Friday, February 7, 2014

Old (German) Songbooks, No. 2: Fritz Neuert, Neues Deutsches Schulliederbuch (1899)

Of particular importance for the dissemination of songs and the development of a standard repertoire in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th century were collections compiled especially for the use in schools. These were sold in great numbers and often reprinted in numerous editions. The teachers and their pupils had to use them. The songs in these kind of books were of course carefully selected, not only on musical but also on ideological grounds. The governments as well as many teachers saw songs, especially the so-called "Volkslieder", as valuable tools for the patriotic education of the children and as a means against what were regarded as the moral dangers of the modern world.

I am not sure if this approach was particularly successful but the poor little songs were thus loaded with heavy ideological ballast. An interesting example is a songbook first published in 1899. This is the third volume - intended for the higher classes of secondary schools - of a three-part series:
  • Fritz Neuert, Neues Deutsches Schulliederbuch. Sammlung deutscher Volkslieder und volkstümlicher Gesänge, III. Teil. A (vierstimmig), Pforzheim (Baden), n. d. [1899]
    Now available at the Internet Archive
There is no publication date on the title page but the preface is dated as from 1899. Fritz Neuert (1866-1923, see Stadtwiki Pforzheim-Enz, website Pforzheim) was a teacher in the town of Pforzheim but also made himself a name as composer, arranger and choirmaster.

In the preface he bemoans "the disgraceful displacing of our magnificent German 'Volkslied' from school, family and social clubs and the ever-increasing proliferation ["Hervorwuchern"] of trivial streets songs [...]". That was strikingly bizarre claim. Never before so many books of "Volkslieder" had been published than during the 1890s.

Of course he regarded the "light-weight and lascivious 'Tingeltangellied'" as the greatest threat not only to the good old songs but apparently also to the morals of the people. Besides that Neuert laments the decline of just about everything from family life to patriotism and not unsurprisingly concludes:
"[...] the school has the sacred duty to be aware of its task as an educator of the people ["des Volkes"], to avoid anything that hurts them, and to offer everything that keeps the soul of the people ["die Volkseele"] healthy. And here it is especially the song by which it may act most successfully."
This sounds all quite bombastic but saber-rattling of this kind was not uncommon among the so-called "Volksfreunde" ["friends of the people"] and the promoters of the "Volkslied"-genre. It had been part of the business and the ideology since Herder's and Goethe's time.

The songs this book clearly reflect this ideological agenda. There are many religious pieces like "Jauchzet dem Herrn" (Silcher) and "Hymne an die Nacht" and then of course a heavy dose of patriotism and nationalism, often very bellicose, that would be rather indigestible today. Some of these songs leave a somehow bad taste, like for example "Furchtlos und Treu" (No. 21, p. 28):
Frisch auf zum Kampf,
Fürs Vaterland zu streiten,
Frisch auf zum Kampf,
Fürs Vaterland ins Feld
Or "Zum Ausmarsch" (No. 24, p. 32):
O du Deutschland, ich muß marschieren,
O du Deutschland, du machst mit Mut;
Meinen Säbel will ich schwingen,
meine Kugel soll erklingen,
But these lines represent the naive patriotism that was so popular at that time. It is like little kids playing soldiers with their teacher. Nobody would have expected that some years later the young men would really be lying in the trenches.

In addition there are a considerable number of songs about "Heimat", "Abschied" und "Heimkehr", another favourite topic: "Heimat, Ade!", "Was willst du in der Fremde thun", "Sehnsucht nach der Heimat", "Ade, du Land am Rhein". But interestingly the editor also included the German version of "Home, Sweet Home" by John Howard Payne & Henry Bishop, one of the most popular foreign songs during the 19th century (No. 29, p. 36):
 All in all this is a very serious and solemn repertoire, not much to have fun with. I really wonder if the young people at that time enjoyed singing the songs from this collection.

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