Five Rückert Songs

Composer: Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)
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Composer: Gustav Mahler (b. 1860 - d. 1911)

Performance date: 28/06/2014

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1901

Duration: 00:19:16

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTE

Instrumentation: vn

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Instrumentation Other: Bar-solo, pf

Artists: Philippe Sly - [baritone]
Julius Drake - [piano]

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
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.