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Entertain, Educate, Encourage

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Zueignung (037)

Below I have a special treat for you! Thanks to the generous support of our Patreon patrons, Singerreise has reached its first goal, a special, MUSICAL thank you video on the Patreon page. This musical video greets anyone just after they make their pledge.


This was the first of MANY goals that I have for Singerreise, all listed at Patreon.com/singerreise. This goal was for $100 per month, and the next is for $150 per month, which you can (and should) read about here.

As part of making that thank you video, today I'm presenting Zueignung, by Richard Strauss. If you're a patron, of course, you can skip this introduction and simply listen to the singing through your private links!

Zueignung was composed in 1885 by Richard Strauss, in his first volume of Lieder. It's based on a poem by Hermann von Gilm. For Strauss, it's actually a pretty simple song, but, then again, it's one of the first he ever published. I couldn't have done better at 18.

It's original published key was for a tenor, but transposition is very common. I'll be singing it in a bass-y transposition, in the key of G, about a fourth lower than the original.

In this case, we're a little on the lucky side, because Strauss actually got to record this piece a few times later in life. The first time was with a baritone in 1919, in the key of A. I love the baritone's name here, Heinrich Schlusnus. You can find it on YouTube. Another recording was done during wartime with Maria Reinung in 1942, in the original key.

In terms of the text, the title "Zueignung" simply means "Devotion". The key feature of this song, however, is a pair of words that is repeated at the end of each stanza: "Habe Dank."

As it turns out, those two words were actually the title of the original poem. "Habe Dank" literally translates to "Have thanks." In the context of the song, though, I think you could say it's a sort of poetic shorthand for "You have my thanks."

In the text, the singer recounts a suffering time apart from his love, and how much better it is now. In this case, though, it's a little ambiguous whether that love is another person or perhaps the divine.

He directs the first stanza to a soul, either his own or to another, kind of in the sense that you might say to someone else "You're my life, my soul!". The second stanza makes reference to a wine glass (artfully described as an amethyst beaker), and a blessing upon that drink. The third stanza has the love/soul exorcizing evils from the drink and making it holy.

So there's definitely an element of religious iconography, especially in that last stanza, but I think you can go two different ways with it. You can either ascribe holiness to a love between two human souls, or ascribe a mortal, passionate love to a divine, holy relationship.

Both interpretations work for me. The song is actually really short, so you can listen to it a whole bunch of times and try to figure it out for yourself!

Straus did change a few words around - mostly so that his favorite words wound up on favorable notes. "Heilig, heilig" which means "holy, holy," gets the high note treatment. Listening to the recordings with Strauss at the piano, there's some pretty extreme rubato happening at this moment, too.

The piano part is a laid-back-but-still-fervent triple meter. The singer is in a duple time throughout. The Bach in me wants to associate the triple time with the holiness of the Trinity, and the duple with the imperfection of man, but I think for the most part the 18 year old composer simply thought it sounded pretty that way.

The whole purpose of bringing out this piece, however, is to say "Habe Dank" to my patrons. Your support means that I can bring down a little bit of the divine into our mortal existence. You have my thanks.


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