Saturday Schoenberg (2)

Schoenberg and his wife Mathilde, photographed in their apartment at Liechtensteinstraße 68/70, ca. 1907.

No explanation; no apologetics; no theoretical or historico-critical apparatus…

Just Schoenberg works in performances that have caught my ear for what, rightly or wrongly, I think of as the best of musical reasons…

… Plus, wherever possible, a related photograph or two…

You don’t have to like the piece. You don’t even have to listen to it. It’s simply here.

*          *          *

Today’s work:

‘Friede auf Erden’ [‘Peace on Earth’] for unaccompanied choir, Op. 13 (1907; first performance 1911).

Original German Text (Conrad Ferdinand Meyer [1825-1898]):

Da die Hirten ihre Herde
Ließen und des Engles Worte
Trugen durch die niedre Pforte
Zu der Mutter mit dem Kind,
Fuhr das himmlische Gesind
Fort im Sternenraum zu singen,
Fuhr der Himmel fort zu klingen:
“Friede, Friede! auf der Erde!”

Seit die Engel so geraten,
O wie viele blut’ge Taten
Hat der Streit auf wildem Pferde,
Der geharnischte vollbracht!
In wie mancher heiligen Nacht
Sang der Chor der Geister zagend,
Dringlich flehend, leis verklagend:
“Friede, Friede… auf der Erde!”

Doch es ist ein ewiger Glaube,
Dass der Schwache nicht zum Raube
Jeder frechen Mordgebärde
Werde fallen allezeit:
Etwas wie Gerechtigkeit
Webt und wirkt in Mord und Grauen
Und ein Reich will sich erbauen,
Das den Frieden sucht der Erde.

Mählich wird es sich gestalten,
Seines heiligen Amtes walten,
Waffen schmieden ohne Fährde,
Flammenschwerter für das Recht,
Und ein königlich Geschlecht
Wird erblühn mit starken Söhnen,
Dessen helle Tuben dröhnen:
Friede, Friede auf der Erde!

Richard Stokes’s English translation (2018):

When the shepherds left their flocks,
And conveyed the angel’s words
Through the low doorway
To the mother with the child,
The heavenly throng continued
To sing in the firmament,
Heaven continued to sound:
‘Peace, peace on earth!’

Since the angels uttered such advice—
Ah! how many bloody deeds
Has armed warfare on wild horses
Perpetrated!
In how many a sacred night
Has the choir of spirits sung—tentatively,
With fervent pleading, gradually fading:
“Peace, peace on earth!”

But there is an eternal belief
That the weak shall not fall prey
To every insolent murderous gesture
At every season:
Something resembling justice
Works against murder and horror,
And a kingdom shall be created
That seeks peace on earth.

Gradually this kingdom shall come about,
Shall exercise its power,
Shall forge weapons without peril,
Shall forge swords of fire for justice;
And a race of kings
Shall flourish with strong sons,
Whose bright tubas shall blare out:
Peace, peace on earth!

MD

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