commentary to opus 71b

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10 Songs after poems (in German) by Theodor Storm for Medium Voice and Piano, op. 71b (1975/76/83)

1. Die Stadt

2. Über die Heide

3. Meeresstrand

4. Lied des Harfenmädchens

5. Ständchen

6. Es ist ein Flüstern

7. Das Mädchen mit den hellen Augen

8. Die Möwe und mein Herz

9. Mondlicht

10. Schließe mir die Augen beide

First performance: May 6, 1987, Dinkelsbühl, Konzertsaal
Martin Hummel / Thomas Hitzlberger

Duration: 25 Minutes

Publisher: Schott Music ED 20288 / ISMN: M-001-14993-8


Nr. 1 Die Stadt Nr. 3 Meeresstrand Nr. 5 Ständchen Nr. 10 Schließe mir die Augen


Coming from Baden, Hummel has a natural affinity with the directness and reflection in the language of the Aleman Hermann Hesse. But there are also close relationships to North Germany, whose astringent poesy as captured by Theoder Storm finds an musical echo in Hummel. "Hin gen Norden zieht die Möwe, / Hin gen Norden zieht mein Herz" ("Up to the north strains the seagull, / up to the north strains my heart") ("Die Möwe und mein Herz" - "The Seagull and my Heart"). The bareness of nature and landscape is reduced musically here in most unusual expressiveness to a monotone repetition of a two-part accompanying motif using no more than 4 notes, above which the voice rises in clear intervals. The Storm settings are, with the exception of the "Die Stadt" (1983), all from the years 1976/77 and are not only the simplest but also the most easily appreciated songs by Hummel. They have something of a folk-song attitude about them, allowing them - as in earlier times - to use one musical notation for several stanzas, as for example in the particularly charming "Das Mädchen mit den hellen Augen" ("The girl with the bright eyes"), in "Mondlicht" ("Moonlight") and in the tender "Über die Heide" ("Across the heath"). This heath song of Hummel's relies entirely on simple melody and can afford to do without any tonal representations of individual ideas such as the echoing tread or gathering patches of mist - which one can find represented even in the simple setting of this text by Brahms (op. 86/4).

Wolfgang Osthoff (in "Zu den Liedern Bertold Hummels", Tutzing 1998)



Frankfurter Neue Presse 10th July, 1996

Very interesting, that Hummel was able to compose in 1975 a song-cycle on poems by Theodor Storm with melodies quasi in the romantic "Volkston" but with accompaniments which rather recall the early Bartok or can even be traced back to Impressionism.



1. The city

At the grey shore by the grey sea
and apart, lies the city;
mists push down hard on the roofs
and through the quiet the sea booms
uniformly about the city.

No wood murmurs; in May, no bird
chirps without intermission;
only the migrating geese with harsh cries
fly by in the autumn night;
and by the shore the grass ripples.

Yet my heart clings to you,
you grey city by the sea;
forever and forever the magic of youth
will rest smilingly upon you; upon you,
you grey city by the sea.

Translation from German to English copyright © by Emily Ezust


2. Across the Heath

Across the heath my step resounds;
The dull echo from the earth wanders with me.

Autumn has arrived, Spring is far away -
Was there once, then, a time of bliss?

Brewing mists surround me like ghosts,
Dark is the vegetation, and the sky so empty.

Would that I had not come here in May!
Life and love - how they flew by!

Translation from German to English copyright © by Emily Ezust


6. There is a whispering in the night

There is a whispering in the night -
it has kept me entirely from my sleep.
I feel it wants to tell me something,
and cannot find the way to me.

Are they words of love, confided to the wind,
and blown off course on the way?
Or is it some disaster from future days,
that eagerly hurries here to announce itself?

Translation from German to English copyright © by Emily Ezust


10. Close both my eyes

Close both my eyes
with your dear hands;
So everything that I suffer
goes to rest under your hand.
And as silently the pain,
wave by wave, goes to sleep;
as the last blow falls,
you fill my whole heart.

Translation from German to English copyright © by Jakob Kellner

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