Monday, August 5, 2013

Up late, listening to Hugo Wolf

 Hugo Wolf ... the lieder lover's composer.

"Anakreons Grab." The grave of Anakreon, the Greek poet.

"Spring, summer and fall the happy poet enjoyed --
"From the winter now, finally, this grave protects him."

 It is sweet to hear it up above sung by John McCormack. The song is in German. The poem is by Goethe. And you can hear Mr. McCormack's Irish brogue.

The Wolf song is so tender, as if you almost do not want to approach the grave.

And the beautiful harmony when the song goes: "It is Anakreon's grave." Anakreon's Ruh, literally, Anakreon's rest.

Why am I listening to this? I should go to bed. To seek my own Ruh.

And yet ... It is a kind of haunting song, isn't it?

The poem is kind of along the theme of Elton John's "Goodbye Norma Jean." Never knowing who to turn to when the rain came in. Robert Gutman, the author of a book I loved about Mozart, prefaced his biography with this poem. The Goethe poem, I mean.

It kind of fits.


  1. I have been looking for a really good rendition of Anakreon's Grab on Youtube to recommend to others. But...still looking.

    The Fischer-Dieskau/Moore 1958 recording of Wolf's setting of Morike Lieder possibly the first CD set I'd save if the house caught fire.

    And I love Paul Lewis's Schubert.

  2. Anonymous, the Elisabeth Schwarzkopf recording is lovely ... she sang so much Hugo Wolf and I think it is her recording that is on the Seraphim Guide to German Lieder, that I had when I was a teenager and got me addicted to all this stuff. It's funny, I can name pretty much every song on that 3-record set and the singer who sang each one, but I am kind of foggy on who sang "Anakreons Grab." I know it was a woman. I am pretty sure it was she. Just now I went looking for my set and couldn't find it ... when it turns up, I'll check.

    Meanwhile, it is a good recording, and it's on YouTube. I think the way she sings the line "Es ist Anakreons Grab" is so touching, and the whole thing is sort of sweet and reverent. Let me know what you think.

  3. p.s. I probably shouldn't say "the Elisabeth Schwarzkopf recording" .. I'm sure she recorded it more than once!

  4. I loved it because I love the words and the way she relishes them. But I didn't have any success with it (ES's singing too sophisticated for newbies?) I'll keep my ears open. Thanks.

  5. Anonymous, who is it you are trying to introduce to "Anakreons Grab?" A teenager, a student, a spouse, a person you're dating ... who? Maybe I could come up with another suggestion. I'm enjoying this question.. I never get to have conversations with anyone about Hugo Wolf!

  6. Mary, I was only speaking from experience as I have met resistance to ES and Wolf in the past, even from people who are far more musical than I am. I think you have to be passionate about poetry and have an acquaintance with German to *get* the pair of them.

    This is the situation: I am part of an online recording-Goethe's-autobiography-in-translation project. To introduce some of my collaborators to the great man's poetry I have been posting Youtube links to a series of Goethe's Greatest Hits with literal English translations. I'd love to sneak Wolf in but I think a straightforward version of a short song has the best chance of being enjoyed (so of the small selection on YouTube, "Kennst du das Land" and "Der Rattenfanger" are out).

    I'm looking for a sweet-voiced, fairly straightforward Youtube version of something simple and lovely with words by Goethe and music by Wolf. Not orchestral versions. Anakreon's Grab was the obvious choice. I am open to any suggestions.