NYFOS logo

Sergei Rachmaninoff: Six Songs for Voice and Piano, Op. 38

At the turn of the century, political unrest and a new desire (and ability) to travel the world led many classical composers to call America their new home. One such political event was the Russian Revolution, which forced Sergei Rachmaninoff to flee to America around 1918. Though he longed for his home country, he earned great success in front of American audiences. Most of his fame (and money) came from his performing and conducting concerts in the 20+ years immediately following his arrival in the country, which allowed him time to complete only a handful of compositions during this period, the only vocal piece being his Three Russian Songs for Chorus (1926). Therefore, these Six Songs for Voice and Piano, Op. 38 are the final lieder he wrote the year before fleeing his home country. Prior to this cessation, Rachmaninoff had composed over 80 songs for voice and piano, making this stark halt in vocal composition poignant and a bit devastating. Dawn Upshaw and Margo Garrett brilliantly perform the subtle nuances and mastery of his compositional style during this time. He adapted the style of his later compositions to fit the demands of his American performing career. The subtleness and style of these lieder are very unique and not heard in much of his later work.


Hugo Wolf: Ganymed

I fell in love with this recording of Dawn Upshaw’s Naumberg recital with Margo Garrett on the piano when I was a student at Juilliard. It was actually Steve Blier who divined that this song would turn out to be a life-changingly meaningful piece for me, and assigned it to me to learn when I was studying with him there. I have him to thank for all the transcendent experiences I have had “channelling” this song for audiences. I don’t usually talk about performing in such a rarified light, but whenever I do this piece I feel like I am living the experience of Ganymed’s assumption into the heavens… the tremolos in the piano in the final section (starting at 3:17 in this recording) to me beautifully depict the boy Ganymed’s assumption into Olympus, passing through towering clouds.

I love Dawn’s performance of this piece for its dreamlike, sexual/spiritual yearning, and Margo’s subtle and painterly playing.


I am an unabashed language nerd and love translating the poems that I sing. Here’s my translation of Ganymed:


Wie im Morgenglanze
du rings mich anglühst,
Frühling, Geliebter!
Mit tausendfacher Liebeswonne
Sich an mein Herz drängt
deiner ewigen Wärme
Heilig Gefühl,
Unendliche Schöne!
Daß ich dich fassen möcht
In diesen Arm!
How in the morning clarity
you glow around me,
Spring, my beloved!
With thousandfold love raptures
presses itself on my heart
your eternal warmness
of holy feeling,
unending beauty!
If I could only grasp you
in these arms!
Ach, an deinem Busen
Lieg ich und schmachte,
Und deine Blumen, dein Gras
Drängen sich an mein Herz.
Du kühlst den brennenden
Durst meines Busens,
Lieblicher Morgenwind!
Ruft drein die Nachtigall
Liebend nach mir in die Nebelthal.
Oh, on your breast
I lie and ­­­yearn,
And your flowers, your grass
Press themselves against my heart.
You cool the burning thirst
of my breast,
lovely morning wind!
There calls the nightingale
Lovingly after me in the misty valley.
Ich komm’, ich komme!
Wohin?  Ach, wohin?
Hinauf!  Hinauf strebt’s.
Es schweben die Wolken
Abwärts, die Wolken
Neigen sich der sehnenden Liebe.
Mir!  Mir!
In eurem Schosse
Umfangend umfangen!
Aufwärts an deinen Busen,
Alliebender Vater!
 I come, I come!
Where?  Oh, to where?
Upwards!  Upwards I strive.
The clouds float
Downwards, the clouds
bow down to yearning love.
To me!  To me!
In your breast
Embracing, embraced!
Upwards to your breast,
All-loving Father!




New York Festival of Song • One Penn Plaza • #6108 • New York, NY 10119 • 646-230-8380 • info@nyfos.org