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Hugo Wolf: Mein Liebster singt

This week, I’ll be sharing a new song each day to remind you (and myself) that how we use this time at home is as varied and limitless as our collective imagination.  There’s at least one song, if not hundreds, for everything we’re experiencing in this singular moment, and it wasn’t easy to pick five!  But I hope my choices delight, inspire, move, and comfort you, as they do me. 

FOMO (Fear of missing out)  

This phenomenon, particularly in young people, is shorthand for feeling like everyone else is having a better time, doing more, living better.   I’m not certain why this particular song from Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch came to mind, but I suspect it had something to do with how hard it is to stay in when you’d prefer to be out

The young woman in the song laments that her lover is outside serenading her, and she must stay in bed, her mother by her side. We really don’t know the reason for her confinement. Is she sick, pregnant, or just being kept inside by parents who have other ideas about who should come calling for their daughter?

Both Heyse’s text and Wolf’s music create a brief, but wildly emotional scene, a miniature aria that captures the full throttle passion of young love and the impatience of youth. I remember singing this song at twenty, and it didn’t seem the least bit overheated to me then.  Listening to it now, my heart still aches for the young girl, but I’m mostly just astonished at how Wolf opens up a whole world of feeling in ninety-three seconds.  

Mein Liebster singt am Haus in Mondenscheinen
Und ich muß lauschend hier in Bette liegen.
Weg von der Mutter wend’ ich mich und weine,
Blut sind die Tränen, die mir nicht versiegen.
Den breiten Strom am Bett hab’ ich geweint 
Weiß nicht vor Tränen ob der Morgen scheint
Den breiten Strom am Bett weint’ ich vor Sehnen;
Blind haben mich gemacht die blut’gen Tränen.

My lover sings outside my house in the moonlight
And I must languish here in bed and listen all night.
I turn away from my mother and cry,
My tears are blood, which will not dry.
A wide stream I have sobbed into my bed.
From all these tears, I don’t know if it’s morning yet
Such a wide stream I have sobbed here from longing;
I am blinded by tears, like blood running.
— Translation by Amy Burton

“Mein Liebster singt”
by Hugo Wolf (1860-1903); Paul Heyse (1830–1914)
performed by Julia Kleiter, soprano and Hilko Dumno, pianist

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