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.
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 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 Doch wenn die Vöglein singen Und wir dann froh und flink Auf grünen Rasen springen, Jetzt muß mein Steckenpferdchen Dort in dem Winkel stehn; Denn draußen in dem Gärtchen Kann man vor Kot nicht gehn. Mich Lottchens Herzeleid; Das arme Mädchen lauert Recht auf die Blumenzeit; Umsonst hol ich ihr Spielchen Sie sitzt in ihrem Stühlchen
Wie’s Hünchen auf dem Ei.
Ach, wenn’s doch erst gelinder Komm, lieber Mai, wir Kinder, Wir bitten dich gar sehr! O komm und bring vor allen 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