*006 Dichterliebe: Vinogradov sings Schumann

Georgy Pavlovich Vinogradov (Георгий Павлович Виноградов) sings «In the Rhine, In the Sacred Stream», the sixth song of Robert Schumann’s «Dichterliebe» (The Poet’s Love), composed in 1840. The songs were originally a set of poems by Heinrich Heine, and here they are translated into Russian by G. Geyne and V. Argamakov. The recording was probably made in Moscow 1950-1951.


Potted wordage #6:
The prologue – not included in this song cycle – explains the situation as follows. It tells of the sorrowful knight that sits gloomily in his house all day, but by night is visited by his fairy bride, and dances with her until daylight returns him to his little poet’s room. This song says: In the Rhine, in the sacred stream, great holy Cologne with its great cathedral is reflected. In it there is a face painted on golden leather, which has shone into the confusion of my life. Flowers and cherubs float about Our Lady: the eyes, lips and cheeks are just like those of my beloved.

Film commentary:
Our hero compares his faery girlfriend to the Madonna. The film compares various idealised women created by male artists with film footage of an actual woman filmed by a woman. Now, who’s in cloud-cuckoo land, then?

Music commentary:
This is a monumental cathedral of an aria. The song starts heavily, like the church foundations, in the manner of a Bach chorale; standing foursquare on a slow beat in the tenor’s lower register; the phrases are arched like vaulting. The same tune is repeated and decorated higher up (bye-bye Bach, we’re in Romanticism now); then again on top of that – and the cathedral is built in the first half of the tune. The second section of the song is floating and spiritual: surely this is the numinous of the building – although whether the deluded knight should be comparing his faery to the Madonna, at this point in the song, is another question. But the song is about reflection: literally in the river, and metaphorically in the poor knight’s mind. The piano reflects this, echo-sounding each note to show the depths of the water and the depth of the mind. Result: an insubstantial cathedral, built on water. When will this guy wake up?

Alternative music commentary:
True art is ambiguous, and no commentary tells the full story. So the music, the music commentary above, and the film can also be seen as an allegory of the poor knight’s and the fairy’s consummation of their love . . . but you don’t need an explanation of that . . .

Film location:
Near the 18th century Holy Trinity Church in Boar Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire. The book illustrations are by Arthur Rackham, ca.1900-1920, and the engravings are by Gustav Doré, in «In Paradiso», 1861-68. The bronzes photographed in Leeds City Square were made by Alfred Drury in 1899.

Please be reassured that these songs are just songs, and that they bear no relation to any living individuals.

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