Saturday, April 04, 2009

Three Ballads

Found this description from these program notes.

Wilhelm Stenhammar (1871-1927) was a Swedish composer. His
setting of three poems by the Danish author Jens Peter Jacobsen
(1847-1885) deserves to be more widely known.

In the union of Jacobsen’s words and Stenhammar’s music we have a
beautiful marriage – one that is not challenged at all by the fact that
the poems have been translated into English from the original Danish.
The prosody of the two languages is pretty similar. If you want proof,
I can show you the Danish poems – but not right now!

The poems are lyrical, that is, they are short expressions of emotion.
They do not need to be explained, they just need to be experienced in
order to be enjoyed. The first poem evokes a season that we often sing
nostalgically about, as we “Try to remember a time in September.”

If I had known the second poem earlier, I might have learned from it
rather than from Mozart’s opera what a seraglio is. It is the Italian
word for a harem. And what is a harem? Well, if you don’t know you
can ask any of the singers ... after the concert. This poem imagines a
world that northern people have a great affinity for: the far-away, everwarm,
“stately pleasure dome” world of Turkish days and nights.

The third song is Jacobsen’s re-creation of a folksong. It’s a happy,
joyous outburst, tinged with a little Scandinavian melancholy: for the
singer never had a grandchild, or a daughter, or “hives full of honey and
lots and lots of money.” Neither did Jacobsen. As for Stenhammar, I
may have to wait until Elizabeth and I meet her Swedish cousins in the
old country before I find out what kind of happy or sad life he had.

No comments: