Sunday, October 26, 2014

"Des Sommers letzte Rose" - Thomas Moore's "'Tis The Last Rose Of Summer" in Germany

At the moment I mostly interested in British songs that became popular in Germany during the 19th century. There were five of them that seem to have been particularly widespread. We can find them - as "Volkslieder" - in numerous songbooks of all kinds, with different sets of German words and also sometimes with different tunes. There was "Robin Adair" - I have already written at length about it (see my text on JustAnotherTune) -, Robert Burns' "My Heart's In The Highlands" - see a couple of texts in this blog -, "Long, Long Ago" (see now the text on JustAnotherTune), "Home, Sweet Home" and - perhaps the most successful of them all - Thomas Moore's "'Tis The Last Rose Of Summer". 

A look into Hofmeisters Monatsberichte (via Hofmeister XIX) shows that German versions of the latter - usually called "Irisches Volkslied" - with titles like "Letzte Rose" or "Des Sommers letzte Rose" were published numerous times as sheet music since the late 1840s. A nice early example is an edition by Schott from c. 1849 (available at the Internet Archive):

But it also appeared in many songbooks, for example in a choral arrangement in Ludwig Stark's Stimmen der Heimat (1868, here No. 19, pp. 34-5 in the 2nd edition, 1878), with piano accompaniment in Ludwig Erk's Volkslieder-Album (1872, No. 43, p. 43 ) as well as in song collections for schools like Volckmar's & Zanger's Deutsche [sic!] Lieder für Schule, Haus und Leben (1880, Heft 3, No. 88, pp. 87-8) or Liederbuch für preußische Volkschulen (5th ed., 1882, No. 60, p. 36, all at the Internet Archive):

In fact in 1899 it was noted that "today even the farmhand and the peasant girl knows" this song (Fleischer 1899, p. 6, at the Internet Archive). How and when did "The Last Rose of Summer" migrate to Germany? That was a longer, somehow complex process that took some time. In this case it needed three attempts before it became established as a standard. 

Moore's song was first published in 1813 in the 5th Number of his Selection of Irish Melodies (pp. 16-21, at the Internet Archive):

'Tis the last rose of summer, left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes or give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one, to pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping, go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow, when friendships decay,
And from Love's shining circle the gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered, and fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit this bleak world alone?
In Britain it was surely the "most well-known" song of this collection (see Scott 2001, Ch. 1c, at The Victorian Web). But Thomas Moore became also very popular in Germany early on - unlike Burns who was only rediscovered since the mid-30s - and therefore tune and text of "The Last Rose of Summer" found its way here very quickly.

Beethoven wrote variations (Six Themes Varies, op. 105, 1819, No. 4, at Beethoven-Haus, Bonn) but for some reason here it was called Air Ecossais, "Scottish tune". Translations were also published, for example by Friedrich Johann Jacobsen in 1820 in his influentual Briefe an eine deutsche Edelfrau über die neuesten englischen Dichter (p. 536) and by an unknown author in Iris. Unterhaltungsblatt für Kunst, Literatur und Poesie (No. 69, 1.9.1822, p. 269). Another translation by Sophie Gräfin von Steinhardt was set to music by composer Emilie Zumsteeg in 1829 (in 6 Lieder mit Pianoforte, op. 5, see Hofmeister, September, October 1929, p. 83 and the text at LiederNet).

But it took more than two decades before it was adapted as a "Volkslied", at first by Friedrich Silcher in his Ausländische Volksmelodien in 1835 ("Des Sommers letzte Rose", in: Heft 1, No. 2, p. 3):

 Silcher, Musikdirektor at the university in Tübingen and one of the most successful promoters of the "Volkslied"-genre, was fascinated with songs from other countries and his collection with altogether 41 pieces in four booklets first published between 1835 and 1841 seems to have been particularly popular. It was reprinted and republished several times (see for example a later edition, ca. 1870, at the Internet Archive; see also Bopp 1915, p. 101-104).

The text used here by Silcher was written by his friend Hermann Kurtz, a Swabian poet and a relative of his wife who supplied him with more translations - not only of Moore's works - for this project. It was then also published the following year in Kurtz's own collection Gedichte (Stuttgart 1836, p. 199, at the Internet Archive):
Des Sommers letzte Rose blüht hier noch allein:
Verwelkt sind der Gespielen holdlächelnde Reih’n.
Ach es blieb keine Schwester, keine Knospe zurück,
Mit erwiederndem Seufzer, mit erröthendem Blick.

Ich will nicht, Verlassne, so einsam dich seh’n:
Wo die Lieblichen schlummern, darfst auch du schlafen geh’n.
Und freundlich zerstreu’ ich deine Blätter über’s Beet,
Wo die Düfte, wo die Blätter deiner Lieben sind verweht.

So schnell möcht’ ich folgen, wenn Freundschaft sich trübt,
Und der Kranz süsser Liebe seine Perlen verstiebt.
Wenn Theure verschwinden, manch treues Herz zerfällt,
Wer möcht’ allein bewohnen diese nächtliche Welt?
In 1837 famous English soprano Clara Novello came to Germany and performed here with great success. A part of her repertoire were English, Scottish and Irish National Airs - what was called "Volkslieder" in Germany - and those were especially popular with her audiences (see f. ex. AMZ 40, 17.1.1838, p. 49, NZM 8, 27.2.1838, pp. 66-68, NZM 8, 19.1.1838, p. 24). She also sang "'Tis The Last Rose of Summer" and it was published as sheet music together with other songs of this type she had performed:
  • No. 1: Die Letzte Rose, in: Irische Volkslieder, gesungen von Miss Clara Novello, und ihr verehrungsvoll gewidmet, Wunder, Leipzig, n. d. (see Hofmeister XIX, März 1838, p. 46)
It is not clear if she sang it in German or in English but in this publication another German translation - different from the one by Kurtz - was used:
Letzte Rose, die einsam im Sommer noch glüht,
Deine duftenden Schwestern sind alle verblüht.
Kein Knöspchen mehr strahlet den glühenden Blick,
Keine Blüthe hauchzt Seufzer um Seufzer zurück. [...]
Publisher Schlesinger from Berlin followed suit and also offered his own editions of sheet music of her repertoire (see Hofmeister, Dezember 1838, p. 188, Februar, März 1839, p. 30).

At this time two different versions of "The Last Rose of Summer" were available on the German market. But for some reason they didn't inspire more reprints. I haven't found any other sheet music editions of this "Volkslied" for the next 10 years. And much to my surprise it wasn't included in any songbooks from this era even though Silcher's work used to be plundered - much to his chagrin - by rival publishers and editors. In fact it took a decade until its real breakthrough and then only because it was part of a highly successful opera.

In 1847 another German version of Moore's song was used by composer Friedrich von Flotow in Martha oder Der Markt zu Richmond (see the short overview in Wikipedia), here with a new translation by his librettist Friedrich Wilhelm Riese as well as some minor but characteristic melodic variations (2. Akt, No. 9, here p. 121 in a piano score, Cranz, Leipzig, n. d., at the Internet Archive):

Letzte Rose, wie magst du so einsam hier blühn?
Deine freundlichen Schwestern sind längst, schon längst dahin.
Keine Blüte haucht Balsam mit labendem, labendem Duft,
Keine Blätter mehr flattern in stürmischer Luft.

Warum blühst du so traurig im Garten allein?
Sollst im Tod mit den Schwestern, mit den Schwestern vereinigt sein.
Drum pflück ich, o Rose vom Stamme, vom Stamme dich ab,
Sollst ruhen mir am Herzen und mit mir, ja mit mir im Grab.
The opera was set in 18th century England. Of course the song in this form didn't exist at that time. But a National Air or "Volkslied" in an opera was surely a good idea. 20 years ago "Robin Adair" had become immensely popular in Germany mostly because of its inclusion in Boieldieu's La Dame Blanche. And here this idea also paid off. Flotow's version of "The Last Rose of Summer" became a great hit. The original publisher, Müller in Vienna, tried to squeeze out as much revenue as possible from this success. We find the song published again in sheet music editions like Sechs Lieblingsmelodien aus der Oper Martha. Für eine Singstimme mit Guitarrebegleitung (1848, No. 2, p. 4, at ÖNB, Wien, MS87148-4°). Other publishers of course also jumped on the bandwagon. I have already mentioned Schott's edition. Here are two by Aibl in München:
  • Erato. Auswahl beliebter Gesänge mit leichter Begleitung der Guitarre. No. 1: Letzte Rose. Irländisches Volkslied, Aibl, München, 1850 (available at BStB, 2 1726-1/30 & the Internet Archive)
  • Aurora. Sammlung auserlesener Gesänge mit Begleitung des Pianoforte. No. 1, Irländisches Volkslied: Letzte Rose, Aibl, München, 1851 (available at BStB, 2 1717-1/25)
The song remained on the market until the end of the century and a great number of sheet music editions were made available. After Flotow's success "Die Letzte Rose" also appeared in songbooks, at first apparently in Thomas Täglichsbeck's Buch der Lieder (1851, Bd. 2, No. 92, p. 108, at the Internet Archive). Interestingly this was not the version from Martha but a different translation. The very first songbook for the use in schools with this song may have been the Liedersammlung für die Schule by Weeber & Krauß in 1852 (Heft 3, No. 33, p. 29, here in the 3rd ed., 1854). They used still another translation:

In later years Flotow's version seems to have been the one published most often in books (see the list at, although Silcher's was also used occasionally. The song became part of the repertoire of Männergesangvereine , was included in numerous collections of "Volkslieder" and not at least until the 1920s apparently nearly every child sang it in school. 

  • August Bopp, Friedrich Silcher, Stuttgart 1916
  • Oskar Fleischer, Ein Kapitel vergleichender Musikwissenschaft, in: Sammelbände der Internationalen Musik-Gesellschaft 1, 1899-1900, pp. 1-53 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Derek B. Scott, The Singing Bourgeois: Songs of the Victorian Drawing Room and Parlor, 2nd Edition, Aldershot, 2001 (online available at The Victorian Web)

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