Monday, April 4, 2011

Franz Schubert and Friedrich Rückert: Poetry and Music

Franz Schubert received his death sentence in 1823. Already the love of his life, Therese Grod, had married another. His father had banished him from home. And his finances were in ruin. Now he was diagnosed with syphilis. In the 19th century, that was a death sentence.

A year earlier, well-known German poet Friedrich Rückert had published a collection of poetry by the title Ostliche Rosen (Eastern Rose). It is possible that Schubert read this book. One of the poems therein, Du bist die Ruh became the text for his lied (song) by the same name.

You are the rest,
The gentle peace,
You are the longing
And what it quiets.

I dedicate to you
Full of pleasure and pain
As a dwelling here
My eyes and heart.

Come to me,
And close
Quietly behind you
The gates.

Drive other pain
Out of this breast!
Full may be this heart
Of your joy.

This temple of my eyes,
By your radiance
Alone is brightened,
Oh fill it completely!

Schubert’s musical interpretation of Du bist die Ruh, here sung by Soprano Sylvia Schwartz, captures the passionate longing of the poet’s words. Considering the struggles of Schubert’s life at the time of its composition, the music seems to reflect the composer’s own heartfelt desires for life and love.

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