Thursday, January 31, 2013

Celebrating Schubert's Birthday

It’s Schubert’s birthday today!

Music to accompany article: Die schöne Müllerin (Schubert)

This most lovable of composers died tragically in 1828 at the age of 31. His untimely death was, perhaps, the greatest musical calamity that has ever befallen humankind. But his music, full of love and sorrow, lives on.

     It’s worth emphasising that he didn’t die of tertiary syphilis, and probably had no syphilis at all. However he may have been poisoned with mercury by eager doctors at the time, who (just like today’s ones) acted according to the principle: “treat the disease even if you don’t know what it is, and if the ‘cure’ doesn’t work, just increase the dose.”

     But let us leave these sad considerations aside and raise a toast to the musical miracle Franz Schubert. Please listen to one of his most beautiful songs “Der Neugerige” (the inquiring one) from Die schöne Müllerin cycle, sung by the unimitable Aksel Schiotz.

Der Neugerige                                   The Inquiring One

Ich frage keine Blume,                         I don’t ask any flower,
Ich frage keinen Stern,                        I don’t ask any star
Sie können mir alle nicht sagen,           None of them can tell me
Was ich erführ so gern.                       What I’d like to know so much.
Ich bin ja auch kein Gärtner,                I am not a gardener,
Die Sterne stehn zu hoch;                   The stars are too far above;
Mein Bächlein will ich fragen,               I’ll ask my little brook,
Ob mich mein Herz belog.                    If my heart has deceived me.
O Bächlein meiner Liebe,                     Oh, little brook of my love,
Wie bist du heut so stumm?                 Why are you so silent today?
Will ja nur eines wissen,                       I only want to know one thing,
Ein Wörtchen um und um.                    One word, one way or the other.
Ja heißt das eine Wörtchen,                 Yes, is the one word,
Das andre heißet Nein,                         The other is No.
Die beiden Wörtchen                           The two words together
Schließen die ganze Welt mir ein.         Contain my entire world.
O Bächlein meiner Liebe,                     O, brook, my love
Was bist du wunderlich!                       How strange you are!
Will's ja nicht weitersagen,                    If you won’t say anything further,
Sag, Bächlein, liebt sie mich?               Tell me, little brook, does she love me?

Poem by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827)           Translation adapted by
which Schubert used in his composition.       Eva M Cybulska.