Tuesday, April 14, 2015

"Ausländische Volkslieder" in 19th-Century Germany - Some Important Collections 1829-1853 (Part 2)

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By all accounts neither Wolff's Braga nor Zuccalmaglio's and Baumstark's Bardale left a lasting impression. But the year 1835 also saw the publication of the first of  four volumes of a collection that turned out to be the most successful and influential of these kind of compilations of foreign songs:
  • 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; also a later edition, c. 1870)
Friedrich Silcher (1789-1860; see Bopp 1916; Dahmen 1989; Schmid 1989), Musikdirektor at the University of Tübingen and a very popular and successful composer, arranger, music educator and choirmaster, happened to be one of the most influential promoters and editors of "Volkslieder" in Germany. Like many others he was fascinated by foreign tunes and of course he was a great admirer of Herder's Volkslieder (see Bopp 1916, p. 100-105, Schmoll-Barthel in Schmid, pp. 114-9). 

Therefore he set out to compile his own collection with altogether 41 songs from all kind of countries. In these 4 booklets we can find tunes described for example as Scottish, Irish, Spanish, Danish, Norwegian, Indian, Persian, French and Russian. A considerable number of the texts - sometimes translations, but also new poems - were from the pen of Swabian poet Hermann Kurz (1813-1873; see Wikipedia, see Dahmen 1987, pp. 71-3), a friend, relative and former pupil of Silcher with whom he worked closely together at that time.

Silcher's most important source were clearly Thomas Moore's popular collections, both the Selection of Irish Melodies (10 Vols., 1808-1834) and the Selection of Popular National Airs (6 Vols., 1818-1828), the latter the most important British compilation of international songs (see in this blog: "Melodies of Different Nations": Anthologies of International "National Airs" in Britain 1800-1830 - Pt. 2). Moore of course had written new poetry for all these tunes. For 15 of the 41 songs in his collection Silcher noted "nach Moore". In these cases he used the tunes as well as translations of Moore's lyrics. We can find here three pieces from the Irish Melodies: "The Last Rose of Summer" ("Des Sommers letzte Rose"), "Minstrel Boy" ("Der junge Harfner zog bewehrt") and "I saw thy form in youthful prime" ("Im Mai des Lebens"). 12 more were taken from the Popular National Airs, for example two of Moore's excursions into Scottish song: "Here comes the Bard" ("Stumm schläft der Sänger") and "Oft in the stilly night" ("Oft in der stillen Nacht") but also "When through the Piazetta" (Venetian; "Wenn um die Kanäle"), "Hark! The Vesper Hymn is stealing" ("Russian"; "Horch, die Wellen tragen bebend"), "How oft when watching the stars" (Savoyardian; "Oft wenn erbleicht der Sterne Pracht"), or "The Gazelle" (Indian; "Hörst Du nicht ein Silberglöckchen").

Besides these Silcher also borrowed at least 8 more melodies from Moore's publications, but without acknowledgment, and combined them with new poems, most of them written by Kurz: for example the tunes of "Avenging and bright" and "Oh we had some bright little isle" - both from the Irish Melodies - were used for "Seht wie düstere Wolken" and "Herr Peter"; "Das Mondlicht scheint zur Fülle" was supplied with the Portuguese tune of "Flow on, thou shining river" from the Popular National Airs

Even two songs by Robert Burns were set to tunes from Moore's collections. Apparently Silcher had, unlike Wolff and Zuccalmaglio, no access to the original Scottish publications. I always wondered about the tune he used for "Mein Herz ist im Hochland", Ferdinand Freiligrath's translation of "My Heart's in the Highlands" and now I see that it is the as yet unidentified "Scotch Air" of "O Guard Our Affection" in volume 5 of the Popular National Airs. And for Wilhelm Gerhard's translation of "My love is like a red, red rose" ("Dem rothen Röslein gleicht mein Lieb") he decided for "My lodging is on the cold ground" from Moore's "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms" (Irish Melodies II) which the latter had taken from the second volume of Thomson's Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs (No. 76, with "Farewell, thou fair day" by Burns; see Chinnéide 1959, p. 120). But I have to admit this works quite well. We see here that Silcher, like many others in Germany, only knew Burns from the translations that began to appear in the second half of the 1830s. 

All in all at least 25 of the 41 songs in Silcher's Ausländischen Volksmelodien were derived from Moore's publications and most of them had not yet been available in Germany at that time, as one reviewer in the Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser noted (Vol. 30, 1836, p. 180, at Google Books). The rest of this collection is made up of assorted songs from for example Scandinavia, Russia or France that were taken from other sources. Not at least he was among the first to publish German versions of two popular British hits: "Home, Sweet Home" by John Howard Payne and Henry Bishop - with the tune wrongly described as "Irish" - and "Blue Bells of Scotland".

These two as well as a considerable amount of the others, like "Stumm schläft der Sänger", "Das Mondlicht scheint in Fülle" and "Horch, die Wellen tragen bebend", became part of the common song repertoire and were regularly recycled later in other songbooks. In fact Silcher was a musical professional who knew very well what the people liked to play and sing. His collection was clearly far more appealing to the practising amateur musicians and singers than those by Wolff and Zuccalmaglio and became much more popular. 

But of course we should not forget that collections like this one were far from being authentic in an ethnological sense. All the tunes were taken from earlier printed sources and many of them then combined with new, modern words. This of course led to misunderstandings and confusion. 

In 1851 the well known critic, editor and writer Wolfgang Menzel (1798-1873) published a comparative anthology with the title Die Gesänge der Völker. Lyrische Mustersammlung in nationalen Parallelen. He of course also used some texts from Silcher's collection. For example we can find here "Das Mondlicht scheint zur Fülle" (p. 350). Menzel called it "Portugiesisches Liebeslied" but simply missed the fact that this text had never even come near Portugal because it was written by Hermann Kurz for the "Portuguese" tune Silcher had borrowed from Moore's Popular National Airs. For some reason Kurz was not named as the author and therefore it looked like a translation of an original song (in Heft 1, No. 6).

Nonetheless more collections of this type kept on coming even though none of them was as successful as Silcher's Ausländische Volksmelodien. He tried it a second time with Stimmen der Völkern in Liedern und Weisen, two small booklets published in 1846 and 1855 (now available at the Internet Archive). The title of course was a tribute to Herder's great collection. But apparently this work didn't leave such a big impression. Other editors also were busy with these kind of anthologies. Of particular interest is an attempt at a more scholarly collection of which only the very first part appeared. Here we can find only chapters about French and British songs and the start of one about Belgish and Dutch "Volkslieder" : 
  • Joh. Friedr. Kayser, Orpheus. Neue Sammlung National-Lieder aller Völker. Mit historischen und kritischen Anmerkungen. 1. Abtheilung, 1. Heft: Ausländische Musik, In Commission bei Wilh. Jowien, Hamburg, n. d. [1854] (date from Hofmeister, April 1854, p. 536; available at the Internet Archive and Google Books)
This is an exceedingly rare book. To my knowledge there is not a single copy in German libraries. It only came to light again because the lone extant copy at the Dutch National Library was digitized and then made available in Google Books. I can't say anything about the author but he seems to have been something like an expert on this topic as well as an knowledgeable translator. Of course Kayser was still deeply embedded in romantic thinking. In the introduction he claimed - as it was common during that time - that one can learn about "den Charakter eines Volkes" from their songs (p. 1). He was also not completely sure about the terminology. "National-Gesänge" is of course a translation of the English term national air. This is then mixed up with national hymns and he sets out to discuss the French and English patriotic hymns like the "Marseillaise", "Rule, Britannia" and "God Save The King". 

But the chapter about Britain also includes some Irish songs, all of course by Moore: for example "The Last Rose of Summer", "The Origin of the Harp" and the very first German publication of "Erin! The tear and the smile in thine eyes". Thankfully Kayser offered for every song the original tune and text and added his own translation. His concept was not that bad but this ambitious collection was closed down after the first booklet. 

These four publications presented here - Zuccalmaglio's and Baumstark's Bardale, Wolff's Braga, Silcher's Volksmelodien and Kayser's Orpheus - demonstrate different approaches to this topic as well as different grades of success. In fact only Silcher's collection left a notable mark in the popular repertoire. But they all reflect the immense fascination with songs and tunes from other countries. Nonetheless one should not forget that during that time the original tunes were still hard to get by. Much more common were anthologies of translations like Wolff's Halle der Völker and Menzel's Gesänge der Völker. A greater number of melodies - for example from Ireland and Scotland - were made available only since the 60s and 70s. I will discuss some of these important collections later.

Go back to Part 1

  • 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
  • Hermann Josef Dahmen, Friedrich Silchers Vertonungen schwäbischer Dichter, in: Suevica. Beiträge zur Schwäbischen Literatur- und Geistesgeschichte 4, 1987, pp. 67-90
  • Hermann Josef Dahmen, Friedrich Silcher, Komponist und Demokrat. Eine Biographie, Stuttgart & Wien 1989
  • Manfred Hermann Schmid (ed.), Friedrich Silcher 1789-1860. Die Verbürgerlichung der Musik im 19. Jahrhundert. Katalog der Ausstellung zum 200. Geburtstag des ersten Tübinger Universitätsmusikdirektors, Tübingen 1989 (Kleine Tübinger Schriften, Heft 12)

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