Music for a Monday: Die Loreley (Liszt)

My mother had a book of German folk songs inherited from her father.  There was a version of Die Lorelei in that book, but this is a whole new level of gorgeous.

And speaking of gorgeous, allow me to digress for a moment while I mention the extreme gorgeousness that was Liszt as a young man.  I saw his portrait in the Museum of Paris several years ago, and was absolutely mesmerised by it.  Those eyes!  That intensity!  I can even forgive him his unplayable piano music…


See what I do for you?  Not just gorgeous music for a Monday morning, but also a gorgeous musician.  Excuse me while I swoon…

Anyway.  Back to the song.  Firstly, the piano part is gorgeous, and ripples like the water – in fact, I think the music paints this song wonderfully all the way through.  The Lorelei, you should know, is a beautiful, golden-haired maiden who sits on the banks of the Rhine, enticing sailors to their deaths with her lovely voice.  (That’s what happens if you let someone get at the Rhine maidens’ gold.  They go evil and start shipwrecking people.  Let that be a lesson to you, Alberich!)  I love the way the piano accompaniment paints the waves and the shipwreck, while Diana Damrau’s voice floats ethereally over it all.  Glorious.

Here’s the story for you:

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
dass ich so traurig bin.
Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn….Die Luft ist kühl,
und es dunkelt
und ruhig fliesst der Rhein
der Gipfel des Berges funkelt im Abendsonnenschein.Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
dort oben wunderbar,
ihr goldenes Geschmeide blitzet,
sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.

Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme
und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame, gewaltige Melodei.

Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe
ergreift es mit wildem Weh;
er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,
er schat nur hinauf in die Höh

Ich glaube, die Welllen verschlingen am Ende Schiffer und Kahn

Und das hat mit ihrem Singen die Lorelei getan.

I don’t know what it means
that I am so sad
A fairy-tale from bygone times…
I can’t get it out of my mindThe air is coolAnd night is falling
and the Rhine flows peacefully
The peak of the mountain sparkles in the evening sun.

The fairest maiden sits,Up above, wondrous
Her golden jewels are sparkling
She combs her golden hair

She combs it with a golden comb
and sings a song as she does
It has a most wonderful and powerful melody

The boatman in his little boat
Enraptured with a wild pain
Sees not the jagged cliff
Sees only what is above

I think that the waves will devour
Both boat and sailor in the end

And that, with her singing, was done by the Lorelei.

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