Der Bienenfreund - Hans Thoma
Der Bienenfreund - Hans Thoma
 
I like bees. Perhaps, because they are so organized and diligent, perhaps because the beehives are order and beauty, or because I never had an unpleasant encounter with them; Or just because I watched too much TV as a child. Bees couldn't be absent from my list of buggy songs, and even less, a song as delightful as Der Knabe und das Immlein, by Eduard Mörike, a poet that I mention from time to time because I like the songs that Hugo Wolf, who was so fond of him, wrote from his poems.

Der Knabe und das Immlein is the second Lied of Wolf's long collection of fifty-three Mörike Lieder. It was composed the 22nd February 1888 and as soon as he finished it, an excited Wolf wrote to a friend explaining he had written a new "heavenly, marvellous" song ("Ein Götterlied sag'ich Ihnen! Göttlicher ganz wunderbar! Bei Gott."). I like to see Wolf so pleased with his music. However, that 22nd February was special: later in the day, he wrote to another friend to tell him he had composed a second song and added that perhaps he would write one more. And indeed he did it. What a fantastic day Wolf had!

Der Knabe und das Immlein is, as the name implies, a dialogue between a boy and a little bee, one of those charming little tales that Mörike wrote (tales with several readings, as often happens). The innocent boy is in love; The mocking bee enjoys teasing the boy. The link between the two characters is the beloved girl; she is beyond his reach but the bee feels free to go to her place. Luckily, the boy finally reacts to the bee: Kisses and hugs and are sweeter than honey!

The poem has seven stanzas. The first two are the narrator's voice, which set a country scenario; the boy speaks at the third and the seventh stanza and the bee speaks at the rest. From a musical point of view, it's easy to distinguish the characters. The first two stanzas are well characterized by the same melody; towards the end of the second one Wolf draws our attention to the bee by emphasizing the verb "summt" which sounds really like a buzz, and with the piano trills. Thereafter, every time that the bee speaks we're hearing the trills too, that's why I said it was easy to follow the song. But there are other features that identify the boy and the bee: The boy sings lower and longer notes while the bee sings higher and shorter ones; Furthermore, its stanzas are indicated in the score as livelier so to make us feel that the bee is always in motion.

Wolf's music bolsters that air of tale that I mentioned before and that draws a smile on our face. At the beautiful end of the song, we listen to the passionate voice of the boy that, in view of the bee's insolence, seems willing to get into action. Wolf makes the word "süßer" at the last verse even sweeter (as many times composers do) by indicating it pianissimo and lengthening the very first syllable respect its neighbours; it similarly emphasizes the word "Liebliecher" (another way of saying "sweeter"). Finally, he repeats the last verse in forte and closes the song with a four measures postlude; Notice the Wolf's expression indications at this phrase: abandoned, passionate and calm, very sweet towards the end.

I told you last week that it was difficult to choose the Die Mainacht version to share with you; this time the version was already chosen when I posted the buggy list almost one year ago, the one of Simon Keenlyside (to whom I wish all the best with his recovery.) Out of four Mörike's songs on this blog, three are sung by Keenlyside; as you can imagine it's not a coincidence, he has a great affinity with Wolf and often includes him in his recitals, especially the songs by Goethe and Mörike (in fact, he suggested the fourth song). And given that he sings a lot of Wolf but his recordings are very few, I can't definitely miss this opportunity. Malcom Martineau, as usual, accompanies him.
 
Der Knabe und das Immlein
 

Im Weinberg auf der Höh
Ein Häuslein steht so winde bang;
Hat weder Tür noch Fenster,
Die Weile wird ihm lang.

Und ist der Tag so schwüle,
Sind all verstummt die Vögelein,
Summt an der Sonnenblume
Ein Immlein ganz allein.

Mein Lieb hat einen Garten,
Da steht ein hübsches Immenhaus:
Kommst du daher geflogen?
Schickt sie dich nach mir aus?

O nein, du feiner Knabe,
Es hiess mich niemand Boten gehn;
Dieses Kind weiss nichts von Lieben,
Hat dich noch kaum gesehn.

Was wüssten auch die Mädchen,
Wenn sie kaum aus der Schule sind!
Dein herzallerliebstes Schätzchen
Ist noch ein Mutterkind.

Ich bring ihm Wachs und Honig;
Ade! ich hab ein ganzes Pfund;
Wie wird das Schätzchen lachen,
Ihm wässert schon der Mund—

Ach, wolltest du ihr sagen,
Ich wüsste, was viel süsser ist:
Nichts Lieblichers auf Erden
Als wenn man herzt und küsst!

 
(Please follow this link if you need and English translation)
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