Schubert’s “An Die Musik”: An Ode to the Art of Music

An die Musik (“To Music”) is Schubert’s moving ode to the art of music. Composed in March of 1817, the song can be heard as a deeply contemplative prayer of gratitude. The vocal line engages in a canonic dialogue with an equally important voice in the piano’s lower register. The music is gently propelled forward by pulsating harmony. Using the most sublimely simple means, this brief song inhabits a space of dignity …

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The Artistry of Christa Ludwig: Two Songs from Mahler’s “Rückert Lieder”

During the summers of 1901 and 1902, Gustav Mahler wrote five Lieder based on poems written by Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). Mahler did not intend the Rückert-Lieder (Songs after Rückert) to be performed as a cycle. Originally, the songs were published independently and later grouped together. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (“I Am Lost to the World”) is the dreamy soliloquy of the solitary artist, which concludes with the lines, “I live alone …

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Remembering Christa Ludwig

Christa Ludwig, the German dramatic mezzo-soprano, has passed away. She was 93. Ludwig was one of the most significant and distinguished singers of the twentieth century “with a voice of exquisite richness and, when needed—breathtaking amplitude.” (Ted Libbey, NPR) She made her debut in Frankfurt at the age of 18, shortly after the Second World War. Her celebrated roles included Dorabella in Mozart’s Così fan tutte, Kundry in Wagner’s Parsifal, Leonora in Beethoven’s …

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Das Lied von der Erde: Mahler’s Farewell

As late summer fades into fall, this seems like a good time to listen to the final movement of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (“The Song of the Earth”). The text, based on ancient Chinese poetry, evokes seasonal cycles…a sense of death, separation, and resignation, followed by rebirth, loss of the ego, and ultimate immorality. In this music, completed in 1909 near the end of Mahler’s life, the endless forward drive of …

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Schubert Songs of Spring

Tomorrow is the first day of spring. With warmer temperatures, blooming foliage and a sense of renewal, spring has long been a rich source of poetic inspiration. Here are three songs by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) which feature spring: Frühlingsglaube (Faith in Spring) The poem is by Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787-1862). Here is baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau accompanied by Gerald Moore:   When I listen to Schubert’s songs, I always have the sense that every note …

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