Tuesday, October 30, 2018

"My Heart's on the Rhine" (1845) - A German Song In England

I. 

In Königswinter at the Rhine, at the foot of the Siebengebirge, there is - on the main street at the south end of town, right at the river with the famous Drachenfels in sight (see Google Maps ) - a nice monument dedicated to "Dem Rheinischen Dichter Wolfgang Müller von Königswinter". Today he is more or less forgotten - this memorial, one of the lesser known historic sites here, didn't help him much in this respect - but in his day Müller (1816-1873; see Heckes, at Rheinische Geschichte; Wikipedia; the biography: Luchtenberg 1959) was a very productive poet, writer, playwright, journalist and cultural networker, highly respected by his peers and the literary public. 

He was born here in this town as the son of a doctor. Early on he began to write poetry and became interested in arts, music and literature. But nonetheless young Müller followed in his father's footsteps, studied medicine and also became a physician. His real name was Wilhelm but as a writer he called himself - so as not to be confused with other Müllers and in honor of Goethe and his town of birth - Wolfgang Müller von Königswinter. His first book of poetry - Junge Lieder (at the Internet Archive) - appeared in 1841 and many other publications would follow (see wikisource). Even though he left Königswinter already as a young boy he remained a Rhinelander and later lived in Düsseldorf and Köln. 

Müller was a popular and industrious exponent of the literary Rheinromantik (see Kiewitz 2003). In many of his works he wrote about the Rhine and the Rhineland: poems, legends, travelogues and more. I will only mention his Rheinfahrt (1846, at BSB), Lorelei. Rheinisches Sagen (1851, at BSB), Das Rheinbuch. Landschaft, Geschichte, Sagen, Volksleben (1855, at UB Düsseldorf) and Sommertage im Siebengebirge (1867). This monument, erected in 1896, two decades after his death when his writings were still well known, has several inscriptions on the pedestal. One one side we can read: 
Wo ich auch gehe, wo ich auch stehe
Mein Herz ist am Rhein 
This sounds strikingly familiar. Of course Robert Burns comes to mind: "My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go". In fact it is a line from Müller's best known and most successful poem which is clearly a pastiche of Burns' famous song. I quote the complete text here from his Junge Lieder (No. XXX, pp. 49-50): 
Mein Herz ist am Rheine, im heimischen Land!
Mein Herz ist am Rhein, wo die Wiege mir stand,
Wo die Jugend mir liegt, wo die Freunde mir blühn,
Wo die Liebste mein denket mit wonnigem Glühn,
O, wo ich geschwelget in Liedern und Wein:
Wo ich bin, wo ich gehe, mein Herz ist am Rhein!

Dich grüß' ich, du breiter grüngoldiger Strom,
Euch Schlösser und Dörfer, und Städte und Dom,
Ihr goldenen Saaten im schwellenden Tal,
Dich Rebengebirge im sonnigen Strahl,
Euch Wälder und Schluchten, dich Felsengestein:
Wo ich bin, wo ich gehe, mein Herz ist am Rhein!

Dich grüß' ich, o Leben, mit jauchzender Brust,
Beim Liede, beim Weine, beim Tanze die Lust,
Dich grüß' ich, o teures, o wackres Geschlecht,
Die Frauen so wonnig, die Männer so recht,
Eur Streben, eur Leben, o mög es gedeihn:
Wo ich bin, wo ich gehe, mein Herz ist am Rhein!

Mein Herz ist am Rheine, im heimischen Land,
Mein Herz ist am Rhein, wo die Wiege mir stand,
Wo die Jugend mir liegt, wo die Freunde mir blühn:
Wo die Liebste mein denket mit wonnigem Glühn!
O möget ihr immer dieselben mir sein:
Wo ich bin, wo ich gehe, mein Herz ist am Rhein! 
Burns at the Rhine? Of course he was never there. But he had obviously inspired - posthumously - a German Rhine-poet. It was surely not unreasonable to transplant the song's idea and its title line to a poem about another place. I really wonder why it was not done more often. In this case it was particularly appropriate. What the "highlands" were to Scotland (see Pittock, II, p. 84) the Rhine was to Germany: a mythological place, a romantic landscape celebrated by artists and poets. 

This looks like an interesting story, another chapter in the history of the reception of Burns' works in Germany. But further research showed that there is even more. Müller's poem was set to music several times and one version - by composer Wilhelm Speyer - became a great success, not only in Germany but also in Britain. There it was introduced to enthusiastic audiences by German singing star J. B. Pischek and then published numerous times as sheet music and in songbooks with English texts. Here we can see how a German pastiche of a song by Burns "returned" to Britain, an interesting example of German-British literary and musical exchange in the 19th century. 


II. 

Robert Burns (1759-1796), the famous Scottish poet and songwriter, was virtually unknown in Germany during his lifetime and for several decades after his death (see Kupper 1979; Selle 1981/2013; Bödeker 1995; Reitmeier 2011 & 2014; MacIntosh 1928). At that time Scotland had already a kind of special reputation in the German literary public. Everybody knew about Ossian, Herder and others had translated Scottish ballads and later Sir Walter Scott's novels became immensely popular. But for some reason Burns was left behind and barely anyone knew about him. For a long time only very few translations were published. This only changed in the 1830s. In 1835 the original texts were made available to German readers with Wagners The Works of Robert Burns. Complete in One Volume (at Google Books). 

Soon more translations began to appear. A pioneer in this respect was Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810 - 1874; see Wikipedia; wikisource), a popular poet, writer and translator who would become one of the most influential mediators of English-language literature in Germany. His translations of poems and songs (see Richter 1899) were widely read and often set to music (see Fleischhack, pp. 18-20 & 59-92). Early on he also tried his hand at Burns. Eight adaptations were published in 1836 in a periodical, the first volume of the Blätter zur Kunde der Literatur des Auslandes (pp. 4-5 & 13-4) and then - with three additional texts - in 1838 in his Gedichte, an anthology of his poetry (pp. 434-46). Some more translations appeared in periodicals (see f. ex. Blätter zur Kunde 5, 1840, pp. 143-4) or added to the later editions of the Gedichte (see 10th ed., 1848, pp. 518-32 & 24th ed., 1868, pp. 345-55) but otherwise Freiligrath confined himself to these few pieces. 

But others followed soon and made available whole books of Burns' songs and poems translated into German. Philipp Kaufmann (1802-1846), another early pioneer, had already started in 1830 but his Gedichte von Robert Burns (at BSB & Internet Archive; see the review in Blätter zur Kunde 5, 1840, pp. 181-4) only appeared in 1839. A year later both Wilhelm Gerhard's Robert Burns' Gedichte, deutsch. Mit des Dichters Leben und erläuternden Bemerkungen (at BSB & Internet Archive; see the review in Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung 1840, No. 38 & 39, pp. 149-50 & 153-5) and Julius Heintze's Lieder und Balladen des Schotten Robert Burns (at BSB & Internet Archive) were published. In the early 1840s Robert Burns had become a household name in Germany and he remained so for the rest of the 19th century. 

Burns was read and Burns was also sung. Many of these translations were set to music, some multiple times. The first one was Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns whose Schottische Lieder und Gesänge came out in 1836 (at the Internet Archive). He used eight of Kaufmann's at that time unpublished translations. Many others would follow (s. f. ex. here in my blog), including Robert Schumann, who noted in a review in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (Vol. 16, 1842, No. 52, p. 207) that Burns was "the favorite poet of the current young composers". 

Burns' most popular and best known song in Germany surely was "My Heart's in the Highlands"or "Mein Herz ist im Hochland". The original version appeared first in 1790 in the third volume of the Scots Musical Museum (No. 259, p. 268). We know that the text is partly based on an obscure older ballad, "The Strong Walls of Derry". Burns once noted that "the first half-stanza of this song is old, the rest is mine" (see Pittock, pp. 83-4; McGuirk,pp. 110-16, Graham III, 1848, pp. 114-5). This means, he didn't even write the key-line himself. But he made it his own and since then this particular phrase has always been connected to him: 
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands, a chasing the deer;
A chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go.
Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the North,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

Farewell to the mountains, high-cover'd with snow;
Farewell to the straths and green vallies below;
Farewell to the forests and wild-hanging woods;
Farewell to the torrents and loud-pouring floods.
My heart's in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart's in the Highlands, a chasing the deer;
A chasing the wild deer, and following the roe,
My heart's in the Highlands, wherever I go. 
"My Heart's in the Highland" was regularly reprinted and of course we can find the original text in all editions of Burns' works, for example Cromek's Reliques of Robert Burns (1808 , p. 276), Currie's Poetical Works of Robert Burns, The Ayrshire Bard (here New Edition 1826, p. 138) and Cunningham's The Works of Robert Burns. With His Life (IV, 1834, pp. 145-6). Besides that the song appeared in musical anthologies like Napier's Selection of Original Scots Songs (II, 1792, p. 78) and R. A. Smith's Scotish Minstrel (IV, c.1823, p. 4). Copies of some of the early publications may have reached Germany but it took a while until this particular song was taken note of. 



Many German readers must have seen it first in translations of Sir Walter Scott's Waverly where one verse was quoted (see f. ex., 1825, p. 273). The earliest translation of the complete text appeared already in 1826 in Vermischte Gedichte und Übersetzungen (p. 120), an anthology of poetry by orientalist Peter von Bohlen (1796-1840; ; see here in my blog), an admirer of Burns since his youth . But this was a rather obscure publication and his attempt was quickly forgotten. 

The original words of the song were made available in Germany in Wagner's edition in 1835 (p. 207). "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" was among Kaufmann's unpublished texts used by composer Jähns in 1836 in his Schottische Lieder und Gesänge (here Heft 2, No. 1, pp. 2-3). But the most popular and best known German text would be the one by Ferdinand Freilingrath. It was among the translations published in the Blätter zur Kunde der Literatur des Auslandes in February 1836 (here p. 13) and then in 1838 in the first edition of his Gedichte (p. 443): 
Mein Herz ist im Hochland, mein Herz ist nicht hier!
Mein Herz ist im Hochland im wald´gen Revier.
Da jag´ ich das Rothwild, da folg´ ich dem Reh
Mein Herz ist im Hochland, wo immer ich geh'.

Mein Norden, mein Hochland, lebt wohl, ich muss ziehn!
Du Wiege von allem, was stark und was kühn!
Doch wo ich auch wandre und wo ich auch bin,
Nach den Hügeln des Hochlands steht allzeit mein Sinn!

Lebt wohl, ihr Gebirge, mit Häuptern voll Schnee,
Ihr Schluchten, ihr Täler, du schäumender See,
Ihr Wälder, ihr Klippen, so grau und bemoost,
Ihr Ströme, die zornig durch Felsen ihr tost!

Mein Herz ist im Hochland, mein Herz ist nicht hier!
Mein Herz ist im Hochland, im wald'gen Revier.
Da jag' ich das Rothwild, da folg' ich dem Reh,
Mein Herz ist im Hochland, wo immer ich geh'. 
Kaufmann's version was published again in 1839 in his Gedichte von Robert Burns (pp. 5-6) and then both Gerhard (p. 126) and Heintze (p. 118) translated the song for their anthologies. At this point five German texts were available and some more would follow in later years. But to be true they are all not much different from each other. Burns' text more or less translated itself. 

"Mein Herz ist ist im Hochland" was particularly popular as a song. It became a favorite of German composers of Lieder. Jähns was only the first one. Many others set one of the available translations to new music. Until 1842 at least 13 settings followed (see here in my blog), for example by Heinrich Marschner (Lieder nach Robert Burns von F. Freiligrath, op.103, 1839, No. 6, pp. 12-13), Friedrich Kücken (Drei Duette für Gesang mit Begleitung des Pianoforte, op. 30, 1840, No. 2), Robert Schumann (Myrthen, op. 25, 1840, Heft 3, No. 13, pp. 2-3) and Carl Krebs (Mein Herz ist im Hochland. Lied für eine Singstimme mit obligater Pianoforte-Begleitung, op. 73, 1840, at the Internet Archive; see here in my blog). Many more appeared during the following decades. All in all I have counted more than 60 settings published between 1836 and 1899 (with the help of Hofmeister XIX; Fleischhack 1990, pp. 68-73). 

But "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" also became a popular Volkslied but never with the original tune from the Scots Musical Museum. The first one was Friedrich Silcher from Tübingen in 1837. He combined Freiligrath's translation with a melody from Thomas Moore's Popular National Airs. This version was published in his Ausländische Volksmelodien (Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 1). Later others like Ludwig Erk used different tunes (see here in my blog). The song was a standard for choirs and was then also included in many anthologies for schools. In fact even the children in Germany sang Burns' farewell-song to the highlands. At least until the first decades of the 20th century it was among the songs - nearly - everybody knew. 

The song's appeal is not that difficult to understand. It sounded like a nostalgic home song and this genre was immensely popular in Germany at that time. Especially since the 1830s songs of this type were also imported from Britain and France and they were equally successful. One may look for example at Silcher's Ausländische Volksmelodien (1835-41). Here we can also find German versions of "Home, Sweet Home", Bérat's "Ma Normandie", Guttinguer's "La Suissesse au Bord du Lac" and - from Scandinavia - "Danmark, Deilig Vang og Vænge" (II, p. 4 & p. 14; III, p. 2; IV, p. 9). These are all songs celebrating Heimat, to use the German term. Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands" fit well into this context. 


III

"Mein Herz ist am Rheine" was first printed in December 1840 in a newspaper, the Kölnische Zeitung (s. Luchtenberg I, p. 403, n. 13) and then - as mentioned above - in Junge Lieder, Müller's first anthology of poems that was published in Düsseldorf early in 1840 (No. XXX, pp. 49-50). This collection was dedicated to three of his literary friends: Ferdinand Freiligrath, Christian Matzerath and Karl Simrock. He received a fee of 50 Taler. 



This was a collection of older and more recent pieces. But it is not clear when exactly he wrote this particular poem. In summer 1840 Müller had returned from Berlin where had spent a year to complete his studies and graduate in medicine. Now he did his compulsory military service and worked in Düsseldorf as a surgeon for the Prussian army. But he still had time to cultivate his literary and cultural interests and kept on writing. 

Just like other poets at that time Müller was familiar with Robert Burns' works. Already as a student in Bonn he had begun to learn English, became interested in literature from Britain, sought contact with British families living in Bonn and started translating Burns - his "favourite" -, Moore and others. Freiligrath became a friend of his in 1837. He knew and enjoyed his translations and in a letter offered to send him the tunes of these songs. In fact he had borrowed some volumes of a songbook - "eine köstliche Sammlung ihrer Volkslieder mit Melodien" - from a Scottish family (see Luchtenberg I, pp. 63, 66, 85, 139 157, 184). A few of Müller's own translations would appear in 1842 in his second anthology, the Balladen und Romanzen (here pp. 127-32). 

At that time "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" was something like a song of the day. As mentioned above five translations were already available and at least 8 musical versions had been published until 1840. Therefore his readers would be able to understand the reference to Burns. But interestingly this wasn't a simple copy of the original. Not much was left of Burns' words. The key line remained: "Wo ich bin, wo ich geh', mein Herz ist am Rhein". And of course this also an enthusiastic celebration of a landscape and the people living there. Burns had written a nostalgic farewell-song: someone banished from home who knows there will be no return. Müller's poem sounds like someone who looking forward to coming home soon. It is much more optimistic. 

His words are closer to another Rhine-poem from that time: the"Lied vom Rhein" by his friend Christian Matzerath (see Stendal, pp. 17-20, p. 33): 
Mein Heimatland, o du herrlicher Rhein!
Du Perle des Westens, grüngoldige Flut.
Deine Männer sind stark, deine Frauen sind gut,
O selige Wonne dein Kind zu sein.

Wie blauet der Himmel so tief und so klar,
Wie wallet in goldenen Ähren das Land.
Von den Hügeln zu Tal, an der Ebene Rand,
Wie schwillst du von Segen so wunderbar.

[...] 
Matzerath (1815-1876; see Deutsche Biographie), a jurist and part-time poet, wrote it in 1838 (see the reprint in his Nachgelassene Gedichte, 1877, p. 23). Müller's poem looks as if his older friend's words had served as a kind of template and in some lines he is clearly paraphrasing. But his text reads more like a friendly tribute than a plain copy. In fact it was not only a pastiche of Burns' song. With his references to Matzerath's piece he also acknowledged the long and already time-honored tradition of popular Rhine-poetry. 

At that time the Rhine had been a favorite subject of of poets and painters for half a century (see Kiewitz 2003). But when Müller wrote and published his contribution to this genre it took on an additional meaning. It was the year of the so-called Rhine-crisis (see Cepl-Kaufmann, pp. 168-180; Wikipedia). The French Government laid claim to the Left Bank of the Rhine and that led to heated reactions in Germany. Many poets felt it necessary to raise their voice (see Kiewitz, pp. 192-202). Nicolaus Becker's wildly successful "Sie sollen ihn nicht haben den freien deutschen Rhein" was sung everywhere and Max Schneckenburger wrote the infamous "Die Wacht am Rhein" ("Es braust ein Ruf wie Donnerhall"). In this context even an apolitical-sounding home song obtained a political overtone. No matter if it was intended or not, both the author and the readers were of course aware of what was happening at that time.

Müller's Junge Lieder was well received by the critics and the reviews were mostly positive. "Mein Herz ist am Rhein" nearly always received special praise and its relationship to Burns' song was also acknowledged (see f. ex. Athenaeum 1, 1841, p. 443; Blätter für literarische Unterhaltung 2, 1842, p. 486). One critic praised it as a "successful emulation of Burns' well-known poem" (Deutsche Jahrbücher für Wissenschaft und Kunst 5, 1842, p. 315). Even in later years Müller's reference to Burns was regularly mentioned by literature historians and anthologists who commented on this poem (s. f. ex. Hub 1874, p. 263).
 
It was surely the most successful piece from the Junge Lieder and would be reprinted regularly during the next decades: at first in Müller's own publications like the Rheinbuch (1855, bef. p. 1) and his collected works, the Dichtungen eines Rheinischen Poeten (here 4th ed., 1871, Vol. 1, p. 3) but then also in periodicals, for example in the Illustriertes Unterhaltungsblatt (1876, p. 204), in anthologies like Stern's Fünfzig Jahre deutscher Dichtung (1877, p. 885) and in collections of Rhine songs like this little booklet from the turn of the century, a souvenir by a wine tavern in Berlin (at the Internet Archive): 


IV. 

In Germany the 19th century was the era of the Lied. Composers set to music all kinds of poetry, both translations - like Burns' songs - and original German texts. Interesting new anthologies by both major and minor poets were always welcome. This was also the case with Müller's works. His poems sounded mostly quite simple and they had a certain formulaic quality (see Loos 1989, p. 118). A considerable number of them were provided with melodies by contemporary composers (see Luchtenberg I, pp. 158-9; II, pp. 497-507). 

The Junge Lieder were particularly successful in this respect. Müller himself later noted: "Die Musiker fielen wie toll über die sangbaren Lieder her" (Luchtenberg I, p. 159). Heinrich Marschner, for example, seems to have been very fond of these texts: Between 1842 and 1845 he published four volumes with 21 songs taken from Müller's anthology (op. 118, 123, 126 129; see Bibliographie Marschner, at Lied-Portal, GMG). "Mein Herz ist am Rheine" was already included in an earlier publication of seven Lieder, with texts mostly by Friedrich Rückert (op. 115, 1842, No. 7, pp. 21-3, at SLUB). 

In fact the Rhine-poem turned out to be the most popular piece from his collection among German composers. This text was set to music at least 15 times since 1842 (s. Luchtenberg I, p. 158; II, p. 499). Interestingly the most successful version would be not Marschner's nor any of the others but the one by Wilhelm Speyer (1790-1878; see Wikipedia; see Speyer 1925), an immensely productive and popular composer of Lieder. It's not clear why he selected this poem. It was the only one of Müller's works that he used and otherwise Speyer himself didn't have much to do with the Rhine. He lived and worked in Frankfurt. Nonetheless he composed a spirited and catchy tune that was singable for amateurs but also - as will be seen - rewarding for professionals: 


His setting (see the ms. at SB Berlin) was first published in December 1842 as "Rhein-Sehnsucht" in Orpheon. Album für Gesang mit Pianoforte (Göpel, Stuttgart, No. 11, pp. 24-5; see Hofmeister 1842, p. 199). This was one of the popular anthologies compiled by composer Thomas Täglichsbeck (1799-1867; see here in my blog) for publisher Göpel Göpel. They made available comparatively inexpensive collections of songs of all kinds for the growing number of amateur and home musicians. The series Orpheon offered new and formerly unpublished original contributions by many well-known and popular composers. In this case the publisher struck gold and secured himself a song that would become one of Speyer's most successful. 



In 1846 the "Rhein-Sehnsucht" was also included in an edition of Orpheum with arrangements for guitar (No. 5, pp. 8-9; see Hofmeister 1846, p. 115) and the same year the song appeared as regular sheet music together with two other pieces in Speyer's 3 Lieder für Sopran oder Tenor (op. 42, Göpel, Stuttgart, 1846, see Hofmeister 1846, p. 203). It was also published in Austria (Diabelli, Wien, n. d., see ÖNB) as well as in Switzerland (Hegar, Basel, n. d., at the Internet Archive) and could be found in some anthologies, for example in Phoebus. Auswahl beliebter Opern-Arien und Gesänge mit leichter Guitarre-Begleitung (Niemeyer, Hamburg, 1850, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 2-3). 

By all accounts Speyer's "Rhein-Sehnsucht" became popular very quickly. Already in June 1844 the Allgemeine Wiener Musik-Zeitung (4, No. 74, 22.6.1844 p. 296) noted that it was known throughout Germany. One of the most famous singing stars of that time performed and promoted the song. Johann Baptist Pischek (1814-1873; see Wikipedia; Almanach 1876, pp. 58-64; Gänzl 2018, pp. 543-9) was regarded as one of the best singers in Germany, both on opera stage and even moreso as a performer of Lieder: "Als Liedersänger [...], ist Pischek ohne Nebenbuhler und darf den Rang als ersten der deutschen, vielleicht europäischen Sänger unbedingt beanspruchen" (AMZ 50, 1848, p. 759). He was from Bohemia but worked since 1840 in Frankfurt, Speyer's hometown where the composer had become his "friend and patron" (Almanach, p. 59). 

One newspaper noted - only two years after the song's first publication - that it had "attained immortality" thanks to Pischek (Frankfurter Konversationsblatt, No. 287, 16.10.1844, pp. 1160). The "Rhein-Sehnsucht" would be one of his most beloved standards and he sang it until the end of his career. Poet Müller later reported that he once met the singer who then "fell around his neck on the street and admitted that he had made many thousands with this song" (Luchtenberg I, p. 159) which, by the way, was much more than Müller himself had ever earned with this poem. 

The song remained popular for the next decades. It was sung "everywhere" (AZ München, No. 122, 2.5.1857, Beilage, p. 1 [1952]). Müller claimed that Speyer's setting became a Volkslied and could be "heard in all taverns and on the streets" (Luchtenberg I, p. 159). The text was even occasionally printed on broadsides (see VD Lied Digital, c. 1863). But for some reason it never appeared - as far as I can see - in any of the numerous popular anthologies of Volkslieder for choirs or for schools. I found it a few times with other tunes but not with Speyer's. It would have fit there nicely besides "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" which was included in many of these collections. But perhaps the publisher managed to protect this work from this kind of - mostly illegal - utilization. Nonetheless it is clear that the "Rhein-Sehnsucht" was very popular during the second half of the 19th century (see f. ex. ZfM 93, 1926, p. 28). 


V. 

This song was not only a popular hit in Germany. It England it would be even more successful. It was singer Pischek who brought Speyer's "Rhein-Sehnsucht" to Britain. Just like many other musicians and singers from the continent he was invited to perform in London. The first visit from May to July 1845 (see Gänzl, pp. 545-7) left a deep impression on the the audiences there. Many years later impresario, writer and composer Thomas Willert Beale (1890, p. 186) still remembered his powerful singing: 
"Pischek sang and played [the songs] with a dash and brilliancy that astonished the British concert-goer. He was a good musician, with a mighty voice, knew what he was about on the pianoforte, and his success was genuine. When he first sang to me, 'Mein Herz ist am Rhein,' the sound was deafening. It made the window rattle; the pianoforte trembled with stentorian vibrations. It was the loudest singing I ever heard, before or since. Purely melodious, and thoroughly vocal, the singing was not shouting by any means, yet the volume of the sound produced was overpowering. In a large concert-room, or theatre, where his vocal cords could have full swing, Pischek was wonderfully effective". 
Wilhelm Kuhe, a German pianist who came to England together with Pischek but then stayed there for the rest of his life, noted that "his voice - a baritone - was so beautiful in quality, and the songs he introduced achieved so immediate a popularity, that engagements poured in by every post" (Kuhe 1896, p. 41). In fact this first trip across the channel was very lucrative. He became a "great attraction" (Ganzl, p. 547) and performed numerous times during his stay there. Of course Pischek would return to England during the following years. 

He left such an impression that some composers even wrote potpourris and fantasias of the songs he performed there. One W. Chalmers Masters published Recollections of Pischek. Fantasia for the Piano Forte (see Copac; Morning Chronicle, No. 23676, 15.9.1845, BNCN). Ignaz Moscheles, who lived in London at that time and had accompanied the singer in some concerts, offered Gems á la Pischek. A brilliant fantasia for the Piano Forte in which are introduced "My heart's on the Rhine" (op. 112, see Copac; German ed., Leipzig 1846, at SB Berlin). There where more of this kind (see also Copac) and most of them of course included the "Rhein-Sehnsucht". 

Pischek introduced this song first in a concert in London on May 7th where he appeared as a guest. The reviewer in The Atheneaum (No. 915, 10.5.1845, p. 469) noted that "the freshest and most taking thing of the morning's performance, was a Rhine-song, by Herrn Pischek, the newly arrived baritone" and praised his "superb voice, enthusiasm, and excellent musical feeling". There were reports about his great success even in the German press: 
"Am Schlusse der ersten Abteilung erschien Hr. Pischek,in schlichter Weise, und sang ein einfaches deutsches Lied: die 'Rhein-Sehnsucht' von Speyer, aber - mit welchem Erfolg! Kühn ist das Wort, wenn ich es ausspreche, und doch wahr: er gefiel damit unter Allen am meisten; das Publikum, enthusiasmiert, applaudierte stürmisch jede Strophe, und er - der Einzige von Allen - mußte, auf unablässiges Verlangen, sein Lied da Capo singen. Vortrefflich bei Stimme, wurde der Sänger nach diesem Vortrag [...] mit Lob und Ehre überhäuft" (Didaskalia. Blätter für Geist, Gemüth und Publizität, No. 138, 21.5.1845, [pp. 197-8]). 
Soon the "Rhein-Sehnsucht" was one of the "songs of the day" (Gänzl, p. 546). Pischek sang it regularly, for example at the Duchess of Kent's party on May 16th. The Queen and Prince Albert were present (Morning Chronicle No. 23574, 17.5.1845, BNCN). In July he even performed it at the Queen's own evening party (Morning Chronicle No. 23618, 8.7.1845, BNCN).

From: Morning Chronicle No. 23618, 8.7.1845, BNCN

Moscheles wrote in a letter to Speyer in August that year: "Pischek hat Furore in London gemacht, und mit ihm die 'Rheinsehnsucht'" (Speyer, p. 281). During the following year he kept on performing the song in England with great success (see f. ex. Athenaeum 1846, p. 530; Musical World 22, 1847, p. 231). Even Robert Browning raved about "the marvellous Pischek, with his Rhine songs" (Browning 1846, p. 130). 

One may wonder why a song about a German river became so popular in Britain. The Rhine was of course a special case. English travelers, painters and poets had played a major role in what is now called "Rheinromantik", the invention of the romanticized Rhine (see Discher 1972; see also f. ex. Der Rheinreisende). Lord Byron had written a poem about the Drachenfels, to name only one example. Many British tourists had already visited the Rhine. The most famous "tourist" at that time would be Queen Victoria (see Baur, at Rheinische Geschichte). In summer 1845 she came to Germany and traveled by ship from Bonn to Koblenz and then to Mainz. I should add that Pischek - back from England - was among the musicians and singers who performed for the Queen (see also Gänzl, p. 547). 

Pischeks wildly successful performances of Speier's "Rhein-Sehnsucht" and other German Lieder
From: The Musical World 20, No. 25, 19.6.1845, p. 298 (GB)
also encouraged the British music publishers to make available their own editions of these pieces. Already in June Cramer, Beale & Co. offered five of the "Songs and Arias sung by Herr Pischek, with an English Version" (The Musical World 20, No. 25, 19.6.1845, p. 298, also p. 309). The following month Addison & Hodson announced the publication of three songs from Pischek's repertoire (dto., No. 27, 3.7.1845, p. 324. "My Heart's on the Rhine", as it was usually called here, was of course included (at the Internet Archive).:



Many more English editions would follow and every publisher commissioned a new translation of the original text. Addison & Hodson used one by G. F. Willis, that was not particularly good: 
My heart's on the Rhine in my own Fatherland,
Tho' weary I roam on a far distant strand;
There day after day still in happiness flew,
For friends they were faithful, and lovers were true.
I'll praise thee in song, and I'll praise thee in wine
Let me go where I will
My heart's my heart's on the Rhine, on the Rhine.

While slumbering often in fanciful dream,
Me thinks I revisit thy bright golden stream:
Thy towers and thy castles, thy vineyards I see,
Thy daughters so beauteous thy sons brave and free.
May love, joy and happiness ever be thine,
Let me go where I will
My heart's my heart's on the Rhine, on the Rhine. 
The "Rhein-Sehnsucht" also appeared as No. 310 in publisher Wessel's series of German songs (see Copac), as No. 11 in Deutsche Lyra. A Complete Collection of the Classical Songs of Germany by Jullien & Co. (see cover at at Spellman Collection) and also as No. 111 in the popular series Musical Bouquet (see Slatter, Catalogue). This version was of course also reprinted later in bound editions of The Musical Bouquet like Sixty Selected Popular Songs (n.d., pp. 14-5) and Three Hundred and Sixty Popular Songs and Ballads (c. 1875, pp. 14-5). The English text included here had not much to do with Müller's original poem. Instead it looks more like a very free adaptation: 
My heart's on the Rhine, the land I love best,
My heart's on the Rhine, dear to childhood's young breast,
The hours of my boyhood were blithsome and gay.
My heart everlighted by joy's golden ray,
My youth seem'd a vision of pleasure, a dream.
Bright valley, blue mountain,gay flow'ret and stream,
And tho' absent from home, the remembrance is mine,
My heart, my heart, yes, my heart's on the Rhine.

The bright orb of day changing mist into morn,
Brought freshly the flowers my cot to adorn;
Whilst the glittering waters of streamlet and rill,
Reflected his rays on the old watermill.
Fond scene of my boyhood, how sadly I pine,
To behold thee again!
My heart, my heart, oh! my heart's on the Rhine.

My heart's on the Rhine, the true land of mirth,
My heart's on the Rhine, the scene of my birth;
Those scenes when reflected so clear to my mind,
Bring nought and regret that I left them behind,
For there with loved faces I wander'd and play'd,
And 'long thy lov'd waters I cheerfully stray'd,
And forever thy banks and thy waters are mine,
My heart, my heart, yes! my heart's on the Rhine.
All in all 17 editions of the song were published in England. At least this was claimed by Speyer's son who did some research (see Speyer 1925, p. 443). One version was even reprinted in the USA by Ditson in Boston (c. 1850, at Hathi Trust), also with Pischek's name on the cover even though he never made it there. The text used here - by an unnamed translator - looks a little bit better than the others I know. 

"My Heart's on the Rhine" can also be found in several songbooks, for example in the Vocalists Companion. A Choice Collection of Popular Songs with Music, Original and Selected (Glasgow, c. 1850, p. 22), an anthology for the use in "Schools and Public Institutions", and in Davidson's Universal Melodist (1853, Vol. 1, p. 4), both again with different translations. And of course it was included in songsters like Diprose's National Song Book ( c.1851 , p. 224) and Miller's New British Songster (1853, p. 214). In the latter the text from Davidson's edition was reprinted. 

The English translations of this song were mostly of very dubious quality. I wonder if poet Wolfgang Müller has seen any of these texts. Interestingly he was not given credit as the author of the original words in any of the British versions I have seen. Speyer as the composer and - on the early sheet music editions - Pischek as the performer were named. It seems that Müller remained more or less unknown in England. But perhaps some music fans knew Baskerville's The Poetry of Germany (1858) where both the German text and a better translation were included (pp. 314-5). 

It is clear that many in Britain were familiar with "My Heart's on the Rhine" and of course the it was also known in Scotland. As noted above the Vocalists Companion was published in Glasgow. But there is also an interesting reference in book with the title Heiress of the Blackburnfoot. A Tale of Rural Scottish Life that was published anonymously in 1865 (pp. 180-1, also p. 182): 
"[...] One tremendously wet night, I heard somebody singing wonderfully sweetly all through the night somewhere outside. It was a song, 'My Heart's on the Rhine,' we all learned long ago at the precentor's class. It brought back old times to me, he sang so sweetly. In the morning I found a poor, delicate-looking foreigner; he had made a bonfire, and was striving to keep himself up. He was the singer, a German". 
This his may serve an indication that the song was in fact even taught in school. Here it appeared as musical memory from the childhood. But what I don't know is if English or Scottish singers and readers were aware of the song's relationship to Burns. Maybe or maybe not. "My Heart's in the Highlands" was of course still well-known and popular in Britain at that time. But I haven't yet seen any references to this in British publications. 

Nonetheless we can close the circle here. This was a musical journey that had started in Scotland with "The Strong Walls of Derry" and Robert Burns' "My Heart's in the Highlands". Half a century later German poet Müller used this idea for a poem about the Rhine that was then set to music by composer Speyer. This song became a great hit in England and at the end it "returned" to Scotland where it was apparently even taught to the children in schools. 

But there is also another angle to this story that I find worth discussing. What do we know about 19th century musical and literary culture in Germany and Britain? Much of what was really popular back then is in many cases more or less forgotten today. Wolfgang Müller was a very popular poet during his lifetime. His many books were widely read. What is left of him today is a neglected memorial at the Rhine that most people wouldn't be able to identify. 

Composer Speyer wrote a considerable number of immensely successful songs but today his name is barely known and his songs are barely sung. "My Heart's on the Rhine" - nearly forgotten today - was clearly among the most popular songs during these years, particularly in England with apparently 17 (!) editions of sheet music. Johann Baptist Pischek happened to be one of the great international singing stars of that era, well-known and highly respected both in Germany and in England. But his name, just like many others from that time with a few exceptions like Jenny Lind's, quickly disappeared from our memory. 

This is even the case with Robert Burns. The "German" Burns from the second half of the 19th century - he was one of the most popular foreign poets in Germany at that time - fell more or less into oblivion after the turn of the century. Today he is only "rediscovered". But hardly anyone is aware of all these numerous translations and songs that were published since the 1830s. His popularity in Germany today is only a pale shadow of what it was back then. 

There is still a lot of work to be done to document what was sung and read during the 19th century and what the people really enjoyed. This is much different from what has survived until the present time or what today is regarded as representative of that era. 


Literature 
  • Almanach der Genossenschaft deutscher Bühnenangehöriger. Herausgegeben von Ernst Hettke, Königlicher Schauspieler und Regisseur in Cassel und dem Central-Bureau der Genossenschaft deutscher Bühnenangehöriger. 4. Jahrgang, Selbstverlag, Berlin, 1876, at Google Books 
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