Mozart:  Song:  “Sehnsucht nach der Frühling,” K. 596

Compared to his fellow Austrian Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828), Mozart was little involved in song-writing.  Schubert composed roughly 600 songs, Mozart fewer than 100.  The smaller output was not due to a lack of ambition on Mozart’s part.  Rather, the idea of crafting musical settings of poetry, often for domestic entertainment, with one singer and one pianist was simply too new in Mozart’s time.  Not exactly unheard of, it nonetheless had yet to attract the determined following that it would have during Schubert’s generation.  That Mozart wrote any at all – and that they are as good as they are – is further testimony to his preeminence in music as a whole.

January 14, 1791, was, for Mozart, a day of songs.  According to his own catalog of his works, on this date he wrote three songs, all intended for a friend’s upcoming publication of songs for young audiences.  As one might expect of pieces intended for such a collection, Mozart’s contributions are not songs of epic drama.  Rather, they are sweetly unassuming.  Two are visions of spring.  It was winter at the time, but publication was yet some months away; moreover, one might imagine that in the days before central heating, thinking of spring during the winter might be good for morale.  The third of the songs has to do with children’s games, and is similarly light of spirit.  Just because Mozart was a musical genius does not mean he was incapable of expressing the simpler side of music.  Moreover, he was well able to do so without short-changing his own musical imagination.

The first of these songs, “Sehnsucht nach der Frühling” (Longing for Springtime), sets a poem by Mozart’s contemporary, Christian Adolf Overbeck (1755 – 1821).  A salute to the delights of spring, the original poem has five verses, of which Mozart set the first, second, and fifth.  Some performers, apparently wishing to make more of the song, repeat the music of the second verse to include one or the other of the omitted verses.  Therefore, the text below will include the entire poem, not just the verses that Mozart himself set.

For Overbeck’s words, Mozart crafted a vocal line that gently smiles and a piano accompaniment that flows sweetly.  Each verse was given a piano postlude that is more ornamented than the basic accompaniment and has much in common with his more light-hearted piano sonatas.  The vocal line remains largely consistent, with only small changes.  However, a talented performer can give it nuance with decorative trills and turns, as would have been standard practice in Mozart’s time.

Mozart apparently had a special fondness for the song, or at least for its melodic heart. Its vocal melody reappears, as the basis for a set of variations, in the last movement of his Piano Concerto no. 27, which immediately precedes it in the Köchel catalog.  Did that melody originate with the song or with the concerto?  Almost certainly with the song, as it fits the given text so perfectly.  However, a gifted musical mind such as Mozart’s was able to sense that far more could be made of the melody if it were removed from the limitations of words.  He was always one to see musical potential.

Original Text:                                         

Komm, lieber Mai, und mache                
Die Baüme wieder grün,                    
Und laß mir an dem Bache               
Die kleinen Veilchen blüh!                 
Wie möcht ich doch so gerne          
Ein Veilchen wieder sehn,             
Ach, lieber Mai, wie gerne                    
Einmal spazieren gehn!                      

Zwar Wintertage haben                    
Wohl auch der Freuden viel;                 
Man kann im Schnee eins traben           
Und treibt manch Abendspiel,             
Baut Häuserchen von Karten,            
Spielt Blindekuh und Pfand;                      
Auch gibt’s wohl Schlittenfahrten            
Auf’s liebefreie Land.                      

Doch wenn die Vöglein singen              
Und wir dann froh und flink                    
Auf grünen Rasen springen,                 
Das ist ein ander Ding!                           
Jetzt muß mein Steckenpferdchen      
Dort in dem Winkel stehn;                     
Denn draußen in dem Gärtchen               
Kann man vor Kot nicht gehn.            

Am meisten aber dauert                          
Mich Lottchens Herzeleid;                
Das arme Mädchen lauert                 
Recht auf die Blumenzeit;                 
Umsonst hol ich ihr Spielchen        
Zum Zeitvertreib herbei,                      
Sie sitzt in ihrem Stühlchen               
Wie’s Hünchen auf dem Ei.                   

Ach, wenn’s doch erst gelinder             
Und grüner draußen wär!                     
Komm, lieber Mai, wir Kinder,                 
Wir bitten dich gar sehr!                    
O komm und bring vor allen                 
Uns viele Veilchen mit,             
Bring auch viel Nachtigallen            
Und schöne Kuckucks mit!      

Program note and text translation copyright by Betsy Schwarm


Daughtery:  Brooklyn Bridge

Iowa native Michael Daughtery (b. 1954) has a reputation for dramatic and colorful orchestral scores that are often inspired by quintessential elements of the American experience.  His catalog include such titles as Route 66, the opera Jackie O, the Metropolis Symphony (indeed, inspired by Superman), Niagara Falls, and the Motor City Triptych.  His is music that speaks close to the hearts of American audiences, yet its high energy and richly varied timbres makes it exciting for audiences of all descriptions.  

His Brooklyn Bridge is in all but name a clarinet concerto.  However, rather than having an orchestra accompany the soloist, Daughtery instead uses the symphonic band:  an ensemble of woodwinds (including contrabass clarinet and saxophones), brass (including euphoniums – a baritone horn), and percussion (standard timpani as well as twenty-one other percussion instruments).  Daughtery further expands his sonic palette by adding double-bass and harp.  The work was commissioned by the International Clarinet Association and premiered by the University of Michigan Symphony Band February 11, 2005.  It is a work in four movements, each prefaced by a cardinal direction.  Daughtery notes that his intention was that each movement was to convey the mood of the segment of New York City that a passerby would see were he to gaze in that direction from the historic span.  

East from the Brooklyn Bridge is Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights, south is the Statue of Liberty, West is Wall Street and lower Manhattan, and north is the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center.  Daughtery’s vision of Brooklyn is charged with quick, nimble lines for the soloist while the ensemble has smoother, more legato lines.  For the Statue of Liberty, a long ensemble statement is specified as “espressivo” and the soloist, joining belatedly, continues that thoughtful mood.  Wall Street and Manhattan may begin tranquilly, but soon one find the determined energy of the urban business environment.  Of this last movement, Daughtery attests that he was imagining not just majestic architecture, but specifically Artie Shaw and the era of swing jazz, especially as one might have heard it at the Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room.  The intricate rhythms that he has chosen evoke that scene as well as any twenty-first century composer is likely to do.   In all four movements, frequently changing meters keep musicians and conductor alike on the edge of their seats, and the audience as well, with the ever-shifting energies.

Program note copyright by Betsy Schwarm

I.East – Brooklyn and Brooklyn Heights
II.South – Statue of Liberty
III.West – Wall Street and Lower Manhattan
IV.North – Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center


Translation by this Author:

Come, dear May, and 
Make the trees green again,
And let the little violets
Bloom for me by the brook!
How I would so love 
To see a violet again,
Ah, dear May, how blissful
To go walking again!

Admittedly, winter days
Have also many pleasures;
One can trot out in the snow 
And go in for many evening games,
Build houses of cards, 
Play blind man’s bluff and forfeits;
There is also, indeed, 
Sleigh riding out in the open fields.

However, when the little birds sing 
And we, joyous and nimble,
Dance on the green grass, 
That is another thing!
Now my little hobby horse must 
Stand there in the corner,
For outside in the yard, the droppings
Reveal that the horses themselves are out.

But most of all, my Lottie’s
Heart’s sorrows persist;
That poor girl longs truly
For the time of flowers;
In vain, I call her to pass
The time with games,
She sits upon her stool 
Like a hen on the eggs.

Ach, if only it were again
Mild and green outside!
Come, dear May, we children,
We plead with you!
O, come, and bring many violets
With you, for all of us,
Bring also many nightingales
And lovely cuckoos, too!