commentary to opus 71c

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Herbsttag (Rainer Maria Rilke) for Medium Voice and Piano, op. 71c (1980)


First performance: March 17, 1987 / Würzburg / Toscanasaal der Residenz
Martin Hummel / Thomas Hitzlberger

Duration: 3 Minutes

Publisher: free download:

for medium voice (original)for high voicefor low voice


Autumn Day on a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, composed for the 60th birthday of a musicologist friend, sets another characteristic accent in what has been, since the Storm-Lieder, such a central theme for Hummel. Its ambivalence (Befiehl den letzten Früchten voll zu sein)(Command that the last fruits be full) is reflected musically in the use of false relations and the corresponding changes between major and minor. In this, however, mild thirds and sixths, unusual for Hummel, become part of the process. The composer is successful in including the dynamics of form and content in Rilkes stanzas ("growing" in the lines 3, 4 and 5) under one musical bow. The inner climax is the end of the second stanza, i.e. the only line which Hummel repeats: Die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein (The last sweetness in the heavy wine.) In the broad periodicity of its sequences (derived melodically from the phrase more südlichere Tage (southern days) heard just before), this is one of the moments in which melodic qualities in Hummel's songs become impressively manifest.

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


Herr: es ist Zeit. Der Sommer war sehr groß.
Leg deinen Schatten auf die Sonnenuhren,
und auf den Fluren laß die Winde los.

Befiel den letzten Früchten voll zu sein;
gib ihnen noch zwei südlichere Tage,
dränge sie zur Vollendung hin und jage
die letzte Süße in den schweren Wein.

Wer jetzt kein Haus hat, baut sich keines mehr.
Wer jetzt allein ist, wird es lange bleiben,
wird wachen, lesen, lange Briefe schreiben
und wird in den Alleen hin und her
unruhig wandern, wenn die Blätter treiben.

Rainer Maria Rilke


This translation is by M. D. Herter Norton 1938:

Autumn Day

Lord, it is time. The summer was very big.
Lay thy shadow on the sundials,
and on the meadows let the winds go loose.

Command the last fruits that they shall be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
urge them on to fulfillment and drive
the last sweetness into heavy wine.

Who has no house now, will build him one no more.
Who is alone now, long will so remain,
will wake, read, write long letters
and will in the avenues to and fro
restlessly wander, when the leaves are blowing.

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