Friday, February 14, 2014

Robert Burns in 19th-Century Germany - H. F. Kufferath's 6 Lieder (1841)

Robert Burns was one of the most popular foreign poets in the German speaking countries during the 19th century. But even though his works were already discussed there since the 1790s the real enthusiasm only started in the late 1830s (see the overviews in Selle, pp. 21-150 & Kupper, pp. 9-48, also Bödeker, pp. 80-3). In 1838 popular poet Ferdinand Freiligrath included German versions of 11 songs in his Gedichte (pp. 434-46, at BStB-DS) and by 1840 three books with translations, by Philipp Kaufmann (1839, at Google Books), Julius Heintze (1840, at BStB-DS) and Wilhelm Gerhard (1840, at Google Books), were available. This was not a short-lived fashion. In the course of the next several decades even more would follow. But for some reason the interest in Burns suddenly waned around the turn of the century (see Bödeker, p. 89).

Equally enthusiastic about Burns were German composers who clearly loved to write new tunes for these translations (see Fiske, pp. 156-185 for a good overview). His name began to appear in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten in 1839. That year Heinrich Marschner used seven of Freiligrath's texts for his Lieder nach Robert Burns, Op. 103 (see Hofmeister XIX, December 1839, p. 154, available at the Internet Archive & SBB Berlin). The following year Robert Schumann set some of Gerhard's adaptations to music (in Myrthen, Op. 25, Hofmeister XIX, October 1840, p. 143, at SBB Berlin & BStB, München; later ed. at the Internet Archive). In a review in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik on June 28th, 1842 (Vol. 16, No. 52, p. 207) he also noted that Burns was "the favourite poet of the current young composers". In fact he remained a favourite for quite a long time and until the turn of the century a great number of relevant compositions would appear.

I am particularly interested in settings of translations of "Phillis The Fair" and "Had I A Cave", the two texts Burns had written to the tune of "Robin Adair" and I must admit that I was surprised to learn that at least 18 new melodies for these texts were published between 1840 and 1898. That's an astonishing number. Schumann's above-mentioned review in the NZM was about one of the earliest collections of Burns' songs in Germany, one that also included a German version of "Phillis The Fair", here called "Liebliche Maid":
  • Hubert-Ferdinand Kufferath, Sechs Lieder von Robert Burns übersetzt von W. Gerhard für Tenor oder Sopran mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, Op.3, Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig [1841]
As usual there is no publication date on the cover but it was listed in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten in December 1841 (p. 190, at Hofmeister XIX). As far as I could find out there are only two extant copies of this work available in the libraries, one in Brussels at the Bibliothéque royale de Belgique (Mus. 6.786 C 1) and the other at the Händel-Haus in Halle. The latter copy has now been made available online and can be found on the site of Museum Digital Sachsen-Anhalt.

Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath (1818-1896) is not exactly a household name today but during his lifetime he was a highly respected teacher, composer, pianist, organist and violinist. He came from Mühlheim/Ruhr and from 1839 to 1841 he studied in Leipzig, for example with Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. In 1841, the year this collection was published, he went to Köln and worked there first as the conductor of the Männergesangverein, one of the best and most popular German choirs. Three years later Kufferath moved to Brussels where he lived for the rest of his life. In 1872 he was appointed professor at the Royal Conservatoire. After his death it was noted in an obituary in the Musical Times And Singing Circular (Vol. 37, No. 642, Aug. 1, 1896, pp. 554-555) that "Belgian musical art has lost one of its most zealous promoters, and the Brussels Conservatoire in particular one of its most highly valued and valuable professors" (biographical information from Düwell 1964 and Nauhaus 1999; Wikipedia only has a much too short summary; more of his works can be found at IMSLP).

Just like Schumann he used texts from Wilhelm Gerhard's recently published book of translations. Gerhard (1780-1858; see Jahović 1972, a fine dissertation) - also completely forgotten today but surely a fascinating character - lived as a wealthy businessman in Leipzig. But besides that he was also a poet, playwright, polymath, translator - familiar with at least half a dozen languages - and a central figure of the cultural life in his hometown. In 1833 he closed down his business and for the rest of his life devoted himself solely to the arts. It seems his real problem was that he wanted to be new Goethe, his admired role model, but of course that was a little too much to ask.

Some of his early poems like the "Matrosenlied" were set to music and became popular hits (i. e. "volkstümliche Lieder") that can be found in numerous songbooks. Gerhard was also the author of the German text of "Robin Adair", one of the most beloved "Volkslieder" ("Treu und herzinniglich", 1826). One contemporary author noted appositely that he had managed to meet what was then called the "Volkston" (i. e. the language of the people or the popular style) in "not few of his songs" (Möbius 1866, p. 151, at Google Books).

In the article where he introduced his "Treu und herzinniglich" (Abend-Zeitung, Leipzig & Dresden, No. 273, 15.11.1826, pp. 1089-90, BStB-DS) he remarked that it was his aim to capture the "spirit" of the song and otherwise preferred to "let his imagination run free" instead of simply translating this song. He wanted to make it "understandable to German ears" and "singable to German 'Kehlen'". Similar sentiments can be found in the Burns book where he also noted that it was most important to him to convey the "spirit" of these pieces as faithfully as possible (p. IX). In fact literal translations were not his thing but he had a lot of phantasy as well as a colourful language and apparently liked to use old-fashioned words and expressions. Sometimes his syntax seems a little bit weird. Today many of his texts look and sound hopelessly outdated. The first verse of his version of "Phillis The Fair" is good example. Here is Burns' text:
While larks, with little wing,
Fann'd the pure air,
Tasting the breathing Spring,
Forth I did fare:
Gay the sun's golden eye
Peep'd o'er the mountains high;
Such thy morn! did I cry,
Phillis the fair.
I must admit that the original version was easier to understand for me than what Gerhard made of it:
Früh mit der Lerche Sang
Wandert' ich weit,
Schlürfte was Wies' entlang,
Labung verleiht.
Heiter und goldenrein,
Rief ich, wie Lenzes Schein,
Möge dein Morgen sein,
Liebliche Maid!
This sounds somewhat bizarre and I am not really sure what exactly it is supposed to mean. But it is singable and singability - besides capturing the "spirit" of the songs and retaining their "Originalrhythmen" (see p. IX) - clearly was among his main concerns. In case of "Phillis The Fair" alias "Liebliche Maid" he surely was successful. At least nine composers have created a new tune for this piece. In fact Gerhard treated Burns' words as song lyrics and not as poems. There is good reason to assume that he was familiar with the original tunes of the songs he had translated. They are listed in the "Melodietafel" (pp. 367-372) at the end of the book.

One gets the impression that he had really done his homework (but see also Selle, pp. 70-1, who is very critical). Additional benefits of Gerhard's collection were a well-informed and learned introduction to Robert Burns' life and works as well as the informative and entertaining comments on every song. He also explicitly encouraged composers to find new tunes to make these songs "mundrecht" (sic!) for German singers (p. 367). In fact many tried them out and apparently they preferred his adaptations to the products of the other translators.

Hubert-Ferdinand Kufferath - who lived in Leipzig when this book was published and I wonder if he perhaps knew Gerhard personally at that time - was among the first to make use of these texts. The reviews of his 6 Lieder were very friendly and more or less positive. A writer in the AMZ (Vol. 43, No. 49, Dezember 1841, p. 1041) noted that these songs had "the advantage of well-flowing, with the content corresponding melodies", were "easily singable and provided with a reasonable simple accompaniment". This description also shows that Kufferath's collection was not intended for professional singers and pianists but rather for the amateur players and domestic music-making.

Robert Schumann - with whom he had become acquainted in Leipzig (see Nauhaus 1999, p. 166) - in the above-mentioned review in the NZM (Vol. 16, No. 52, 28.6.1842, p. 207) also commended this publication even though he noted a certain, "inevitable [...] uniformity" of the tunes:
"In Hrn. Kufferath he [i. e. Burns] has found a very talented singer. The tone of the songs is happy and breathes Scottish character [...] in addition, the young composer shows in all of them [i. e. all songs] talent and taste, in many single strains also the finer education of the modern artist."
At last a look at the tune for "Liebliche Maid" is worthwhile. Because of that particular song I had become interested in this collection in the first place:

This is in fact an appealing and pleasant melody, simple, but not uninteresting. Of course it can't hold a candle to "Robin Adair", the original tune of Robert Burns' "Phillis The Fair". Nonetheless it works quite well in this context. But the song's mood has changed, it doesn't sound as serious as Burns' setting but instead more playful. In effect it is a new song that has not much to do with its precursors and even less with the first "Robin Adair". But of course "Liebliche Maid" á la Gerhard and Kufferath has remained part of this song family, only several steps removed from its starting point.

Appendix - The Songs in this Collection

I will list here the German titles, the relevant pages in Gerhard's collection as well as the titles and original tunes of Burns' songs. For some of them it was a little bit difficult to find out because Gerhard did not give the original titles in his book. But with the help of his "Melodientafel", the index of James C. Dick's Songs of Robert Burns (London 1903) and the great website Burns Country with their encyclopedia of songs I hope to have managed to identify them all. I have also added links to the original versions in the Scots Musical Museum and to the relevant pages in Dick's helpful and informative book. All the links here are to the Internet Archive except those to Gerhard's book which is available at Google Books.

I. "Eppie Adair"
(Gerhard, No. 73, p. 136, notes: p. 346)
"My Eppie Adair" (tune: "My Eppie")
(SMM III, No. 281, Dick, No. 126, p. 115, notes: p. 394)

II. "Heimliches Wiedersehen"
(Gerhard, No. 132, p. 223, notes: p. 355)
"I'll Ay Ca' in by Yon Town" (tune: "I'll gae nae mair to yon town")
(SMM V, No. 458; Dick, No. 99, p. 93, notes: p. 382)

III. "Am Ufer des Doon"
(Gerhard, No. 108, pp. 191 [Zweite Lesart], notes, pp. 351-2)
"Ye banks and Braes o' Bonie Doon" (tune: "Caledonian Hunt's Delight")
(SMM IV, No. 374; Dick, No. 123, p. 112, notes: p. 392)

IV. "Liebliche Maid"
(Gerhard, No. 162, p. 266, notes: p. 359)
"Phillis The Fair" (tune: "Robin Adair")
(Dick, No. 45, p. 45, notes: p. 366; here Dick used the wrong tune variant, a version of "Aileen A Roon" from Oswald's Caledonian Pocket Companion (V, p. 21) that he had to mutilate to make it fit to the words; it should have been "Robin Adair" from David Sime's Edinburgh Musical Miscellany (II, 1793, pp. 304/5); see Gebbie, p. 202 for the correct setting)

V. "So Weit Von Hier"
(Gerhard, No. 131, p. 222, notes: p. 355)
"Sae Far Awa" (tune: "Dalkeith Maiden Bridge")
(SMM V, No. 449) 

VI. "Lebewohl"
(Gerhard, No. 95, p. 168, notes: p. 350)
"Ae Fond Kiss, And Then We Sever" (tune: "Rory Dall's Port")
(SMM IV, No. 347; Dick, No. 84, p. 81, notes: p. 379)

  • Birgit Bödeker, Der deutsche Burns. Zur Kanonisierung von Robert Burns in Deutschland im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert, in: Andreas Poltermann (ed.), Literaturkanon - Medienereignis - kultureller Text. Formen interkultureller Kommunikation und Übersetzung, Berlin 1995, pp. 79-91
  • James C. Dick (ed.), The Songs of Robert Burns, London 1903 (available at The Internet Archive)
  • Klaus-Ulrich Düwell, Kufferath, Hubert-Ferdinand, in: Karl Gustav Fellerer, Rheinische Musiker, 3. Folge, Köln 1964, p. 52
  • Roger Fiske, Scotland In Music: A European Enthusiasm, Cambridge 1983
  • George Gebbie (ed.), Robert Burns, The Complete Works (Self Interpreting), Vol. 5, New York 1909 (first published 1886) (The Internet Archive)
  • W[ilhelm] Gerhard, Robin Adair, in Abend-Zeitung, Dresden & Leipzig, No. 273, 15. 11. 1826, pp. 1089-90 (available at BStB, Digitale Sammlungen)
  • W[ilhelm] Gerhard, Robert Burns' Gedichte, deutsch. Mit des Dichters Leben und erläuternden Bemerkungen, Leipzig 1840 (available at Google Books)
  • Hofmeister = 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)
  • Redžep Jahovic, Wilhelm Gerhard aus Weimar, ein Zeitgenosse Goethes, Göppingen 1972 (Göppinger Arbeiten zur Germanistik 57)
  • Hans Jürg Kupper, Robert Burns im deutschen Sprachraum unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der schweizerischen Übersetzungen von August Corrodi, Bern 1979 (Basler Studien zur deutschen sprache und Literatur 56)
  • Paul Möbius, Katechismus der Deutschen Literaturgeschichte, Leipzig 1866
  • Gerd Nauhaus, Clara Schumann und die Musikerfamilie Kufferath, in: Peter Ackermann (ed.), Clara Schumann - Komponistin, Interpretin, Unternehmerin, Ikone. Bericht über die Tagung anläßlich ihres 100. Todestages, veranstaltet von der Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst und dem Hochschen Konservatorium in Frankfurt, Hildesheim etc 1999, pp. 165-195
  • Obituary: Hubert Ferdinand Kufferath, in: The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular Vol. 37, No. 642 (Aug. 1, 1896), pp. 554-555 (available at jstor)
  • Rosemary Anne Selle, The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany. A History. 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition, Frankfurt/M. 2013 (first published as a dissertation, Heidelberg 1981) 
See also on my website, JustAnotherTune:

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