Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Earl of Marischal And His Collection of International "National Airs" (1771)

In the first volume of Johann Gottfried Herder's Volkslieder (1778) we can find an introductory collection of "Zeugnisse über Volkslieder" with quotes from, among others, Montaigne, Joseph Addison, Luther, Agricola & Lessing (pp. 5-12). Particularly intriguing is one about a certain "Lord Marshall" who had collected national airs from "almost every nation under the sun" (p. 10): 
"Lord Marshall hatte sich eine Sammlung von Nazionalmelodien gemacht, von fast allen Völkern unter der Sonnen. Er hatte fast bei jedem Stück eine Anekdote. Er erzählte mir auch von einem Bergschotten, welcher allemal meinte, wenn er eine gewisse langsame Melodie spielen hörte".
As source is given the German translation of English musicologist Charles Burney's report about his legendary trip through Europe in the early 1770s (Vol. 3, pp. 85, 87, 88). At the moment I am interested in the history of comparative anthologies of national airs ("Volkslieder") in the 18th and 19th century and therefore this sounds very interesting. A little bit of research helped to identify the "Lord Marshall".

This was George Keith, the 10th Earl of Marischal (c. 1693-1778), an exiled Scottish soldier and diplomat in in service of the Prussian king. He had been involved in the Jacobite Rising in 1715 and had to leave Britain. Over the years he lived in Spain, but also in Russia, Venice and and other countries. In 1774 he moved to Prussia. 

Frederick II was particularly fond of him and he became part of the King's inner circle and also - as he was well-read and educated - member of the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften. The King made him governor Neuchâtel in Switzerland where he met Rousseau with whom he became friends and with whom he spent many hours discussing. Even though the Earl was eventually pardoned by the British crown he didn't return home but preferred to live in Berlin, close to the King (see ADB 15, 1882, pp. 551-5, and also the article in the German Wikipedia which is very helpful; see also Varnhagen von Ense, 1873, pp. 1-165, about his brother James [Jakob] Keith).

Charles Burney visited him in 1771 in his house in Berlin and was clearly very impressed by this old soldier. In the 2nd volume of the Journal of his tour, The Present State of Music in Germany, The Netherlands, and United Provinces, we can find the report about the Earl and his collection of national music (1773, here 2nd ed., London, 1775, pp. 122-3): 
"On this occasion, he was very pleasant upon himself: here ensued a discussion of Scots music, and Erse poetry; after which his lordship said, ' but lest you should think me to insensible to the power of sound, I must tell you, that I have made a collection of national tunes of almost all of the countries on the globe, which I believe I can shew you.' After a search, made by himself, the book in which these tunes were written, was found, and I was made to sing the whole collection through, without an instrument; during which time, he had an anecdote for every tune. When I had done, his lordship kindly wrote down a list of all such tunes as had pleased me most by their odditiy and originality, of which he promised me copies, and then ordered a Scots piper, one of his domestics, to play to me some Spanish and Scots tunes, which were not in the collection; 'but play them in the garden, says he, for these fine Italianised folks cannot bear our rude music near their delicate ears.'"
That sounds all very fascinating, not only the idea of a Scottish piper in Berlin in 1771 but also the fact that already at that time somebody had collected on his travels through Europe local music pieces and created what must have been the very first collection of international national airs. This was a couple of years before Herder's international "Volkslieder" - with only lyrics but no tunes, of course - and 20 years before the Abbé Vogler's Polymelos ou Caractères de Musique de differentes Nations, the first published collection of foreign national tunes (see this text in my blog). I only wonder what has happened to the Earl's book of national airs. One may assume that it has been lost and we will never know what exactly he had collected. 

  • Charles Burney, The Present State of Music in Germany, The Netherlands, and United Provinces. Or, The Journal of a Tour through those Countries, undertaken to collect Materials for A General History of Music. In Two Volumes. Vol. II, London, 1773 (2nd ed., London, 1775, available at the Internet Archive)
  • [Charles Burney] Carl Burney's der Musik Doctors Tagebuch seiner musikalischen Reisen. Dritter Band. Durch Böhmen, Sachsen, Brandenburg, Hamburg und Holland. Aus dem Englischen übersetzt [von Christoph Daniel Ebeling]. Mit einigen Zusätzen und Anmerkungen zum zweyten und dritten Bande, Hamburg, 1773 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Johann Gottfried Herder, Volkslieder, Erster Theil, Weygand, Leipzig, 1778 (available at Google Books)
  • A. D. Schaefer, Keith, George, in: ADB 15, 1882, pp. 551-5 (at wikisource & BSt-DS)
  • Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, Biographische Denkmale, 7. Teil, 3.vermehrte Auflage, Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1873 (available at the Internet Archive)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Between Burns & Moore: Friedrich Silcher's German Version of "My Love's Like A Red, Red Rose" (1841)

"My Luve's like a red, red rose" is surely one of the most popular songs of Robert Burns. It was first published in 1794 in Pietro Urbani's A Selection of Scots Songs (Vol. 2, pp. 16-17) and is still sung and performed today. Its history has been discussed thoroughly (see f. ex.: Graham 1848, pp. 28-9; Dick 1903, No. 152, p. 137, notes, pp. 403-4, Low 1993, pp. 10-12; McCue 2012; The Burns Encyclopedia: Urbani, Pietro (1749 — 1816); O My Luve’s Like a Red, Red Rose, in: Editing Robert Burns for the 21st Century, Online Exhibitions). Apparently Burns had heard this song from a "country girl" (Low, p. 11) and at least some lines are known from other, older songs. 
O my Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luve's like the melodie,
That's sweetly play'd in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho' 'twere ten thousand mile!
Of course this song was also known in Germany and I will discuss here one particular version, the one published in 1841 in the 4th booklet of Friedrich Silcher's collection Ausländische Volksmelodien (No. 7, pp. 10-11): 
Dem roten Röslein gleicht mein Lieb,
Im Junimond erblüht;
Mein Lieb ist eine Melodie,
Vor der die Seele glüht.

Wie schön du bist, geliebte Maid!
Wie wird das Herz mir schwer,
Und lieben wird's dich immerdar,
Bis trocken Strom und Meer!

Und würden trocken Strom und Meer,
Und schmölzen Fels und Stein:
Ich würde dennoch lebenslang
Dir Herz und Seele weih'n!

Und, holdes Liebchen, lebe wohl!
Leb' wohl, du süsse Maid!
Bald kehr' ich wieder, wär' ich auch
Zehntausend Meilen weit. 
Silcher (1789-1860), music director at the university of Tübingen, composer, arranger, editor, music educator and choirmaster, was one of the most important promoters of the "Volkslied"-genre at that time. Many of the songs published by him are known and sung until today and also a considerable amount of the pieces in this collection of foreign national airs - published in four parts between 1835 and 1841 - became part of the common repertoire of "Volkslieder". 

He had already used one song of Burns, "My Heart's in the Highlands", in Vol. 2 (1837, No. 1, p. 1) and it is no wonder that he tried out another one in the 4th booklet. In fact at that time Burns' works were discovered in Germany and he would become - many years after his death - one of the most popular foreign poets (see Selle 1981). During these years several collections of translations appeared. The first one was poet Ferdinand Freiligrath who offered "Einige Lieder von Robert Burns" in the Blätter zur Kunde der Literatur des Auslandes (No. 2, 13.2.1836, pp. 5-6 & No. 4, 20.2.1836, pp. 13-14), among them "Mein Lieb ist eine rothe Ros'" (No. 3, reprinted in Gedichte, 1838, p. 440). 

At the same time Philipp Kaufmann was busy with his translations. Some of them were used by composer Friedrich W. Jähns already in 1836 in his collection Schottische Lieder und Gesänge, mit Begleitung des Piano-Forte. Gedichtet von Robert Burns, Op. 21 (2 Vols, Cranz, Berlin), including "Mein Schatz ist eine rothe Ros'" (II, No. 4, pp. 8-9). Kaufmann's Gedichte von Robert Burns appeared as a book only three years later (Cotta, Stuttgart & Tübingen, 1839, see p. 30). The following year two more collections of translations came out: Wilhelm Gerhard's Robert Burns' Gedichte (Barth, Leipzig, 1840; No. 122, p. 209: "Rothes Röslein") and Lieder und Balladen des Schotten Robert Burns by Heinrich Julius Heintze (Westermann, Braunschweig, 1849; p. 178: "Mein Liebchen gleicht dem Röslein roth"). 

For his German version of "My Heart's in the Highlands" Silcher had selected the translation by Ferdinand Freiligrath but in this case he borrowed the one by Wilhelm Gerhard. I have written a little bit more about Gerhard (1780-1858) in my history of "Robin Adair" in Germany (Chapter 2, JustAnotherTune) so I won't repeat it here. Today he is more or less forgotten but at that time he was among the most important translators and mediators of foreign songs and poetry in Germany. His translations of Burns' songs were particularly popular among composers, first and foremost Robert Schumann, who loved to set them to new music. Today many of his texts sound hopelessly outdated but I assume they already looked old-fashioned when they were first published and perhaps this was what he had intended. 

More interesting is the tune used by Silcher for his version. He only described it as "Irische Melodie" but as usual "forgot" to name his source. It is none of the melodies associated with this song in the original British publications. Composer Pietro Urbani had written a new one for the version included in 1794 in his Selection of Scots Songs

Two years later the song appeared in the Scots Musical Museum (Vol. 5, Nos. 402-3, pp. 414-6), but with two different tunes: "Major Graham" by Niel Gow and one called "Mary Queen of Scots". The former - first published by Gow in his Collection of Strathspey Reels (Edinburgh, 1784, p. 6, at IMSLP) - was the one Burns himself used with his song. But one can not say that his wish was complied with. 

George Thomson included "O my love's like a red rose" in the 4th Set of his Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (here in Vol. 2 of the new edition, 1801, No. 89) and he combined it with "Wishaw's Favourite", a tune written by one Mr. Marshall. Interestingly Thomson also noted that the words were "from a MS. in the editor's possession" and in the Index the author is given as "unknown". It seems that he really regarded Burns only as the collector, not the writer of this song. 22 years later R. A. Smith used still another tune in his Scotish Minstrel (Vol. 3, p. 85): "Low down in the broom" is the one that is until today usually associated with this song. 

Silcher used none of these four different melodies for his version. The problem was that at that time not many original Scottish tunes were available in Germany, and even less so those of Burns' songs. The authoritative British collections - like the Scots Musical Museum, Thomson's publicationa and Smith's Scotish Minstrel - were not that easy to get. Only few copies if these books were circulating among the fortunate few and apparently they hadn't yet reached the town of Tübingen. 

But Silcher had access to Thomas Moore's works, both the Irish Melodies and the Popular National Airs. In fact most of the tunes in his collection - nearly two third - were borrowed from Moore's publications. He had already taken one from the National Airs for his version of "My Heart's in the Highlands" in Vol. 2 and here he helped himself with one from the Irish Melodies. It was "My Lodging is on the cold Ground", the tune Moore had used for "Believe me, if all those endearing young Charms" (in Vol. 2, 1807, pp. 113-6): 

This is also a melody with a very interesting history. Moore's source may have been Thomson's collection with which he was of course familiar (see Chinneide, p. 120). We can find it there also in the 4th Set, 1799 (here in Vol. 2, 1801, No. 76) where Thomson had combined it with a song by Burns, "Farewell thou fair day", even though - as usual - Burns himself had preferred another tune (see Dick, No. 272, p. 254, notes, pp. 458-9; Scots Musical Museum 4, 1792, No. 385, p. 399). 

"My Lodging is on the cold ground" was at that time not particularly old (see Olson, Early Irish Tune Title Index). By all accounts it was first printed in 1775 in a collection published in London called Vocal Music: Or The Songster's Companion. Containing A new and choice Collection Of The Greatest Variety Of Songs, Cantatas, &c (pp. 18-9; available at IMSLP). 

Here it was described as "A favourite mad song". Only the text used with the tune was a little bit older:
My lodging is on the cold ground,
And very hard is my fare;
But that which grieves me more, love,
Is the coldness of my dear!
Yet still he cry'd, Turn, love,
I pray thee, love, turn to me;
For thou art the only girl, love,
That is adored by me!
These words were originally part of a comedy with music with the title The Rivals by William D'Avenant, first performed in 1664, possibly earlier. A contemporary observer described it as one of "several wild and mad songs" (see Chappell 1859, pp. 525-30, p. 785; London Stage 1, p. 83; D'Avenant, Dramatic Works 5, p. 282). A "mad song" was a particular type of song, one "of extravagant nature sung by someone who has become insane through love" (Fuld 1995, p. 138, n. 2). 

On stage this text was sung to a tune said to have been written by composer Matthew Locke which was then also included in a couple of contemporary collections like the Dancing Master and Apollos's Banquet either as "On the cold ground" or "I prithee, love, turn to me" (see also SITM I, No. 64, p. 14). Some ballads from that era also referred to a tune with these titles (see EBBA, the first one listed may be dated too early). Much later Robert Burns also used the melody for one of his songs, "Behold, my love, how green the groves" (see Dick, No. 100, p. 94, notes, p. 384). 

It is not clear why D'Avenant's original text was supplied with a new tune in the 1770s. This melody's origin is not known. It may be related to a "Gigg" in James Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion (Vol. 2, 1745, p. 36, see the references in SITM 1, No. 1164, p. 221, No. 2048, p. 395) but I am not sure about that. But after the first known publication in the Songster's Companion it quickly spread among editors of songbooks and was regularly republished and also used for new songs. We find the tune for example in James Aird's Selection Of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs. Adapted for the Fife, Violin or German Flute (Vol. 1, c. 1778, p. 41) and in The Hibernian Muse. A Collection of Irish Airs (c. 1790, No. XLV, p. 28), in the latter with the title "An Irish Mad Song". In fact here it was for the first time described as "Irish". 

The tune was also included in the Scots Musical Museum (Vol 3, 1790, No. 267, p. 276-7), here with two sets of lyrics. It is not clear how old these were but at least by adding these texts publisher Johnson implicitly claimed it as Scottish. David Sime in his Edinburgh Musical Miscellany (Vol. 2, 1793, No. LIX, p. 146-7) again used the old words. After the turn of the century the tune remained popular and found a place in more collections of all kinds. 

At that time there was a certain obsession with classifying songs after their supposed national origin even if this was usually difficult or impossible to prove. In practice songs were often enough simply adopted for one or more national repertoires. This particular tune can be found in English, Scottish and Irish collections. In the end it was Thomas Moore who really defined the melody as "Irish" by using it for one of his most popular songs and that way it also came to Germany. Moore had given it its stamp of "authenticity" and for Silcher this was therefore an "Irish Melody". Why he then used the tune for a Scottish song is another question. 

A considerable amount of songs from Silcher's Ausländischen Volksmelodien became very popular and later regularly appeared in other songbooks. But this was not the case with his version of Burns' "Red, red rose". There were very few reprints and it never became part of the popular singing tradition. I found this piece only in one later songbook, Wilhelm Meyer's Volks-Liederbuch. Auserlesene ältere und neuere Volkslieder und Nationalgesänge des In- und Auslandes mit ihren eigenthümlichen Sangweisen (1873, No. 83, p. 90-1), here in a four-part arrangement for male choirs. O. L. Lange's Ausländischer Liederschatz (1886 , No. 30, p. 38) includes the same tune, but a different translation. He even added an English text, not Burns' original lyrics but somewhat strangely some verses of "My Lodging is on the cold ground". 

Otherwise this song became more popular in Germany as a Lied, with new tunes written by a number of more or less notable composers. I have already mentioned Friedrich-Wilhelm Jähns who had been the first to set a translated text to new music in 1836. Heinrich Marschner offered a new setting in 1839, in Lieder nach Robert Burns von F. Freiligrath für eine Sopran oder Tenorstimme mit Begleitung des Piano-Forte, Op. 103 (No. 7, p. 14) as did Alexander Fesca in 1842 in Drei Lieder von Robert Burns in Musik gesetzt für eine Sopran- oder Tenorstimme mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, op. 21 (No. 2). 

The most popular and most often reprinted new tune was surely Robert Schumann's, written in 1840, immediately after the publication of Wilhelm Gerhard's book of translations but published only in 1849 (in: Lieder und Gesänge für eine Singstimme, Op. 27, No. 2). His version was later even included in popular songbooks like F. L. Schubert's Concordia. Anthologie classischer Volkslieder für Pianoforte und Gesang (Vol. 2, 1861, No. 393, p. 58). All in all I have found nearly 40 relevant publications listed in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten until 1900. That is quite a lot - even though not as much new settings as for "My Heart's in the Highlands", the most popular song by Burns in Germany - and would be worth further investigation. Bur that's another story. 

  • William Chappell, Popular Music of the Olden Time. A Collection of Ancient Songs, Ballads, and Dance Tunes, Illustrative of the National Music of England, Vol. II, London, n. d. [1859] (available at the Internet Archive
  • Veronica ní Chinnéide, The Sources of Moore's Melodies, in: The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 89, No. 2 (1959), pp. 109-134 
  • William D'Avenant, The Rivals. A Comedy (1668), in: The Dramatic Works of William D'Avenant, Vol. 5, Edinburgh & London, 1872, pp. 213-293 
  • James C. Dick, The Songs of Robert Burns, London 1903 (available at The Internet Archive
  • James Fuld, The Book Of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular And Folk, Fourth Edition, Revised And Enlarged, Mineola, NY 1995 
  • George Farquhar Graham, The Songs of Scotland adapted to their Appropriate Melodies, Vol. 2, Edinburgh, 1848 (available at the Internet Archive
  • [Hofmeisters Monatsberichte =] Musikalisch-literarischer Monatsbericht neuer Musikalien, musikalischer Schriften und Abbildungen, Hofmeister, Leipzig 1829ff (online available at Österreichische Nationalbibliothek; searchable database: Hofmeister XIX (Royal Holloway, University Of London) 
  • The London Stage 1660 - 1800. A Calendar Of Plays, Entertainments & Afterpieces Together With Casts, Box-Receipts And Contemporary Comment, Part I: 1660-1700, ed. by William van Lennep, Carbondale, 1965 (available at HathiTrust
  • Donald A. Low (ed.), The Songs of Robert Burns, London 1993 
  • Kirsteen McCue, "O My Luve's Like a Red, Red Rose": Does Burns's Melody Really Matter,", in: Studies in Scottish Literature 37, 2012, pp. 68–82 (online available at Scholarcommons
  • Bruce Olson, Early Irish Tune Title Index [2003] 
  • Rosemary Anne Selle, The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany. A History, 2 Vols, Phil. Diss., Heidelberg 1981 (now available as: 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition, Frankfurt/M. 2013) 
  • [SITM =] Aloys Fleischmann (ed.), Sources Of Irish Traditional Music, C. 1600 - 1855, 2 Vols., New York & London 1998

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Thomas Moore's "Scottish" Songs

I am at the moment quite busy with Friedrich Silcher's collection Ausländische Volksmelodien, published in 4 booklets between 1835 and 1841 (available at the Internet Archive; see also this text in my blog). This was the most successful and influential German anthology of what was regarded at that time as foreign national airs ("Volkslieder" or "National-Lieder") and remained on the market in several new editions until well into the 20th century. A considerable number of these songs also became part of the common song repertoire in Germany. They reappeared in collections for schools, choirs and domestic music making and some are even still performed today.

As already noted Silcher's most important source were two of Thomas Moore's publications, the Irish Melodies (10 Vols., 1808-34) and especially the Popular National Airs (6 Vols., 1818-28; for more about these works, see here in this blog) that served as a kind of backbone. 25 of the 40 tunes were borrowed from Moore and included either with a translation of the original text or with new lyrics from other sources. In some way this was an early inofficial German edition of Moore's songs. 

What most intrigued me were the Scottish songs in the Popular National Airs, of which Silcher used three. Apparently he had - unlike other editors from that era - no access to original collections from Scotland like the Scots Musical Museum, George Thomson's works or R. A. Smith's Scotish Minstrel and therefore he had to rely on what was offered by Moore. In Vol. 4 (1823; see Glover ed., 1860, pp. 289-291) he found "Here Sleeps The Bard". Thomas Moore had written new words to what he called a "Highland Air". I always wondered if this song was intended as some kind of tribute to Robert Burns :
Here sleeps the Bard who knew so well
All the sweet windings of Apollo's shell,
Whether its music rolled like torrents near,
Or died, like distant streamlets, on the ear.

Sleep, mute bard! alike unheeded now.
The storm and zephyr sweep thy lifeless brow;--
That storm, whose rush is like thy martial lay;
That breeze which, like thy love-song, dies away!
Silcher used it as the opening song of his collection (Heft 1, 1835, No. 1, p. 2) with a translation by Swabian poet Hermann Kurz:
Stumm schläft der Sänger, dessen Ohr
Gelauschet hat an and´rer Welten Thor;
Ein naher Waldstrom brauste sein Gesang,
Und säuselt auch wie ferner Quellen Klang.

Du schlummerst stille, schlummerst leicht,
Wann über dich der Sturm und Zephir streicht,
Der Sturm, der dir den Schlachtgesang durchdröhnt,
Der Hauch, der sanft im Lied der Liebe tönt.
He also wrote an arrangement for four male voices (publ. posth. in Silcher, Volkslieder, 1891, 1902, No. 150, pp. 274-5). This song was clearly one of his favourites: "Von einem großen Chor gesungen, macht die Musik eine außerordentliche Wirkung" (Bopp, p. 138). It was even performed at a memorial concert for him after his death (Bopp, p. 163). Not at least this piece became a standard for Männergesangvereine. It was particularly suitable for festive events and funerals. We can find it in numerous songbooks (see for example the list at and it is still sung today by some of the more old-fashioned male choirs. One may say that it was for a long time the most popular "Scottish" song in Germany. 

In Vol. 1 of the Popular National Airs (1818, pp. 51-3) Thomas Moore introduced "Oft, In The Stilly Night", another song with a new text written to a "Scotch Air":
Oft, in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Fond Memory brings the light
Of other days around me;
The smiles, the tears,
Of boyhood's years,
The words of love then spoken;
The eyes that shone,
Now dimmed and gone,
The cheerful hearts now broken!
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.
When I remember all
The friends, so link'd together,
I've seen around me fall,
Like leaves in wintry weather;
I feel like one,
Who treads alone,
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed!
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere Slumber's chain has bound me,
Sad Memory brings the light
Of other days around me.
This beautiful song was also used by Silcher, again with a translation by Hermann Kurz (Heft 2, 1837, No. 7, pp. 10-1; see also the arrangement for four voices in Volkslieder, 1891, 1902, No. 158, pp. 291-3):
Oft in der stillen Nacht,
Eh' Schlummer band die Glieder,
Bring' vor'ger Tage Pracht,
Mir süss Erinnern wieder,
Bringt Freud und Leid
Der Jugendzeit,
Der Liebesworte Feuer,
Der Augen Glüh'n,
Jetzt längst dahin,
Herz, das brach, einst teuer!
So bringt in stiller Nacht,
Eh' Schlummer band die Glieder,
Mir vor'ger Tage Pracht
Ein herb Erinnern wieder.

Der Freude denk' ich da,
So innig einst gesellet,
Die ich gleich Herbstlaub sah
Vom Tod um mich gefället,
Mir ist's zu Sinn,
Als ständ' ich drin
In öder Festeshalle,
Die Fackeln verglüht,
Die Kränze verblüht,
Gefloh'n die Andern alle!
So bringt in stiller Nacht,
Eh' Schlummer band die Glieder,
Mir vor'ger Tage Pracht
Ein herb Erinnern wieder.
For some reason this piece was not particularly successful in Germany. There were only very few reprints in later years (see f. ex. Meyer, Volks-Liederbuch, 1873, No. 100, pp. 106-7; Gervinus, Volksliederbuch, 1896, No. 62, pp. 68-9). 

Silcher also borrowed the "Scotch Air" of "Oh! Guard Our Affection" (Popular National Airs V, 1826; see Glover ed., 1860, pp. 295-7):
Oh! guard our affection, and ne'er let it feel
The blight, which this world o'er the warmest will steal.
While the faith of all round us is fading or past,
Let our truth, at least, keep its bloom to the last.

It is safer for Love to be watchful and weep,
As he us'd in his prime, than go smiling to sleep.
For death on his slumber, cold death follows fast,
White the love that is wakeful lives on to the last.

And tho', as Time gathers his clouds o'er our head,
A shade, somewhat darker, o'er life they may spread;
Yet transparent, at least, be the shadow they cast,
So that Love's soften'd light may shine thro' to the last.
But interestingly in this case he only took the tune which he then used for "Mein Herz ist im Hochland", Ferdinand Freiligrath's translation of Robert Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands" (Heft 2, 1837, No. 1, p. 1):

At this time not much of Burns' works was known in Germany. Freiligrath was a kind of pioneer in this respect. His second set of translations - including this one - appeared on February 20th, 1836 in the Blätter zur Kunde der Literatur des Auslandes (Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 13-4, at Google Books; see Selle, pp. 60-2). Silcher happened to be among the first who set one of these texts to music. But the original tune - the one published in 1790 in the third volume of the Scots Musical Museum (No. 259, p. 268, available at the Internet Archive), which, by the way, never made it to Germany - was not available to him and he had to combine the text with another Scottish melody. For whatever reason he decided for this one from Moore's collection. It fact it worked quite well. And as an additional benefit the German music fans got Burns and Moore together in one song.

"Mein Herz ist im Hochland" became one of the most popular German "Volkslieder". It was recycled for more than a century in numerous songbooks but later editors preferred to use other tunes. Silcher's rarely appeared again. Interestingly it can be found in some songbooks for schools published after the turn of the century and there it was combined with Burns' original text and described as a "Scotch Bagpipe tune" (see Irmer 1911, p. 66, Simon/Stockhaus 1912, p. 77). Perhaps these editors thought it was the original tune:

In fact in these first two volumes of Silcher's Ausländischen Volksmelodien the Scottish music was represented exclusively by Thomas Moore. Only in Vol. 3 he would include a Scottish tune from another source, "The Bush aboon Traquair", which was combined with a poem by Friedrich Rückert ("Ich wohn' in meiner Liebsten Brust", No. 6, pp. 8-9).

But there is another question that should be raised. I really wonder where Mr. Moore found these three tunes which he sold as "Scottish". I have checked some - not all, of course - relevant collections of Scottish tunes and songs but I haven't yet come across a possible source for any of them. For his Irish Melodies we know most of the sources (see Chinnéide 1959) but as far as I know nobody has ever attempted a similar work for the Popular National Airs. I have also been looking around a little bit for the other tunes borrowed by Silcher, those described as "Venetian", "Italian", "Spanish", "Russian" and the more, but I haven't yet seen them in other earlier collections. So either Moore did really well hiding his sources or one may ask what's the chance that he or his musical partners - Sir John Stevenson respectively Henry Rowley Bishop - wrote a considerable part of them themselves? 


Moore & Silcher:
  • [Moore, Popular National Airs] A Selection of Popular National Airs with Symphonies and Accompaniments by Sir John Stevenson MusDoc [Henry R. Bishop]. The Words by Thomas Moore, Esq., 6 Volumes, J. Power, London, 1818-1828 (Vol. 1-3 available at BStB-DS: 4 35243-(1-3) [click on Einzelbände]; also available at Google Books: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3 )
  • Charles W. Glover (ed.), National Airs, with Words by Thomas Moore, Longman, Green, Longman & Roberts, London, 1860 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Friedrich Silcher, Ausländische Volksmelodien, mit deutschem, zum Theil aus dem Englischen etc. übertragenem Text, gesammelt und für eine oder zwei Singstimmen mit Begleitung des Pianoforte und der Guitarre gesetzt, 4 Hefte, Fues, Tübingen, 1835-1841 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Friedrich Silcher, Volkslieder, gesammelt und für vier Männerstimmen gesetzt. Nebst einem Anhang mit Trauerliedern. Neue Ausgabe. 5. und 6. Tausend, H. Laupp, Tübingen, 1902 (first published 1891; available at the Internet Archive)
Other Songbooks:
  • Victorie Gervinus, Volksliederbuch. 80 Volkslieder (deutsche, dänische, englische, französische, hebräische, indische, irische, italienische, maurische, persische, portugiesische, schottische, schwedische, spanische, ungarische, wälisische) mit deutschem Text und Klavierbegleitung, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, Brüssel & New York, n. d. [1896] (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Karl Irmer, Sammlung französischer und englischer Lieder für den Schulgebrauch. 2. Auflage (3.-5. Tausend), N. G. Elwertsche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Marburg, 1911 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Wilhelm Meyer, Volks-Liederbuch. Auserlesene ältere und neuere Volkslieder und Nationalgesänge des In- und Auslandes mit ihren eigenthümlichen Sangweisen. Für den vierstimmigen Männerchor, Hahn'sche Hofbuchhandlung, Hannover, 1873 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • F. Simon & J. Stockhaus, Französische und Englische Volkslieder für den Schulgebrauch. Ergänzung zu Stockhaus "Der Schulgesang", Moritz Diesterweg, Frankfurt am Main, 1912 (available at the Internet Archive)
Other Literature
  • August Bopp, Friedrich Silcher, Stuttgart, 1916
  • Veronica ní Chinnéide, The Sources of Moore's Melodies, in: The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 89, No. 2, 1959, pp. 109-134
  • Rosemary Anne Selle, The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany. A History, 2 Vols, Phil. Diss., Heidelberg 1981 (now available as: 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition, Frankfurt/M., 2013)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

"A Land That's Free..." - Irving Berlin's "Russian Lullaby"

One of the most touching and impressive songs in Irving Berlin's oeuvre is "Russian Lullaby", written in 1927 and first performed by Douglas Stanbury at the opening of Samuel Rothafels Roxy Theatre in New York on March 11th 1927 (Kimball, p. 251). It became one of the most popular hits of that year and one of the most often performed songs of the late 20s and early 30s (NYT 8.10.1933):
  • mp3: Roger Wolfe Kahn & His Orchestra, Henry Garden, voc, "Russian Lullaby" (1927)
Since then the song has been recorded - often as an instrumental - by numerous artists. Jerry Garcia has introduced it to Rock-Music audiences. He had learned "Russian Lullaby" from a recording by Oscar Aleman. It was included on his second solo-LP Compliments (Round RX 102, 1974) and became a staple of his live shows. He also recorded it with David Grisman in 1991 (David Grisman & Jerry Garcia, Acoustic Disc ACD 2).

"Russian Lullaby" consists of a verse in D-major (16 bars) and a refrain of 32 bars in d-minor:
Where the dreamy Volga flows
There's a lonely Russian Rose

Gazing tenderly
Down upon her knee
Where a baby's brown eyes glisten

Ev'ry night you'll hear her croon
A Russian lullaby
Just a little plaintive tune
When baby starts to cry
Rock-a-bye my baby
Somewhere there may be
A land that's free for you and me
And a Russian lullaby
The verse has been left out in nearly all recordings I know. The minimalist lyrics only hint at the grim historical and political background. But this minimalism serves the song's purposes perfectly. It's neither an abstract political treatise nor useless propaganda. The whole story with its many facets is condensed to the touching image a lonesome mother with her baby. The writer doesn't even tell his listeners why the woman and her baby are alone and what had happened to her man.

In fact there is a lot of history behind these few lines. On one level the song refers to Czarist Russia and reflects the collective life history of the many immigrants who - like Berlin himself - had come to the USA to escape oppression and find a "land that's free". It may also have been intended as a comment on Bolshevist Russia. Lawrence Bergreen calls it a "quiet protest against repression in the Soviet Union" (p. 275, see also Freedland, p. 97). 

The song also reads like a critical remark to the end of immigration from Eastern Europe to the USA since the National Origins Act (1924). The words "somewhere there may be [...]" win a special poignancy in this context as they were really many people for whom the gates of the "land that's free" had been closed. Already in 1925 Berlin had written the much less successful "Don't Send Me Back To Petrograd", a song protesting the treatment of immigrants:
I want to be
In the land of the free and settle down.
The Liberty Statue down the bay
Is looking right at you and seems to say,
"Oh! Don't send her back"
The year 1926 had also seen a massive fundraising effort - the United Campaign for Eastern European Relief - for the impoverished and persecuted Eastern European Jews (see f.ex. NYT 26.4.1926) that tried to bring the fate of those left behind back into the public conscience. Berlin had given both money and his name (see NYT, 4.6.1926) to this cause.

The song is conceived as a lullaby. Berlin alludes to two well-known popular songs. The first one is James Royce Shannon's "Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral (That's An Irish Lullaby)" (1913):
Over in Killarney,
Many years ago,
Me Mither sang a song to me
In tones so sweet and low

Just a simple little ditty,
In a good old Irish way
The other one is "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby (With A Dixie Melody)" (Young/Lewis/Schwartz, 1918), a great hit for Al Jolson:
Rock-a-bye your Baby with a Dixie melody;
When you croon, croon a tune from the heart of Dixie
This was a typical "Mammy"-song, a very popular genre at that time and it seems to me that Berlin is deliberately debunking the cliches of these kind of songs and of the nostalgic lullaby in general. "Russian Lullaby" is not about someone longing back to the fabled homeland of his youth. It's about someone who wants to get out. Berlin's song reads like an answer to the second verse of "Rock-A-Bye You Baby":
Wonder why I went away;
What a fool I've been;
In contrast Berlin explains very explicitly why people want to leave their home! The only thing that will be left of this old homeland - a place they surely don't want to return to - will be the lullaby.

The melody of the refrain is loosely based on the theme from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (see Gottlieb, p. 75/76). This gives the song an appropriate Russian flavor in line with the musical exoticism prevalent at that time. Berlin turns it into a syncopated waltz by using this rhythmical motif for the most of the refrain's melody:
This is a device he had also used for his immensely popular songs of lost love like "What'll I Do", "All Alone" and "Remember". "Much of the lyrical artfulness of Berlin's [ballads] stems from his subtle fragmentation and juxtaposition of words against music " (Furia, Poets, p. 55f). By setting this ragged melody line against the waltz rhythm he is breaking up the verbal phrases into repetitive fragments and creates an atmosphere of loneliness, isolation, emptiness and monotony. It's like depicting someone sitting in a prison cell who is waiting to be set free. 
'Ry night
You'll hear
Her croon
A Russ-
Ian Lul-
The 32 bars of the refrain are not organized along the lines of the "standard" AABA-form. Instead every strain sounds distincively different. The first eight bars are in d-minor and start on the tonic note. A descending chromatic bass line serves as a counterpoint to the ragged melody line. The word "night" is set to an augmented chord to give an idea of unrest. The second eight bars start a third higher, modulate to F-major and are again underlined by a descending chromatic bass line. The word "starts" is given a slightly dissonant sound by using a g# instead of a g. The next phrase starts another third higher and modulates for four bars to A-major and then the song returns slowly back to the starting point. Berlin uses half tone intervals for the key lines land/that's/free and you/and/me. This careful use of chromatic notes in an otherwise predominantly diatonic melody gives these words even more poignancy.

Additional Resources:
  • Laurence Bergreen, As Thousands Cheer, The Life Of Irving Berlin, New York 1996 (1990)
  • Robert Kimball & Linda Emmet (ed.), The Complete Lyrics Of Irving Berlin, New York 2000
  • Michael Freedland, Irving Berlin, New York 1978 (1974)
  • Jake Gottlieb, Funny, It Doesn't Sound Jewish. How Yiddish Songs and Synagogue Melodies Influenced Tin Pan Alley, Broadway, And Hollywood, New York 2004
  • Philip Furia, Poets Of Tin Pan Alley. A History Of America’s great Lyricists, New York 1990

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Some Early Song Collections from Denmark & Norway - What is available online?

Recently I was researching some Danish and Norwegian tunes that I had found in German songbooks. Therefore I had to make myself familiar with the most important early collections of "folk-songs" from these two countries. Here is a little overview with links to the most useful digital resources. This is mostly about books including tunes, not collections of only texts. 

Interestingly the earliest examples of Scandinavian "folk tunes" can be found in a French publication:
  • Jean-Benjamin de Laborde, Essai Sur La Musique Ancienne Et Moderne, Tome Second. Livre Troisieme. Abrégé d'un Traité de Composition, Paris, 1780 (available at the Internet Archive)
This massive Essai was of course one of the most important musicological publications of the 18th century. One chapter in Book 4 is dedicated to the "Chansons du Danmark, de la Norvege & de l'Islande" (pp. 397-418). Of course Laborde hadn't made a field trip to Scandinavia. His informant was C. F. Jacobi, at that time secretary of the Kongelige Videnskabers Selskab in Copenhagen, who sent him an interesting collection of tunes and songs from these countries.

In case of Denmark I have to mention one very early important text collection: Anders Sørensen Vedel's Et hundrede udvalde Danske Viser, first published in 1591 and then updated and expanded by Peter Syv in 1695 (200 Viser og Konger, Kemper og Andre, a later reprint, 1739, is available at Google Books and the Internet Archive). Vedel's and Syv's work was a starting-point and source for all later editors.

In 1810 literature historian Knut Lyne Rahbek compiled a little book with the title Danske og Norske Historiske Mindesange (available at KBK). In the following years he then put together and published with two other scholars the first comprehensive modern collection of old Danish songs. 
  • Werner H. Abrahamson, Rasmus Nyerup & K. L. Rahbek, Udvalgte Danske Viser fra Middelalderen; efter A. S. Vedels og P. Syvs trykte Udgaver og efter handskrevne Samlingar undgivne paa ny, 5 Vols., Schultz, København, 1812-1814 (at BStB-DS: 10049001 P.o.rel. 4820-1(-5) )
Thankfully Vol. 5 included a selection of tunes (pp. XVII-LXXXVIII). This edition was also discussed outside of Denmark, for example in an interesting and detailed article about Alte Volksmelodien des Nordens in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (Vol. 18, 1816, pp. 594-599, pp. 613-619, also Beylage No. 6, No. 7). Collections of Danish songs were also published both in Germany and in England:
  • Danish And Norwegian Melodies. Selected by A. Andersen Feldborg, of the University of Copenhagen, Harmonized and Arranged with Additional Symphonies and Accompaniments for the Piano-Forte, by C. Stokes. The Poetry Translated by William Sidney Walker of Trinity College, Cambridge, Chappell & Co., London, 1815 (at IMSLP)
  • Friedrich L. A. Kunzen, Auswahl der vorzüglichsten altdänischen Volksmelodien und Heldenlieder mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, Wenzler, Kopenhagen, n. d. [1818] (at IMSLP)
Nyerup and Rahbek were the key figures of the first "Folk revival". Later their work was of course eclipsed and overshadowed by Svend Grundtvig. The first volume of his great collection Danmarks gamle Folkeviser appeared in 1853. But he only published the texts but no tunes. More relevant for the musical side of this genre became A. P. Berggreen (1801-1880), a multi-talented composer, writer and editor. His first relevant publications were a songbook for schools and a collection of patriotic songs: 
  • A. P. Berggreen, Sange til Skolebrug, udsatte for tre Stemmer, 14 Vols., Reitzel, København 1834-1876 (at KBK
  • A. P. Berggreen, Melodier til de af "Selskabet for Selskabet for Trykkefrihedens rette Brug" udgivne fædrelandshistoriske Digte, C. C. Lose & Olsen, København, 1840 (at KBK)
But soon the first edition of his great collection of national and international "folke-sanger" appeared. A second expanded edition was published during the 1860s:
Volume 1 is dedicated to Danish songs and the other books offer excellent selections of national airs from Norway, Sweden, Britain, Germany and many more countries. This is an outstanding collection, one of the best and most useful from that time.

In Norway the collection and publication of so-called "Folk songs" started much later than in Denmark. Of course there were Norwegian songs and tunes in Laborde's Essai, for example a couple of Edvard Storms Døleviser, long before they were published at home. Then one should not forget the legendary Abbé Vogler who also collected the tune of Storm's "Skogmøte af Torjer Skjeille" and then presented it to his German audiences as "eine alte Weise von den Gränzen von Grönland" (in his Polymelos, 1806, see Verzeichnis Falter, 1810, p. 23). Later this particular melody was used by Carl Maria von Weber and then - thanks to Friedrich Silcher - it became the tune of a popular "Volkslied". But this is another story that I am busy writing at the moment. 

The above-mentioned British edition by Stokes had also included some Norwegian songs but it took some more time until the first real collection of Folkeviser from Norway appeared:
  • Jørgen Moe, Samling af Sange, Folkeviser og Stev i Norske Almuedialekter, Malling, Christiania, 1840, at BStB-DS: P.o.rel. 5333 n & at Google Books)
This was basically a collection of texts, but young composer Ludvig M. Lindeman (1812-1887; see Norsk Biografisk Leksikon) compiled an appendix with some tunes. Lindeman became the most important collector and editor of Norwegian folk tunes. His first relevant own publication (with arrangements for male choirs) was: 
  • Ludvig M. Lindeman, Norske Folkeviser udsatte for fire Mandsstemmer, A. Th. Nissen, Christiania, n.d. [1847] (pdf at
From 1853 onwards - until 1867 - he published his great collection in several volumes. The first is available online:
  • Ludvig M. Lindeman, Ældre og nyere Norske Fjeldmelodier. Samlade og bearbeidade for Pianoforte, Förste Bind, P. T. Malling, Christiania, n. d. [1853] (at IMSLP & Internet Archive; the complete set has been re-published as a facsimilé in 1963)
More of Lindeman's works - some of them digitized - are listed on the site Lindemanslegat. Two of them should be added here:
  • M. B. Landstad, Norske Folkeviser, Chr. Tönsberg, Christiania, 1853 (at Google Books; incl. an appendix with tunes compiled by Lindeman [pp. 869-920])
  • Ludvig M. Lindeman, Halvhundrede Norske Fjeldmelodier harmoniserede for Mandsstemmer, Fabritius, Christiania, 1862 (pdf at; another collection with choral arrangements).
And of course I must mention again A. P. Berggreen. The second volume of his above-mentioned collection is dedicated to Norway. The first edition appeared in the 40s and the second in 1861:

  • Jens Henrik Koudal, Rasmus Nyerups visearbejde og folkevisesamlingen 1809-21, in: Musik & Forskning 8, 1982, pp. 5-79 (online at
  • Olav Solberg, Editionen von Balladen und Volksliedern im Norden, in: Paula Henrikson & Christian Janss, Geschichte der Edition in Skandinavien, Berlin etc., 2013 (= Bausteine zur Geschichte der Edition 4), pp. 97-124