freunde,
Schön gekleidet, trinken, plaudern.

Like a half-moon stands the bridge,
its arch inverted. Friends,
beautifully dressed, are drinking and chatting.

Von der Schönheit
(after Li-Tai-Po)

Of Beauty

Junge Mädchen pflücken Blumen,
Pflücken Lotosblumen an dem Uferrande.
Zwischen Büschen und Blättern sitzen sie,
Sammeln Blüten in den Schoß und rufen
Sich einander Neckereien zu.

Young girls pick flowers,
Pick lotus flowers at the edge of the shore.
Among bushes and leaves they sit,
Gathering blossoms in their laps and calling

Goldne Sonne webt um die Gestalten,
Spiegelt sie im blanken Wasser wider.
Sonne spiegelt ihre schlanken Glieder,
Ihre süssen Augen wider,
Und der Zephyr hebt mit Schmeichelkosen
Das Gewebe ihrer Ärmel auf,
Führt den Zauber ihrer Wohlgerüche durch die Luft.

To one another teasingly.
Golden sunlight weaves around the figures,
Mirroring them in the glistening water.
The sun reflects their slender limbs,
Their sweet eyes,
And a Zephyr caressingly lifts
The fabric of their sleeves,
Carrying the magic
Of their perfume through the air.

O sieh, was tummeln sich für schöne Knaben
Dort an dem Uferrand auf mut’gen Rossen,
Weithin glänzend wie die Sonnenstrahlen;
Schon zwischen dem Geäst der grünen Weiden
Trabt das jungfrische Volk einher!

O look, handsome lads are galloping
Over there along the shore on their spirited horses,
Glittering from afar like sunbeams;
And among the branches of the green willows
The fresh-faced boys come trotting along!

Das Roß des einen wiehert fröhlich auf
Und scheut und saust dahin;
Über Blumen, Gräser, wanken hin die Hufe,
Sie zerstampfen jäh im Sturm die hingesunknen Blüten.
Hei! Wie flattern im Taumel seine Mähnen,
Dampfen heiß die Nüstern!

The horse of one of them whinnies merrily
And shies and rushes away;
Over flowers, grasses hooves go flying,
And in the tumult recklessly trample fallen blossoms.
Hey! How wildly his mane streams,
How hotly his nostrils steam!

Goldne Sonne webt um die Gestalten,
Spiegelt sie im blanken Wasser wider.
Und die schönste von den Jungfraun sendet
Lange Blicke ihm der Sehnsucht nach.
Ihre stolze Haltung ist nur Verstellung.
In dem Funkeln ihrer großen Augen,
In dem Dunkel ihres heißen Blicks,
Schwingt klagend noch die Erregung ihres Herzens nach.

The golden sun weaves around the figures,
Mirroring them in the glistening water.
And the fairest of the maidens sends
Long, yearning looks his way.
Her proud bearing is only a pretense.
In the flash of her large eyes,
In the darkness of her ardent gaze
Resonates—lamenting—the agitation of her heart.

Der Trunkene im Frühling
(after Li-Tai-Po)

The Drunkard in Spring

Wenn nur ein Traum das Leben ist,
Warum denn Müh und Plag?
Ich trinke, bis ich nicht mehr kann,
Den ganzen, lieben Tag!

If life is only a dream,
Why then all this effort?
I’ll drink until I can drink no more,
The whole day long!

Und wenn ich nicht mehr trinken kann,
Weil Kehl and Seele voll,
So tauml’ ich bis zu meiner Tür
Und schlafe wundervoll!

And when I can drink no more,
Because my stomach and soul are full,
I’ll stagger to my door
And sleep most wonderfully!

Was hör ich beim Erwachen? Horch!
Ein Vogel singt im Baum.
Ich frag ihn, ob schon Frühling sei,
Mir ist als wie im Traum.

What do I hear when I awake? Listen!
A bird is singing in the tree.
I ask him whether it is spring yet—
It feels like I’m dreaming.

Der Vogel zwitschert: Ja!
Der Lenz ist da, sei kommen über Nacht!
Aus tiefstem Schauen lauscht’ ich auf,
Der Vogel singt und lacht!

The bird twitters: Yes!
Spring is here; it came overnight!
In deepest wonder I listen,
And the bird sings and laughs!

Ich fülle mir den Becher neu
Und leer ihn bis zum Grund
Und singe, bis der Mond erglänzt
Am schwarzen Firmament!

I fill my goblet again
And drain it to the bottom
And sing until the moon appears
On the black firmament!

Und wenn ich nicht mehr singen kann,
So schlaf ich wieder ein,
Was geht denn mich der Frühling an!?
Laßt mich betrunken sein!

And when I can sing no more,
I fall asleep again.
What do I care about spring?!
Let me stay drunk!

Der Abschied
(after Mong-Kao-Jen)

The Farewell

Die Sonne scheidet hinter dem Gebirge.
In alle Täler steigt der Abend nieder
Mit seinen Schatten, die voll Kühlung sind.
O sieh! Wie eine Silberbarke schwebt
Der Mond am blauen Himmelssee herauf.
Ich spüre eines feinen Windes Wehn
Hinter den dunklen Fichten!

The sun disappears behind the mountains.
Evening descends into every valley
With cooling shadows.
Look! Like a silver boat,
The moon floats up on the blue lake of the sky.
I feel the blowing of a delicate breeze
Behind the dark fir trees!

Der Bach singt voller Wohllaut durch das Dunkel.
Die Blumen blassen im Dämmerschein.
Die Erde atmet voll von Ruh und Schlaf,
Alle Sehnsucht will nun träumen.
Die müden Menschen gehn heimwärts,
Um im Schlaf vergeß’nes Glück
Und Jugend neu zu lernen!
Die Vögel hocken still in ihren Zweigen.
Die Welt schläft ein!

The brook sings melodiously through the darkness.
The flowers pale in the twilight.
The earth breathes, full of peace and sleep,
And all yearning now wants to dream.
Weary mortals are homeward bound,
So that, in sleep, Forgotten happiness and youth they might learn anew!
The birds perch quietly in their branches.
The world is falling asleep!

Es wehet kühl im Schatten meiner Fichten.
Ich stehe hier und harre meines Freundes;
Ich harre sein zum letzten Lebewohl.
Ich sehne mich, o Freund, an deiner Seite
Die Schönheit dieses Abends zu genießen.
Wo bleibst du? Du läßt mich lang allein!
Ich wandle auf und nieder mit meiner Laute
Auf Wegen, die vom weichen Grase schwellen.
O Schönheit! O ewigen Liebens-,
Lebenstrunk’ne Welt!

There is a cool breeze in the shade of my firs.
Here I stand and wait for my friend;
I wait to bid him a last farewell.
I yearn, my friend, to be at your side
To savor the beauty of this evening.
Where do you tarry? You leave me alone so long!
I wander up and down with my lute,
On paths swelling with soft grass.
O beauty! O eternal love- and life intoxicated world!

(after Wang-Sei)

Er stieg vom Pferd und reichte ihm den Trunk
Des Abschieds dar.
Er fragte ihn, wohin er führe
und auch warum es müsste sein.
Er sprach, seine Stimme war umflort:
Du, mein Freund,
Mir war auf dieser Welt das Glück nicht hold!
Wohin ich geh? Ich geh, ich wandre in die Berge.
Ich suche Ruhe für mein einsam Herz.
Ich wandle nach der Heimat, meiner Stätte.
Ich werde niemals in die Ferne schweifen.
Still ist mein Herz und harret seiner Stunde!

He dismounted from his horse and handed him
the drink of parting.
He asked him where he would go,
And also why it had to be that way.
He spoke, his voice was veiled:
My friend,
In this life, fate was not kind to me!
Where am I going? I’ll go, I’ll wander into the mountains.
I seek peace for my lonely heart.
I’m going to my home, to my abode.
I will never stray to foreign lands.
My heart is still, awaiting its hour!

Die liebe Erde allüberall
Blüht auf im Lenz und grünt aufs neu!
Allüberall und ewig blauen licht die Fernen!
Ewig... ewig...

The beloved earth everywhere
Blossoms and greens anew in springtime!
Everywhere and forever,
Distant places brighten blue!
Forever... forever...

— translations edited by Hannelore N. Rogers

It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful.

— Benjamin Britten, 1937, after hearing "Der Abschied"

 

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