LSO St Luke's Jerwood Hall

© Matthew Weinreb

LSO St Luke's Jerwood Hall

© Matthew Weinreb

LSO St Luke's Jerwood Hall

© Matthew Weinreb

© Matthew Weinreb

Friday 16 October 1pm
BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concert

Brahms and Beyond

Wie Melodien zieht es;
Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer;
Des Liebsten Schwur;
Die Mainacht;
Von ewiger Liebe;
Zwei Gesänge

Gustav Mahler
Ich atmet' einen linden Duft;
Das irdische Leben

Alma Mahler
Bei dir ist es traut; Ich wandle unter Blumen; Laue Sommernacht: am Himmel

Korngold Four Shakespeare Songs

Kitty Whately mezzo-soprano
Timothy Ridout viola
Joseph Middleton piano

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Recorded for future broadcast by BBC Radio 3.

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About 'Brahms and Beyond'

Traditionalist or innovator? Classicist or Romantic? Brahms stood with one foot in the past and one in the future, a figure whose music would influence generations of composers, and echo in the work that would follow.

In this series, we explore Brahms’ most extraordinary works for chamber ensemble, compositions by his friends and contemporaries, and music by Mahler, Berg and other later composers which bear the trace of his influence.


Wie Melodien zieht es;
Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer


Des Liebsten Schwur


Die Mainacht

Von ewiger Liebe

Zwei Gesänge
i. Gestillte Sehnsucht
ii. Geistliches Wiegenlied

Brahms wrote around 190 solo Lieder. The pianist Graham Johnson believes Brahms often chose song texts for their personal significance, making the Lieder among his most openly and deeply emotional works.

‘Wie Melodien zieht es’ and ‘Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer’ come from Brahms’ Five Songs Op 105. ‘Wie Melodien zieht es’ is a lyrical affirmation of the power of poetry. In ‘Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer’ a dying woman longs for reunion with her lover: the mood shifts from resignation to urgency in the soaring imploration ‘O komme bald!’ (o come soon). By contrast, Des Liebsten Schwur shows Brahms in a playful mood as a girl plans to escape her sulky father through marriage. Its dance-like rhythm and predominantly strophic form (music in which every verse or chorus is sung to the same refrain) reflect the composer’s affinity with folksong.

In the bleak early song Liebestreu a mother briskly attempts to rally her lovelorn daughter’s spirits, and eventually provokes a vehement response. Die Mainacht and Von ewiger Liebe come from Brahms’ Four Songs Op 43 and are among his best-loved Lieder. The melancholy yearning of Die Mainacht contrasts with the passion of Von ewiger Liebe in which a girl radiantly assures her anxious suitor that their love is eternal.

Brahms wrote his Zwei Gesänge (two songs) for the violinist/violist Joseph Joachim and Joachim’s wife Amalie. The pensive music of Gestillte Sehnsucht (Stilled Longing) perfectly evokes the mood of Friedrich Rückert’s poem, in which the protagonist contrasts the tranquility of nature with his or her own longings. Geistliches Wiegenlied (Spiritual Lullaby) is a tender cradle song from the Virgin to the Christ Child that features a viola melody based on the medieval carol ‘Joseph lieber, Joseph mein’.

Note by Kate Hopkins

Johannes Brahms

A black and white photograph of Brahms

Showing early musical promise, the young Johannes Brahms supplemented his parents’ meagre income by playing in the bars and brothels of Hamburg’s infamous red-light district. In 1853 he presented himself to Robert Schumann in Düsseldorf, winning unqualified approval from the older composer. Brahms fell in love with Schumann’s wife, Clara, supporting her after her husband’s illness and death. The relationship did not develop as Brahms wished, and he returned to Hamburg; their close friendship, however, survived.

In 1862 Brahms moved to Vienna where he found fame as a conductor, pianist and composer. The Leipzig premiere of his German Requiem in 1869 proved a triumph, with subsequent performances establishing Brahms as one of the emerging German nation’s foremost composers.

Profile by Andrew Stewart

Texts and Translations

Wie Melodien zieht es

Wie Melodien zieht es
Mir leise durch den Sinn,
Wie Frühlingsblumen blüht es,
Und schwebt wie Duft dahin.

Doch kommt das Wort und faßt es
Und führt es vor das Aug',
Wie Nebelgrau erblaßt es
Und schwindet wie ein Hauch.

Und dennoch ruht im Reime
Verborgen wohl ein Duft,
Den mild aus stillem Keime
Ein feuchtes Auge ruft.

Text by Klaus Groth

It moves like a melody

It moves like a melody,
Gently through my mind;
It blossoms like spring flowers
And wafts away like fragrance.

But when it is captured in words,
And placed before my eyes,
It turns pale like a gray mist
And disappears like a breath.

And yet, remaining in my rhymes
There hides still a fragrance,
Which mildly from the quiet bud
My moist eyes call forth.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer

Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer,
Nur wie Schleier liegt mein Kummer
Zitternd über mir.
Oft im Traume hör' ich dich
Rufen drauß vor meiner Tür:
Niemand wacht und öffnet dir,
Ich erwach' und weine bitterlich.

Ja, ich werde sterben müssen,
Eine Andre wirst du küssen,
Wenn ich bleich und kalt.
Eh' die Maienlüfte when,
Eh' die Drossel singt im Wald:
Willst du einmal noch mich sehen,
Komm, o komme bald!

Text by Hermann von Lingg

My slumber grows ever more peaceful

My slumber grows ever more peaceful;
and only like a thin veil now does my anxiety
lie trembling upon me.
Often in my dreams I hear you
calling outside my door;
no one is awake to let you in,
and I wake up and weep bitterly.

Yes, I will have to die;
another will you kiss,
when I am pale and cold.
Before the May breezes blow,
before the thrush sings in the forest:
if you wish to see me once more,
come, o come soon!

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Des Liebsten Schwur

Ei, schmollte mein Vater nicht wach und im Schlaf,
So sagt' ich ihm, wen ich im Gärtelein traf.
Und schmolle nur, Vater, und schmolle nur fort,
Ich traf den Geliebten im Gärtelein dort.

Ei, zankte mein Vater nicht wieder sich ab,
So sagt' ich ihm, was der Geliebte mir gab.
Und zanke nur, Vater, mein Väterchen du,
Er gab mir ein Küßchen und eines dazu.

Ei, klänge dem Vater nicht staunend das Ohr,
So sagt' ich ihm, was der Geliebte mir schwor.
Und staune nur, Vater, und staune noch mehr,
Du gibst mich doch einmal mit Freuden noch her.

Mir schwor der Geliebte so fest und gewiß,
Bevor er aus meiner Umarmung sich riß:
Ich hätte am längsten zu Hause gesäumt,
Bis lustig im Felde die Weizensaat keimt.

Text by Josef Wenzig

My beloved's oath

Oh, if only my father did not sulk, in both wakefulness and sleep,
I would tell him whom I met in the little garden.
But just keep sulking, Father, sulk away;
I met my beloved in that little garden there.

Oh, if only my father weren't so quarrelsome,
I would tell him what my beloved gave to me.
But just keep being quarrelsome, Father, my dear father you,
He gave me a little kiss and another in addition.

Oh, if it did not sound so astonishing to my father's ears,
I would tell him what my beloved swore.
But be astonished, Father, and be astonished again:
You will nevertheless give me to him one day with joy.

My beloved swore to me so firmly and certainly,
Before he tore himself from my embrace:
I would remain at home only until
The wheat-seeds sprout merrily in the fields.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust


‘O versenk', o versenk' dein Leid,
mein Kind, in die See, in die tiefe See!’
Ein Stein wohl bleibt auf des Meeres Grund,
mein Leid kommt stets in die Höh.

‘Und die Lieb', die du im Herzen trägst,
brich sie ab, brich sie ab, mein Kind!’
Ob die Blum' auch stirbt, wenn man sie bricht,
treue Lieb' nicht so geschwind.

‘Und die Treu', und die Treu',
's war nur ein Wort, in den Wind damit hinaus.’
O Mutter und splittert der Fels auch im Sturm,
Meine Treue, die hält ihn aus.

Text by Robert Reinick

True Love

‘Oh sink, sink your sorrow,
My child, in the sea, in the deep sea!’
A stone rests well at the bottom of the ocean;
My sorrow, though, always comes up to the surface.

‘And the love that you carry in your heart,
Destroy it, destroy it, my child!’
If the flower also dies when one breaks it off,
True Love is not so swift.

‘And your constancy, your constancy,
It is only a word; into the wind with it!’
Oh, Mother - even if the rock splinters in the wind,
My constancy withstands it.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Die Mainacht

Wann der silberne Mond durch die Gesträuche blinkt,
Und sein schlummerndes Licht über den Rasen streut,
Und die Nachtigall flötet,
Wandl' ich traurig von Busch zu Busch.

Überhüllet von Laub, girret ein Taubenpaar
Sein Entzücken mir vor; aber ich wende mich,
Suche dunklere Schatten,
Und die einsame Thräne rinnt.

Wann, o lächelndes Bild, welches wie Morgenroth
Durch die Seele mir stralt, find' ich auf Erden dich?
Und die einsame Thräne
Bebt mir heisser die Wang' herab.

Text by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty

The May Night

When the silver moon twinkles through the bushes,
And dusts the grass with its sleepy light,
And the nightingale pipes like a flute,
I wander mournfully from bush to bush.

I call you blessed then, fluting nightingale,
For your beloved lives with you in one nest,
And gives her singing spouse
A thousand loving kisses.

Surrounded with leaves, a pair of doves coos
Their delight to me, but I turn away,
Seeking darker shadows,
And a solitary tear flows.

O smiling image that, like the red light of morning,
Shines through my soul, when will I find you on earth?
And the solitary tear
Trembles more warmly on my cheek.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Von ewiger Liebe

Dunkel, wie dunkel in Wald und in Feld!
Abend schon ist es, nun schweiget die Welt.

Nirgend noch Licht und nirgend noch Rauch,
Ja, und die Lerche sie schweiget nun auch.

Kommt aus dem Dorfe der Bursche heraus,
Gibt das Geleit der Geliebten nach Haus,

Führt sie am Weidengebüsche vorbei,
Redet so viel und so mancherlei:

‘Leidest du Schmach und betrübest du dich,
Leidest du Schmach von andern um mich,

Werde die Liebe getrennt so geschwind,
Schnell, wie wir früher vereiniget sind.

Scheide mit Regen und scheide mit Wind,
Schnell wie wir früher vereiniget sind.’

Spricht das Mägdelein, Mägdelein spricht:
‘Unsere Liebe sie trennet sich nicht!

Fest ist der Stahl und das Eisen gar sehr,
Unsere Liebe ist fester noch mehr.

Eisen und Stahl, man schmiedet sie um,
Unsere Liebe, wer wandelt sie um?

Eisen und Stahl, sie können zergehn,
Unsere Liebe muß ewig bestehn!’

Text by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben

Of Eternal Love

Dark, how dark in wood and field!
Evening has already fallen, and now the world is silent.

Nowhere is there light and nowhere is there smoke,
Yes, and even the lark is now silent as well.

Out of the village there comes a young lad,
Taking his sweetheart home,

He leads her past the willow bushes,
Talking so much and about so many things:

‘If you suffer disgrace and feel dejected,
If others shame you about me,

Then let our love be sundered as swiftly,
As quickly as we were united before.

It will go with the rain, it will go with the wind,
As quickly as we were united before.’

The maiden speaks, the maiden says:
‘Our love will not be sundered!

Steel is strong, and iron is very strong;
Our love is even stronger.

Iron and steel can be reforged,
[But] our love - who could alter it?

Iron and steel can be melted down,
[But] our love will exist forever!’

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Zwei Gesänge

i. Gestillte Sehnsucht
In gold'nen Abendschein getauchet,
Wie feierlich die Wälder stehn!
In leise Stimmen der Vöglein hauchet
Des Abendwindes leises Weh'n.
Was lispeln die Winde, die Vögelein?
Sie lispeln die Welt in Schlummer ein.

Ihr Wünsche, die ihr stets euch reget
Im Herzen sonder Rast und Ruh!
Du Sehnen, das die Brust beweget,
Wann ruhest du, wann schlummerst du?
Beim Lispeln der Winde, der Vögelein,
Ihr sehnenden Wünsche, wann schlaft ihr ein?

Was kommt gezogen auf Traumesflügeln?
Was weht mich an so bang, so hold?
Es kommt gezogen von fernen Hügeln,
Es kommt auf bebendem Sonnengold.
Wohl lispeln die Winde, die Vögelein,
Das Sehnen, das Sehnen, es schläft nicht ein.

Ach, wenn nicht mehr in gold'ne Fernen
Mein Geist auf Traumgefieder eilt,
Nicht mehr an ewig fernen Sternen
Mit sehnendem Blick mein Auge weilt;
Dann lispeln die Winde, die Vögelein
Mit meinem Sehnen mein Leben ein.

Text by Friedrich Rückert

Two Songs

i. Stilled Longing
Steeped in a golden evening glow,
how solemnly the forests stand!
In gentle voices the little birds breathe
into the soft fluttering of evening breezes.
What does the wind whisper, and the little birds?
They whisper the world into slumber.

You, my desires, that stir
in my heart without rest or peace!
You longings that move my heart,
When will you rest, when will you sleep?
By the whispering of the wind, and of the little birds?
You yearning desires, when will you fall asleep?

What will come of these dreamy flights?
What stirs me so anxiously, so sweetly?
It comes pulling me from far-off hills,
It comes from the trembling gold of the sun.
The wind whispers loudly, as do the little birds;
The longing, the longing - it will not fall asleep.

Alas, when no longer into the golden distance
does my spirit hurry on dream-wings,
when no more on the eternally distant stars
does my longing gaze rest;
Then the wind and the little birds
will whisper away my longing, along with my life.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

ii. Geistliches Wiegenlied

Die ihr schwebet
Um diese Palmen
In Nacht und Wind,
Ihr heilgen Engel,
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein Kind.

Ihr Palmen von Bethlehem
Im Windesbrausen,
Wie mögt ihr heute
So zornig sausen!
O rauscht nicht also!
Schweiget, neiget
Euch leis und lind;
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein Kind.

Der Himmelsknabe
Duldet Beschwerde,
Ach, wie so müd er ward
Vom Leid der Erde.
Ach nun im Schlaf ihm
Leise gesänftigt
Die Qual zerrinnt,
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein Kind.

Grimmige Kälte
Sauset hernieder,
Womit nur deck ich
Des Kindleins Glieder!
O all ihr Engel,
Die ihr geflügelt
Wandelt im Wind,
Stillet die Wipfel!
Es schlummert mein Kind.

Text by Emanuel von Geibel

ii. Spiritual Lullaby
You who hover
Around these palms
In night and wind,
You holy angels,
Silence the treetops,
My child is sleeping.

You palms of Bethlehem
In the roaring wind,
How can you today
Bluster so angrily!
O roar not so!
Be still, bow
Softly and gently;
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

The child of heaven
Endures the discomfort,
Oh, how tired he has become
Of earthly sorrow.
Oh, now in sleep,
Gently softened,
His pain fades,
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

Fierce cold
Comes rushing,
How shall I cover
The little child's limbs?
O all you angels,
You winged ones
Wandering in the wind.
Silence the treetops!
My child is sleeping.

Translation copyright © by Lawrence Snyder

Gustav Mahler

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft

Das irdische Leben

Other than his symphonies, Mahler almost exclusively composed songs: more than forty in total. ‘Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft’ is one of the five settings of poems by Friedrich Rückert now known as the Rückert-Lieder. Mahler captures the rapt contentment of the poem through a soaring vocal line, with a delicate accompaniment. Das irdische Leben uses a text from Des Knaben Wunderhorn: a popular collection of German folk poetry that inspired Mahler to many songs. A starving child begs for bread; its mother orders it to wait until reaping, threshing and baking are done. The relentlessly fast accompaniment and the child’s angular cries foreshadow the horror of the song’s ending.

Note by Kate Hopkins

Gustav Mahler

Black and white photo of composer Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler’s early experiences of music were influenced by the military bands and folk singers who passed by his father’s inn in the small town of Iglau. He applied for a place at the Vienna Conservatory where he studied piano, harmony and composition. After graduation, Mahler supported himself by teaching music and also completed his first important composition, Das klagende Lied. He accepted a succession of conducting posts in Kassel, Prague, Leipzig and Budapest; and the Hamburg State Theatre, where he served as First Conductor from 1891–7.

For the next ten years, Mahler was Resident Conductor and then Director of the prestigious Vienna Hofoper. Working in the Austrian countryside he completed nine symphonies, richly Romantic in idiom, often monumental in scale and extraordinarily eclectic in their range of musical references and styles. He also composed a series of eloquent, often poignant songs, many themes from which were reworked in his symphonic scores. He accepted an invitation to become Principal Conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in 1907 and later the New York Philharmonic. In 1911 he contracted a bacterial infection and returned to Vienna. When he died a few months before his 51st birthday, Mahler had just completed part of his Tenth Symphony.

Profile by Andrew Stewart

Texts and Translations

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft

Ich atmet' einen linden Duft!
Im Zimmer stand
Ein Zweig der Linde,
Ein Angebinde
Von lieber Hand.
Wie lieblich war der Lindenduft!

Wie lieblich ist der Lindenduft!
Das Lindenreis
Brachst du gelinde!
Ich atme leis
Im Duft der Linde
Der Liebe linden Duft.

Text by Friedrich Rückert

I breathed a gentle fragrance!

I breathed a gentle fragrance!
In the room stood
a sprig of linden,
a gift
from a dear hand.
How lovely was the fragrance of linden!

How lovely is the fragrance of linden!
That twig of linden
you broke off so gently!
Softly I breathe in
the fragrance of linden,
the gentle fragrance of love.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Das irdische Leben

‘Mutter, ach Mutter! es hungert mich,
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich.’
‘Warte nur, mein liebes Kind,
Morgen wollen wir säen geschwind.’

Und als das Korn gesäet war,
Rief das Kind noch immerdar:
‘Mutter, ach Mutter! es hungert mich,
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich.’
‘Warte nur, mein liebes Kind,
Morgen wollen wir ernten geschwind.’

Und als das Korn geerntet war,
Rief das Kind noch immerdar:
‘Mutter, ach Mutter! es hungert mich,
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich.’
‘Warte nur, mein liebes Kind,
Morgen wollen wir dreschen geschwind’

Und als das Korn gedroschen war,
Rief das Kind noch immerdar:
‘Mutter, ach Mutter! es hungert mich,
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich.’
‘Warte nur, mein liebes Kind,
Morgen wollen wir mahlen geschwind.’

Und als das Korn gemahlen war,
Rief das Kind noch immerdar:
‘Mutter, ach Mutter! es hungert mich,
Gib mir Brot, sonst sterbe ich.’
‘Warte nur, mein liebes Kind,
Morgen wollen wir backen geschwind.’

Und als das Brot gebacken war,
Lag das Kind auf der Totenbahr.

Text from Volkslieder (Folksongs)

The Earthly Life

‘Mother, oh Mother! I'm hungry;
Give me bread, or I shall die!’
‘Wait a little, my darling child;
Tomorrow we shall sow quickly.’

And when the corn had been sown,
The child wailed again:
‘Mother, oh Mother! I'm hungry;
Give me bread, or I shall die!’
‘Wait a little, my darling child;
Tomorrow we shall harvest quickly.’

And when the corn had been harvested,
The child wailed again:
‘Mother, oh Mother! I'm hungry;
Give me bread, or I shall die!’
‘Wait a little, my darling child;
Tomorrow we shall thresh quickly.’

And when the corn had been threshed,
The child wailed again:
‘Mother, oh Mother! I'm hungry;
Give me bread, or I shall die!’
‘Wait a little, my darling child;
Tomorrow we shall grind quickly.’

And when the corn had been ground,
The child wailed again:
‘Mother, oh Mother! I'm hungry;
Give me bread, or I shall die!’
‘Wait a little, my darling child;
Tomorrow we shall bake quickly.’

And when the bread had been baked,
The child was lying on the funeral bier.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Alma Mahler

Bei dir ist es traut
Ich wandle unter Blumen
Laue Sommernacht: am Himmel

Alma Mahler had musical ambitions from an early age but gave up her studies when she married Gustav Mahler in 1902. She resumed composition in 1910 but abandoned it for good after 1915. The three songs performed today were published in 1911 as part of a set of five. Each depicts an episode of profound romantic intimacy.

The poems, by Rilke, Heine and the then-popular Otto Julius Bierbaum, pay tribute to Alma’s literary discernment. The flowing vocal lines and richly chromatic accompaniments reveal the influence of her teacher Zemlinsky and her friend Berg and create a sensual and tender mood.

Note by Kate Hopkins

Alma Maher

Full length photo portrait of Alma Mahler, wearing a white dress and black hat.

Alma Schindler, daughter of a notable landscape painter, studied the piano from an early age and at 14 began lessons in composition. When she was 20 she met Alexander von Zemlinsky, who had taught Schoenberg and was now a successful young composer. He took her as a composition pupil, and they fell in love: the affair was about to be consummated when Alma met Gustav Mahler and was caught up in his immediate wish to make her his wife.

They married, and Alma reluctantly complied with her new husband's wish for her to give up composing. But in 1910, when Mahler discovered that his wife had begun an affair with the architect Walter Gropius, he was suddenly full of remorse, and insisted that she revise her songs, helped her with the revisions, and had five songs published by Universal Edition, his own publisher.

All of Alma Mahler’s music, in fact, consists of songs with piano: 17 survive, but she implies that there were many more. It is not clear what happened to the others, though we know that some of her manuscripts were lost in the war.

Profile by David Matthews

Texts and Translations

Bei dir ist es traut

Bei dir ist es traut,
zage Uhren schlagen wie aus alten Tagen,
komm mir ein Liebes sagen,
aber nur nicht laut!

Ein Tor geht irgendwo
draußen im Blütentreiben,
der Abend horcht an den Scheiben,
laß uns leise bleiben,
keiner weiß uns so!

Text by Rainer Maria Rilke

I am at ease with you

I am at ease with you,
faint clocks strike as from olden days,
Come, tell your love to me,
But not too loud!

Somewhere a gate moves
Outside in the drifting blossoms,
Evening listens in at the window panes,
Let us stay quiet,
So no one knows of us!

Translation copyright © by Knut W. Barde

Ich wandle unter Blumen

Ich wandle unter Blumen
Und blühe selber mit,
Ich wandle wie im Traume
Und schwanke bei jedem Schritt.

O halt mich fest, Geliebte!
Vor Liebestrunkenheit
Fall' ich dir sonst zu Füßen
Und der Garten ist voller Leut!

Text by Heinrich Heine

I wander among the flowers

I wander among the flowers
and blossom myself along with them;
I wander as if in a dream
and sway with every step.

Oh hold me tightly, my beloved!
Or, drunk with love,
I will collapse at your feet;
and the garden is full of people!

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Laue Sommernacht: am Himmel

Laue Sommernacht: am Himmel
Stand kein Stern, im weiten Walde
Suchten wir uns tief im Dunkel,
Und wir fanden uns.

Fanden uns im weiten Walde
In der Nacht, der sternenlosen,
Hielten staunend uns im Arme
In der dunklen Nacht.

War nicht unser ganzes Leben
So ein Tappen, so ein Suchen?
Da: In seine Finsternisse
Liebe, fiel Dein Licht.

Text by Otto Julius Bierbaum

Mild summer night, in the sky

Mild summer night, in the sky
There are no stars; in the wide woods
We searched deep in the darkness
And we found ourselves.

We found ourselves in the wide woods,
In the night, the starless night;
We held ourselves in wonder in each other's arms
In the dark night.

Was not our entire life
Simply groping, simply searching?
There, into its darkness
Tumbled your light, Love.

Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust

Four Shakespeare Songs

i. Desdemona's song.
ii. Under the greenwood tree.
iii. Blow, blow thou winter wind.
iv. When birds do sing.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold was a musical prodigy who admired Shakespeare from an early age. His score for Max Reinhardt’s 1935 film A Midsummer Night’s Dream secured him work in Hollywood that proved invaluable when the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938.

Korngold completed his Four Shakespeare Songs in Los Angeles, where they received their premiere in 1941. The texts are stage songs taken from Othello (1) and As You Like It (2–4). They cover a range of moods, from the resigned despair of Desdemona’s Song to the good humour of ‘When birds do sing’. The settings are predominantly simple, in the manner of folksongs – though Korngold couldn’t resist some pianistic flamboyance to close the cycle with appropriate jubilance.

Note by Kate Hopkins

Erich Wolfgang Korngold

A black and white photo portrait of a young Erich Korngold

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, like so many European composers, found refuge from the Nazis by settling in Hollywood during the 1930s and 40s. As a child he was one of the most gifted prodigy composers there has ever been. Mahler acclaimed him a genius when he was just nine years old; hailed as ‘the new Mozart’ by Ernest Newman and admired by Richard Strauss, who expressed feelings of awe at his youthful genius. Korngold was a pupil of Alexander Zemlinsky, and by his 17th birthday he had produced a string of amazingly mature chamber and symphonic works as well as two operas.

His music was widely performed by the greatest artists of the time including Bruno Walter, Arthur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Fritz Kreisler and Sir Henry Wood. In the 1920s his success peaked with his two operas Die tote Stadt and Das Wunder der Heliane, as well as his Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and some exquisite orchestral lieder. In the 1930s, political events interrupted Korngold’s brilliant career and, exiled in Hollywood, he supported himself by writing some of the finest film music ever written. Korngold died in 1957, believing himself forgotten. In recent years, however, he has undergone a considerable reappraisal.

Profile by Brendan G Carroll


1. Desdemona's song

The poor soul sat sighing by a sycamore tree,
Sing all a green willow:
Her hand on her bosom, her head on her knee,
Sing willow, willow, willow:
The fresh streams ran by her, and murmur'd her moans;
Sing willow, willow, willow;
Her salt tears fell from her, and soften'd the stones;

Sing willow, willow, willow;
Sing all a green willow my garland must be
Sing all a green willow;
Let nobody blame him; his scorn I approve,

Sing willow, willow, willow,
I call'd my love false love; but what said he then?
Sing willow, willow, willow:
If I court moe women, you'll couch with moe men!
Sing willow, willow, willow,

2. Under the greenwood tree

Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn the merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

Who doth ambition shun,
And loves to live i' the sun,
Seeking the food he eats,
And pleas'd with what he gets,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.

If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease,
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame:
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me.
Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me.

3. Blow, blow thou winter wind

Blow, blow thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so high
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember'd not.
Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh ho! the holly!
This life is most jolly.

4. When birds do sing

It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino
That o'er the green corn-field did pass.
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding a ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

Between the acres of the rye,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
These pretty country folks would lie,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding a ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that a life was but a flower
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding a ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

And therefore take the present time
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love is crownéd with the prime
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding a ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

Texts by William Shakespeare

Artist Biographies

Kitty Whately
mezzo soprano

A portrait of Kitty Whately, lit from the side

Kitty Whately trained at Chetham’s School of Music, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the Royal College of Music International Opera School. She won both the Kathleen Ferrier Award and the 59th Royal Overseas League Award in the same year, and was part of the prestigious Verbier Festival Academy where she appeared as Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro and in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. Whately was a BBC New Generation Artist from 2013–15, during which time she recorded her debut solo album This Other Eden, made recordings with the BBC orchestras, commissioned a new song cycle from Jonathan Dove, and made several appearances at the Proms.

Recent opera highlights include Sesto in Giulio Cesare for English Touring Opera, Isabelle in Bernard Herrmann’s Wuthering Heights for L’Opera National de Lorraine, Mother/Other Mother in the world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Coraline for Royal Opera House at the Barbican. Whately is also in high demand as a recitalist and concert artist. For her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, she sang Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She made her BBC Proms debut in Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’ Suite from Act II of Caroline Mathilde, and also appeared in a Chamber Music Prom singing the music of Stephen Sondheim.

Timothy Ridout

A photo portrait of Timothy Ridout, standing in front of a bookcase, holding a viola

Selected as a BBC New Generation Artist in 2019, Ridout is one of the most sought after violists of his generation. With recent awards including the inaugural Sir Jeffrey Tate Prize in Hamburg and a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, Ridout has confirmed his position at the forefront of young European soloists. He has been a BBC New Generation Artist since 2019 and will join the Bowers Program of the Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Center in 2021.

Concerto engagements this season and last include Berlioz Harold in Italy with the Deutsches Sinfonie-Orchester Berlin, Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine and Orchestre National de Lille and Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante at the Sion Festival (alongside Janine Jansen) and with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Camerata Salzburg. He has worked with conductors including Christoph Eschenbach, David Zinman, Gabor Takács-Nagy, Sylvain Cambreling and Sir Andras Schiff.

Equally in demand as a recitalist and chamber musician, he has performed throughout the UK, Europe and Japan. Festival invitations include Lucerne, Lockenhaus, Heimbach, Bergen, Evian, Boswil Sommer, Heidelberger-Frühling, Montpellier, Aspen, the Enescu Festival and the Marlboro Academy; whilst his chamber music collaborators include Joshua Bell, Isabelle Faust, Janine Jansen, Christian Tetzlaff, Nicolas Altstaedt, Steven Isserlis, Kian Soltani, Benjamin Grosvenor, Lars Vogt and Christian Gerhaher.

Joseph Middleton

A photo portrait of pianist Joseph Middleton.

Pianist Joseph Middleton specialises in the art of song accompaniment and chamber music and has been highly acclaimed in this field. Described in Opera Magazine as ‘the rightful heir to legendary accompanist Gerald Moore’, by BBC Music Magazine as ‘one of the brightest stars in the world of song and Lieder’, he has also been labeled ‘the cream of the new generation’ by The Times. He is Director of Leeds Lieder, Musician in Residence at Pembroke College, Cambridge and a Fellow of his alma mater, the Royal Academy of Music, where he is a Professor. He was the first accompanist to win the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Young Artist Award.

Middleton is a frequent guest at major music centres. He made his BBC Proms debut in 2016 alongside Iestyn Davies and Carolyn Sampson & returned in 2018 alongside Dame Sarah Connolly where they premiered recently discovered songs by Benjamin Britten. He enjoys recitals with internationally established singers including Sir Thomas Allen, Louise Alder, Mary Bevan, Ian Bostridge, Allan Clayton and Lucy Crowe. Middleton has a special relationship with BBC Radio 3, frequently curating his own series, and has a critically acclaimed, fast-growing and award-winning discography.

LSO St Luke's exterior

© Neil Wilkinson

LSO St Luke's exterior

© Neil Wilkinson

LSO St Luke's exterior

© Neil Wilkinson

© Neil Wilkinson

© Neil Wilkinson

© Neil Wilkinson

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Keep Exploring

Keep scrolling for details of our next BBC Radio 3 concert...

Friday 30 October 1pm & 6pm
Brahms and Beyond

1pm Lunchtime Concert
Bartók Violin Sonata No 2
Violin Sonata

Christian Tetzlaff
Kiveli Dörken

6pm Rush Hour Concert
Suk Piano Quintet

Christian Tetzlaff
Florian Donderer violin
Timothy Ridout viola
Tanja Tetzlaff cello
Kiveli Dörken piano