Peter Lieberson: O Ihr Zärtlichen

Written by Michael Barrett

Associate Artistic Director, NYFOS

In category: Song of the Day

Published January 28, 2020

When Lorraine Hunt became composer Peter Lieberson’s muse, and then became Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, she sang his four Rilke Songs. These songs express a deep resonance with Peter Lieberson’s belief in Buddhism, that he found in Rilke’s text. The spaciousness of the writing, its stillness, and spiritual perspective make this one of my favorite art songs ever written. Here is the text in English:

“Oh you tender ones, walk now and then
Into the breath that blows coldly past.
Upon your cheeks let it tremble and part;
Behind you it will tremble together again.

O you blessed ones, you who are whole,
You who seem the beginning of hearts,
Bows for the arrows and arrow’s targets-
Tear-bright, your lips more eternally smile.

Don’t be afraid to suffer; return
That heaviness to the earth’s own weight:
Heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

Even the small trees you planted as children
Have long since become too heavy; you could not
Carry them now. But the winds…But the spaces….

Here is “O Ihr Zärtlichen” sung by Lorraine Hunt Lieberson

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Michael Barrett is the co-founder and associate artistic director of New York Festival of Song, as well as the co-founder and music director of the Moab Music Festival in Utah. A conductor and a pianist, Michael was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein and serves as music advisor to the Leonard Bernstein Estate.


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