Monday, May 27, 2013

A Poem about Brahms

From Pentimento:
I was thrilled to read this poem today at The Writer's Almanac. Whether or not Brahms and Clara Schumann had a sexual relationship has been speculated about for many years -- it is undeniable that they loved each other profoundly -- but, although they burned most of their correspondence, the evidence is against it. Brahms biographer Jan Swafford has suggested that, after the death of Robert Schumann in an insane asylum in 1856, the younger composer had the opportunity to propose marriage to Clara, but instead left her disappointed. The two remained friends, and Clara, one of the greatest pianists of her age, premiered many of Brahms's works.

The Intermezzi mentioned by Lisel Mueller are opp. 117, 118, 119. Brahms called the three op. 117 pieces, which he wrote while Clara was in her final illness, "cradle-songs of my sorrows." Here is the great German pianist Wilhelm Kempff playing op. 117, no. 1, with beautiful directness and simplicity. The piece was inspired by the text of a Scottish poem, "Lady Anne Bothwell's Lament," and Brahms inscribed in the score an excerpt from the poem in Herder's German translation. The English words are:

"Sleep soft, my child, now softly sleep;
My heart is woeful to see thee weep."
(Read entire post.)

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