This week I wanted to present a new cycle, but I was short of time. I might have shortened the article and written two rushed paragraphs, but I don't think that the composer, my dear Brahms, deserves this. So I thought I'd share a sample of the cycle and some notes and come back calmly next week, if all goes well.
Nachtigall, sie singt so schön ("The nightingale, it sings so beautifully,") is a small, beautiful song, the fifteenth of the Liebeslieder Walzer ("Love song waltzes"), Brahms's Opus 52, published in 1869. Our song is one of the most elegant representatives of a collection that dances, sometimes cheerfully, sometimes in a melancholy way, around love.
The first word of the poem is nachtigall ("nightingale"), that suggests the night (there're countless songs where this bird that sings at night symbolizes a love encounter); the stars of the second verse confirm this. This is the first part of the short poem; at the second, two more verses claim a kiss under the protection of darkness. The song also has two parts that follow this scheme; the first one is repeated, while the second one has a relatively long postlude that makes us believe the song is over. However, this part is also repeated, it seems as if a kiss wasn't enough (what kind of lovers would they be?), and the length of the word dunkeln ("darkness") in the repetition confirms this assumption.
We will listen to Nachtigall, sie singt so schön performed by Magdalena Kožená, Andrea Rost , Matthew Polenzani, Thomas Quasthoff, James Levine and Yefim Bronfman. Yes, four singers and two pianists are needed, it's not easy to gather such an ensemble on a stage. We could thing that Brahms wasn't very practical this time, but although it was also performed on a stage, the target of the Liebeslieder Walzer was, above all, amateur singers and pianists who would perform them in private gatherings; the collection is a representative work of Hausmusik.
But we'll talk about this next week. For the moment, listen to this delicious tasting.
Nachtigall, sie singt so schön,
Wenn die Sterne funkeln.
Liebe mich, geliebtes Herz,
Küsse mich im Dunkeln!
The nightingale, it sings so beautifully,
when the stars are twinkling.
Love me, my beloved heart,
kiss me in the dark!
(translation by Emily Ezust)