Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sheet Music: Carl Krebs, "Die süsse Bell", 1841 (Burns in Germany)

  • "Die süsse Bell". Gedichtet von dem Schotten Robert Burns. In Musik gesetzt Für eine Singstimme mit obligater Pianoforte-Begleitung und Fräulein Sophie Löwe Kön. Preuss. Kammersängerin zugeeignet von C. Krebs, Kapellmeister, Op. 90, Schuberth & Comp., Hamburg u. Leipzig, n. d. [1841], at the Internet Archive
 I have already mentioned a couple of times the great enthusiasm for Robert Burns in Germany that started in the late 1830s. A considerable amount of translations as well as a great number of new musical settings for these German adaptations were published until the end of the century (see again for the background: Selle 1981). Carl Krebs (1804-1880, see Fürstenau in ADB 17, 1883, pp. 99-100; also Christern 1850), Kapellmeister at the court in Dresden, was among the first composers to turn his attention to the germanized Burns.

It seems he found Wilhelm Gerhard's book of translations (Robert Burns' Gedichte, Leipzig 1840, available at BStB-DS & the Internet Archive) in a bookshop and was so fascinated by these texts that he "immersed himself in it at home at his piano" and then "created a significant series of songs" (this story from Christern 1850, p. 31, at BStB-DS). The first 9 were published in December 1840 (see the advert in the AMZ, Vol. 42, No. 52, p. 1078), among them "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" - translation not by Gerhard but by Ferdinand Freiligrath - which I have already discussed (see here). More would follow during the next couple of years (see Dupont 1971, p. 142-3).

"Die süsse Bell" was first announced in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten in April 1841 (p. 61). It is a German version of "My Bonie Bell" (see Scots Musical Museum, IV, 1792, No. 387, p. 401, at the Internet Archive):
The smiling spring comes in rejoicing,
And surly Winter grimly flies;
Now crystal clear are the falling waters,
And bonny blue are the sunny skies.
Fresh o'er the mountains breaks forth the morning,
The ev'ning gilds the Ocean's swell;
All Creatures joy in the sun's returning,
And I rejoice in my Bonie Bell.

The flowery Spring leads sunny Summer,
The yellow Autumn presses near,
Then in his turn comes gloomy Winter,
Till smiling Spring again appear.
Thus seasons dancing, life advancing,
Old Time and Nature their changes tell;
But never ranging, still unchanging,
I adore my Bonie Bell.
 Krebs used the translation included in Wilhelm Gerhard's book (No. 116, p. 203):
Der Frühling kehret lächelnd wieder;
Der eisig grimme Winter flieht;
Das Bächlein rinnt, und bunt Gefieder
Melodisch froh den Wald durchzieht.
Wie mild die Luft! wie sinkt die Sonne
In Purpurglanz dem Meere zu!
Du, Frühling, schenkst uns solche Wonne:
Mir, süße Bell, den Himmel du!

Der Lenz verblüht, des Sommers Farben
Verweht des Herbstes kühlre Luft,
Und Schnee bedeckt das Feld der Garben,
Bis wiederkehrt der Blume Duft.
So tanzt das Jahr; vorüber schweben
Die Bilder wechselvoller Zeit:
Doch, süße Bell, mit Seel' und Leben
Bleib' ich im Wechsel dir geweiht!
 It is also interesting to have a look at his new tune:

Christern in his little biographical work about Carl Krebs claimed that this was the best of the series (p. 31, at BStB-DS) and it also may have been the most popular because it was published again several times - sometimes in new arrangements - during the coming years (see Hofmeister XIX, October 1841, p. 157, December 1841, p. 182, November 1842, p. 170, December 1844, p. 190, December 1848, p. 189).

  • [J. W.] Christern, Carl Krebs, als Mensch, Componist und Dirigent. Eine biographisch-musikalische Studie, Hamburg & New York 1850 (available at BStB-DS)
  • Wilhelm Dupont, Werkausgaben Nürnberger Komponisten in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, Nürnberg 1971
  • Moritz Fürstenau, Art. Krebs, Karl August, in ADB 17, 1883, pp. 99-100 (available at BStB-DS)
  • 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)

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