Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Winterreise: Bostridge's wonderful book, and some singing translations

Greatly enjoying Ian Bostridge's brilliant book Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession. This is a simply brilliant exploration by one of the world's greatest Lieder singers - and almost certainly the only one with a DPhil from Oxford.

Each chapter is a meditation on one of the songs and although they all begin with the text and a direct translation they are by no means dry musicological analyses and go in all kinds of philosophical and intellectual directions - including having charts such as the reconstructed Temperature Anomaly from 0AD to 2004.

I really can't do justice to this wonderful book - if you know this song cycle at all do buy it.

I've tried to make some "singing translations" of the songs which keep as far as possible the sense of the words whilst fitting the music.  Here are a few - do see what you think:
1. Good Night
I came here as a stranger
As stranger I depart
The month of May was good to me
Flowers garlanded my heart
The girl she spoke of love
The mother, marriage too
Now all the world is miserable
The road bedecked in snow

I can for this my journey
Not choose a softer time
Enshrouded in the shadows
My own path I must find
A moonbeam travels with me
My one companion here
And on the ice-white meadows
I look for track of deer.

Why hang around for longer
Till I am thrown out?
Leave straying dogs their howling
Before their master’s house.
For love, it loves to wander
God made it thus, that’s right
From one onto the other
My sweetest love good night!

I shan’t disturb your dreaming
Or trouble your repose
You should not hear my footsteps
And soft the door I’ll close
I’ll write as I go past it
Upon the gate, “Good night”
So that you can be certain
I’ve thought of you all right.
3. Frozen Tears
The frozen drops are falling
From each of my smarting cheeks
Has it escaped my notice
That I have begun to weep?

O teardrops, my teardrops
And are you so lukewarm
That you will turn to ice
Like cool dew in the morn?

And yet we can trace your source to
A breast that is so aglow
That it would have the heat to melt
The whole winter’s ice and snow!

4. Frozen Stiff
In vain I seek for traces of her marks in the snow
Where once upon my arm, in green fields we would go

I’ll pierce the ground with kisses, piercing the ice and snow
Till my hot burning tears to me the earth shall show.

Where can I find one flower, or one blade of green grass?
The flowers are dead, the grass washed out, it’s greenness in the past.

Shall I then find no keepsake to take with me from here?
When my own griefs are silent who’ll speak to me of her?

My heart is as if frozen – frozen her picture there
And if my heart should melt again her picture will disappear.

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