Lilacs in the sun - Monet
Lilacs in the sun - C. Monet
If we made a list of the ten most passionate songs (already noted in my blog’s notebook), Meine Liebe ist grün by Johannes Brahms would possibly be included. Short and vehement, romantic in every sense of the word. A drunk in love song, as the last line of the poem says, but most of all, a song surrounded by love. Do you know its story?

Robert Schumann was institutionalized in Endenich in February 1854 and he remained there until his death in July 1856. In June 1854, his eighth son was born and Johannes Brahms was his godfather; the child was named Felix in memory of Schumann's beloved friend, Felix Mendelssohn. At that moment, Brahms was only 21 years old; he had met the Schumanns the previous year and soon, they became good friends. Their relationship was so close that during Robert’s illness, the young man was one of Clara’s main supports. He helped her as much as he could with their children and was one of the few people authorized to visit Robert at the sanatorium (in fact, Clara wasn't authorized because her husband got really upset every time they met). He became part of the family and Clara and Johannes became friends for over forty years, until their death.

Felix's childhood and adolescence were spent in a distraught family by the father’s illness and death, and also marked by a mother's struggle to take care of him and his siblings and by music. Young Felix wanted to become a composer but his mother, his godfather and another close family friend, Joseph Joachim, advised him against it because he would always be compared to his parents. He began to study Law, like his father, but he wasn't really interested, and while in college, he got into gambling debts. Besides, his health wasn't good and, at 19, he travelled to Italy in an attempt to recover from an incipient tuberculosis (from which he died at 25). It's not surprising that his mother suffered for him, and one day in 1873 she gave Brahms some poems the boy had written and asked for his opinion. She believe they were quite good but was also aware that her maternal love and her concern could be deceptive.

That year, Brahm's Christmas gift to Clara was a Lied, Meine Liebe ist grün, composed with a poem written by Felix. It's easy to imagine how moved Clara was! Brahms used his son’s poem and in addition, the Lied was a tribute to her husband; the piano accompaniment and the vibrant atmosphere of the song reminded of Schumann's Schöne Fremde and Frühlingsnacht. Not only was Clara extremely happy with that Lied, but also Felix. One day, he got home and his sisters were playing music. He didn't know that song but, unmistakably, he knew his godfather was the composer. Then he recognized his own words, the poem was his!

This Lied is a beautiful love story, wouldn’t you say? Other than the story, the song is by itself a little gem. The poem is brief, only two stanzas that sung a new, fresh and elated love; Brahms had enough with these to gave us some of his unique musical phrases. Our performers are Angelika Kirchschlager and Graham Johnson.
Meine Liebe ist grün 

Meine Liebe ist grün wie der Fliederbusch,
und mein Lieb ist schön wie die Sonne,
die glänzt wohl herab auf den Fliederbusch
und füllt ihn mit Duft und mit Wonne.

Meine Seele hat Schwingen der Nachtigall,
und wiegt sich in blühendem Flieder,
und jauchzet und singet vom Duft berauscht
viel liebestrunkene Lieder.

My love is as green as the lilac bush,
And my love is as fair as the sun,
which gleams down on the lilacbush
and fills it with fragrance and bliss.

My soul has the wings of a nightingale
and rocks itself in blooming lilac,
and, intoxicated by the fragrance, cheers and sings
a good many love-drunk songs.

 (translation © Emily Ezust)

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