Five Liebeslieder for Soprano and Orchestra

I. Rastlose Liebe (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
II. Ganymed (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
III. Suleika II (Marianne von Willemer)
IV. Nähe des Geliebten (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
V. Suleika I (Marianne von Willemer)

Orchestra:

2 Flauti
Oboe
2 Clarinetti (A, B)
2 Fagotti
2 Corni
Violini I, II
Viole
Violoncelli
Bassi

Duration: ca. 22 minutes
Performing materials on hire
Perusal Score on Request

Five Liebeslieder for Soprano and Orchestra
Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Marianne von Willemer

Benjamin Gordon in Interview with Dr. Andreas Jacob

This is the third cycle of Schubert-Lieder that you have arranged for orchestra. What advantage does the orchestra have over the piano?

It’s not so much about showing off the songs clothed in new lavish garments but rather to present and experience the songs in a different space and context. Unfortunately the native habitat of Lieder, the salon, has for the most part disappeared. In its place we now have the modern concert hall. I want to demonstrate how the Leider still have meaning in a larger setting.

Liszt and Brahms were among the first to arrange Schubert’s songs for the orchestra, nevertheless over thirty years after Schubert’s death. Did Schubert miss something by not orchestrating his own songs?

Schubert knew exactly which works stood a chance of being performed. Considering the difficulties he experienced in getting his last symphonies performed – the »Unfinished« and the »Great C major« – songs with Orchestra would have gone down like a lead balloon. It was Liszt, with his insatiable appetite for repertoire, who recognized the unrealized potential in the songs. Liszt’s mind worked in both directions: he arranged Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for piano solo – imagine how that sounds!

Can one describe melodies in the piano part as being incognito orchestra melodies?

It’s almost impossible for me as a pianist and conductor to play piano music and not simultaneously imagine and make connnections with the instruments in the orchestra. For example in the middle of »Ganymed« there’s a melody which I’ve always heard as emanating from an oboe. It’s very important to me to remain faithful to Schubert’s own orchestral texture. Nonetheless there were a few instances where I felt it would do the music justice to draw from the orchestration technique of later composers. In this sense I sometimes feel like a vintner who takes a old-world variety and transplants it in new soil to see how the grape flourishes. I’d be quite pleased if the same song with orchestra instead of piano has the same effect as a exception vintage on the listener’s palate!

George Henschel quoted Brahms as saying, “Schubert’s Suleika songs are to me the only instances where the power and beauty of Goethe’s words have been enhanced by the music. All of Goethe’s other poems seem to me so perfect in themselves that no music can improve them.”

Brahms’ comment was my point of departure for orchestrating an entire Goethe cycle. This and the fact that there are uncanny similarites between »Suleika I« and the »Unfinished« Symphony.

However neither Brahms nor Schubert knew that Goethe was not the author of the Suleika poems…

Goethe had a kind of literary affair with Marianne von Willemer, which left its traces in the »West-Eastern Divan.« It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that people learned both poems originated from her pen. Goethe would have never been able to pass them off as his own had he not considered them to be exceptional poetry.

continue reading