Songs My Mother Taught Me

Ives Songs My Mother Taught MeIn celebration of Mother’s Day, here are two settings of Songs My Mother Taught Me by the Czech poet Adolf Heyduk. You may be familiar with Antonin Dvořák’s famous song, written in 1880 as part of the cycle, Gypsy Songs, Op. 55. Fritz Kreisler later transcribed it for violin. Here you can hear it played by Itzhak Perlman and then sung by American tenor Richard Crooks. 

The poem deals with the flow of time, continuity and memory:

Songs my mother taught me, In the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children, each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing, oft they flow from my memory’s treasure.

About fifteen years after Dvořák, Charles Ives, an ocean away in New England, created his own setting. Here it is sung by mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani:

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Like so much of Ives’ music, this song enters hazy, dreamlike territory. At 1:29 the music drifts off into silence (“from my memory’s treasure“). When the A section returns at the end of the song, notice that Ives adds a crucial new chord (2:08) which wasn’t there the first time. Also listen for the ghostly echo of the final piano note.

To hear more music by Charles Ives visit my previous posts, A Charles Ives Thanksgiving and The Unanswered Question.

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One Response to Songs My Mother Taught Me

  1. Dr Peter Lim May 9, 2014 at 3:49 am #

    Many thanks, Timothy-
    This song is my favourite–first came across the music and lyrics in 1957 when I was 17.
    I play this over and over again on the violin and also sing it sometimes-
    so tender, nostalgic and heart-warming.
    Dvorak was a master of melodies just like Schubert.
    Best wishes from Melb

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