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Five Rückert Songs

Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)

Julius Drake (photo credit: Sim Canetty Clarke)

Julius Drake (photo credit: Sim Canetty Clarke)

Composer
Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)
Composition Year
1901
Work Movements
1. Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!
2. Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
3. Um Mitternacht
4. Liebst du um Schönheit
5. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
Artists
Philippe Sly [baritone], Julius Drake [piano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Ian Fox

Friedrich Rückert [1788-1866] was born near Coburg, Germany, and became a distinguished linguist and poet. He was Professor of Oriental Languages at Erlangen and then in Berlin, retiring in 1848. He wrote a Persian grammar and provided many translations from Eastern literature which became standard German texts. However, it was the book of his own love lyrics, Liebesfrühling [1823], which provided him with a far wider audience and a lasting reputation; among other composers Schubert set four of these poems, Schumann twenty?one and Richard Strauss six. In the summer of 1901, by which time he had finished his Fourth Symphony, Mahler decided to set some of Rückert's poems. Like Berlioz Nuits d’été they were originally composed with piano accompaniment, he orchestrated five of them and they were first performed as a group in Vienna in 1905.  

The first song Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder! seems to look forward to the great symphonic poem Das Lied von der Erde with its restless, surging energy as the poet asks that his beloved should not look at his work in progress, like the bees one should wait for the completed honeycomb.  This is followed by the serene Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft as the poet rhapsodises on the perfume from a branch of a lime tree placed in his room. The pensive mood remains for Um Mitternacht as Rückert tussles with dark nocturnal thoughts: Oh Lord, you keep watch over life and death at midnight. Mahler dedicated the fourth song, Liebst du um Schönheit, to his wife, Alma.  She later recounted that she had been playing a lot of Wagner during her first pregnancy in 1903 and that he wrote this charming little love song and slipped the manuscript into her score of Die Walküre  but she did not open it for days so he had to reveal it to her; she was overwhelmed with joy and (they) played it over twenty times that day! In the final song, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, the poet tells how he has abandoned the world in order to find solace in solitude and song; Mahler creates a magical rhapsody akin to his symphonies.

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Five Rückert Songs

Composer: Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)
Performance date: Saturday 28th June 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)
Work Title Five Rückert Songs
Composition Year 1901
Work Movements 1. Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder!
2. Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
3. Um Mitternacht
4. Liebst du um Schönheit
5. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
Language German
Artist(s) Philippe Sly [baritone], Julius Drake [piano]
Performance Date Saturday 28th June 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Main Evening Concert
Duration 00:19:16
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation Bar-solo, pf
Programme Note Writer © Ian Fox

Friedrich Rückert [1788-1866] was born near Coburg, Germany, and became a distinguished linguist and poet. He was Professor of Oriental Languages at Erlangen and then in Berlin, retiring in 1848. He wrote a Persian grammar and provided many translations from Eastern literature which became standard German texts. However, it was the book of his own love lyrics, Liebesfrühling [1823], which provided him with a far wider audience and a lasting reputation; among other composers Schubert set four of these poems, Schumann twenty?one and Richard Strauss six. In the summer of 1901, by which time he had finished his Fourth Symphony, Mahler decided to set some of Rückert's poems. Like Berlioz Nuits d’été they were originally composed with piano accompaniment, he orchestrated five of them and they were first performed as a group in Vienna in 1905.  

The first song Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder! seems to look forward to the great symphonic poem Das Lied von der Erde with its restless, surging energy as the poet asks that his beloved should not look at his work in progress, like the bees one should wait for the completed honeycomb.  This is followed by the serene Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft as the poet rhapsodises on the perfume from a branch of a lime tree placed in his room. The pensive mood remains for Um Mitternacht as Rückert tussles with dark nocturnal thoughts: Oh Lord, you keep watch over life and death at midnight. Mahler dedicated the fourth song, Liebst du um Schönheit, to his wife, Alma.  She later recounted that she had been playing a lot of Wagner during her first pregnancy in 1903 and that he wrote this charming little love song and slipped the manuscript into her score of Die Walküre  but she did not open it for days so he had to reveal it to her; she was overwhelmed with joy and (they) played it over twenty times that day! In the final song, Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, the poet tells how he has abandoned the world in order to find solace in solitude and song; Mahler creates a magical rhapsody akin to his symphonies.