Monday, October 22, 2018

Carl Loewe's spooky, spooky ballad

As I continue my exploration of ghost songs I have been racking my brain trying to think of the title of this one ballad by Carl Loewe.

I had it on a record when I was a teenager and I remembered everything about it but the title! It was about a princess whose servant fell in love with her, and she dies, and he goes to where she is lying in her coffin. And he pulls her out and embraces her, and she comes to life -- but then things go terribly wrong and they are buried together alive.

Who in the world would think up a song like that?

Of course it had great appeal to me. I even illustrated it. I still have the drawing somewhere. It is stuck in this one notebook. I will have to find it and post it. My illustration showed the servant lifting the princess out of her coffin. I was very happy with how it came out and when I listened to the song, which I did frequently, I would look at it.

I am telling you, inside of every teenage girl is a Mary Shelley struggling to come out. I sure did love the macabre! Still do on occasion.

With which, I still have that record, but I have not been able to see my way clear to go looking for it. I couldn't remember even what the album looked like. The singer was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, naturally, but I couldn't remember the pianist.

Turns out it was Jorg Demus on piano. And that is the album up above. I recognized it as soon as I saw it online. I got that album on sale somewhere. I had never heard of Carl Loewe, but I loved Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and could not resist a bargain where he was concerned. And I liked Lieder.

And let me tell you, this record was a winner. I have not listened to this album for what, 30 years? But I remember "Die Uhr." And "Prinz Eugen." And Loewe's "Erl King" which is pretty cool, even next to Schubert's. And "Edward."

"Edward"!! That is another song for another day. We have to get to that one.

"Dein Schwert, wie ist von Blut so rot, Edward, Edward?"

I still remember that entire crazy song!! And I haven't thought about it for years!

But back to the song about the coffin. I see now it is "Der Gruft der Liebenden." That must mean "The Grave of the Lovers"? I never remember noticing the title.

Oh my goodness! Here it is on YouTube. No comments. I cannot believe that. Am I the only person in the world to recognize this song's greatness?

I am going to settle in and listen to it for the first time since I was 17.

The beginning. It is all coming back to me.

Those dreamy sleepwalking melodies.


Now I have to go find my drawing.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A British ghost song

Not to switch gears too violently, but the song the other day by Gustav Mahler, "Wo Die Schoenen Trompeten Blasen," makes me think of a song sung by Steeleye Span.

Perhaps you know Steeleye Span, the veteran British folk group. I got to know their records back in college when I was in the Society for Creative Anachronism, the medieval recreation group. A lot of my friends listened to them.

And there was this song that would get to me, "The Wife of Usher's Well."

It is a ghost story similar to the Mahler song. The Mahler song -- the words at least -- was also a folk song, which shows how much death was on these people's minds. Both the melodies are strangely dreamy, rather detached. In the Mahler the ghost's melody sounds like sleepwalking to me. The British folk song also follows a sweet melody. It makes the stories extra shocking, so it seems to me.

Here is "The Wife of Usher's Well." There are other performances out there but I like the one by Steeleye Span, the one I loved in college. It is from their album "All Around My Hat."

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

A great ghostly song

Here is a wonderful song for October.

Mahler's "When the Fair Trumpets Sound" is a ghost story. If you are lucky enough to be hearing it for the first time I will not give away what it is about. I have found a video with a translation.

The singer here is Brigitte Fassbinder. She is kind of unpredictable in my experience and I have had my issues with her but she does pretty well here.

Normally all other things being equal I like Lieder better simply with piano. But in this case the orchestra is evocative of the trumpets and other sounds.

When I first heard this song I cried. There was something about the dreamy melody of the ghost. I love Gustav Mahler's "Knaben Wunderhorn" songs and this one is at the top of my list.

Take it, Ms. Fassbinder.

After you know what the song is about you can always try Jessye Norman's version. She sings the song beautifully.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Hear the tolling of the bell

I have been wanting to get this website up and running again and October is a perfect time to start.

It is a great time of year for challenges. I am doing Inktober for one thing. And you know what, as long as I am drawing an ink picture every day I am kind of in the mood for music too.

I think what I will do is link Inktober and music and explore some music that is, shall we say, inky.

One such dusky gem that comes to mind is Schubert's "Der Zuegengloecklein." I am sorry for all the vowels! I am too lazy to figure out how to type umlauts. The title, anyway, means "the little funeral bell." The accompaniment is beautiful, how you hear the soft chime of the bell, repeatedly. And the melody takes a cool twist at the end.

I loved this as a teenager and listened to it a lot, always with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. So here is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau again.

Hyperion Records always had excellent notes to Schubert songs, by pianist Graham Johnson. My friend Peter and I used to listen to the Hyperion CDs and we would always laugh at the cover because you would see Graham Johnson at the piano, and his keys were sitting there on the piano right next to the keyboard.

Ha, ha! No one ever said, "Hey, Graham, as long as they're taking pictures, you might want to move your keys." No! Album after album, disc after disc, there they were.

Well, he had higher things on his mind. It seems Hyperion is posting his notes online so here are the notes to this one. "This hypnotic song," it begins. Hypnotic is right.

The notes say that the little bell was rung in churches when someone was dying, and it meant you were supposed to pray for that person. We should bring back that tradition. That is a Zugenglocklein at the top of this post! I did a search on the word and that came up.

The notes also reveal that the poet who wrote the words to this song was just 22, hence the poem was kind of immature. That is the advantage to being an English speaker. Bad poem, who cares? But here is the translation anyway.

Enjoy this October song!