In the context of the work done by the students of the Master in Lied of the ESMUC for its module Genre Literature. Repertoire of the German Lied, Ana Belén Ayala presents a Mahler's Lied, Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt. We will listen to it in the version with piano accompaniment and the orchestral version; the performers are Hermann Prey and Michael Krist and Ian Bostridge and the National Symphony Orchestra of RAI, directed by Daniel Smith. Thank you very much, Ana Belén!
 
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El sermó als peixos - Mitya
 

While studying the Master Degree's on Lied Victoria de los Ángeles, in one of the repertoire lessons taught by Viviana Salisi, we listened to a Lied by Gustav Mahler and right away it caught my attention, as I knew that theme... It was a theme that appears in his Second Symphony. It is due to this that I decided to do a little research on the reasons of the use of this Lied in a Symphonic piece.
 
 
The Lied we are talking about is Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt (The lecture to the fish by Antonio of Padua) and is part of the Lied Cycle Des Knaben Wunderhorn (The magic French horn of youth), with poems extracted from the compilation of folk songs with the same name by Clemens Brentano and Achim vom Arnim. This Lied was composed during the summer of 1893, on the 8th July he composed the version for Voice and piano accompaniment and on the 1st of August he finished the version for Voice and orchestra. During that same summer he will take over his projected Symphony Auferstehung (Resurrection) from 1888 to compose the second and third movements and the introduction of the finale.

In one of his letters to his sister Justine Mahler, Gustav expresses his opinion by saying that some of the Lieder from the cycle will become symphonies, and effectively, Des Antonius vom Padua Fischpredigt is one of the Lied used in the Resurrection Symphony. Another Lied that is used in this symphony is Urlicht (Essential Light), it shows in the IV movement, and it is also within the cycle of Lieder Des Knaben Wunderhorn.

The text evokes to the famous episode in the life of San Antonio of Padua who, when facing the indifference of his audience, went out to the lake to preach to the fish within, the fish then stuck their heads outside the water and paid great attention to the sermon of the preacher, but once he stops preaching everything continues as before making the words from the sermon trivial.

Therefore, we stand in front of a text that narrates the banality of life, a sarcastic criticism to daily life, where meaningless routine and the world of hypocrisy in which we find ourselves engulfed. Musically speaking, the accompaniment generates the feeling of aquatic flow adopting a ternary rhythm.

The Second Symphony is composed by 5 movements: death, the happy memory of the life that has ceased to shine, the loss of faith, the rebirth of the faith (where the Urlicht Lied is used), and lastly the Love to God.

Mahler uses the music from this Lied in the third movement which represents the negative part of life, at this point he will accentuate the rhythm much more with the kettledrum and staggers fanfares to remark even more the meaningless of life and the complete loss of faith. The composer will also make reference to this Lied when he narrates his sorrows as an orchestra conductor: “I prepare my performances with all my strength (...) and why do I do all of this? For this flock of sheep who tastelessly listen without even thinking; what comes in on one ear, comes out exactly the same through the other ear, just like the fish from San Antonio’s sermon!” (Mahleriana, pàg. 39)
 
Des Antonius von Padua Fischpredigt
   
 

Antonius zur Predigt
Die Kirche findt ledig!
Er geht zu den Flüssen
und predigt den Fischen!
Sie schlagen mit den Schwänzen!
Im Sonnenschein glänzen,
Die Karpfen mit Rogen
Sind all hierher zogen;
Haben d'Mäuler aufrissen,
Sich Zuhörens beflissen.
Kein Predigt niemalen
Den Fischen so g'fallen.

Spitzgoschete Hechte,
Die immerzu fechten,
Sind eilend herschwommen,
Zu hören den Frommen!
Auch jene Phantasten,
Die immerzu fasten;
Die Stockfisch ich meine,
Zur Predigt erscheinen;
Kein Predigt niemalen
Den Stockfisch so g'fallen!

Gut Aale und Hausen,
Die vornehme schmausen,
Die selbst sich bequemen,
Die Predigt vernehmen:
Auch Krebse, Schildkroten,
Sonst langsame Boten,
Steigen eilig vom Grund,
Zu hören diesen Mund:
Kein Predigt niemalen
den Krebsen so g'fallen.

Fisch große, Fisch kleine,
Vornehm und gemeine!
Erheben die Köpfe
Wie verständge Geschöpfe:
Auf Gottes Begehren!
Die Predigt anhören!

Die Predigt geendet,
Ein jeder sich wendet!
Die Hechte bleiben Diebe,
Die Aale viel lieben.
Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie Allen!
Die Krebs gehn zurücke,
Die Stockfisch bleiben dicke,
Die Karpfen viel fressen,
die Predigt vergessen!
Die Predigt hat g'fallen.
Sie bleiben wie Allen!
Die Predigt hat g'fallen, hat g'fallen!

St. Anthony arrives for his Sermon
and finds the church empty.
He goes to the rivers
to preach to the fishes;
They flick their tails,
which glisten in the sunshine.
The carp with roe
have all come here,
their mouths wide open,
listening attentively.
No sermon ever
pleased the carp so.

Sharp-mouthed pike
that are always fighting,
have come here, swimming hurriedly
to hear this pious one;
Also, those fantastic creatures
that are always fasting -
the stockfish, I mean -
they also appeared for the sermon;
No sermon ever
pleased the stockfish so.

Good eels and sturgens,
that banquet so elegantly -
even they took the trouble
to hear the sermon:
Crabs too, and turtles,
usually such slowpokes,
rise quickly from the bottom,
to hear this voice.
No sermon ever
pleased the crabs so.

Big fish, little fish,
noble fish, common fish,
all lift their heads
like sentient creatures:
At God's behest
they listen to the sermon.

The sermon having ended,
each turns himself around;
the pikes remain thieves,
the eels, great lovers.
The sermon has pleased them,
but they remain the same as before.
The crabs still walk backwards,
the stockfish stay rotund,
the carps still stuff themselves,
the sermon is forgotten!
The sermon has pleased them,
but they remain the same as before.
The sermon has pleased them, pleased them!


 

Sobre l'autora
 
Graduated by Liceu Conservatory, Ana Belén Ayala is studying the Master Degree's on Lied in ESMUC and is a member of Orfeó Català. As a soloist she has performed pieces such as the Coronation Mass and has offered different opera and Lied concerts.
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