Program notes written for Vanderbilt Commodore Orchestra’s concert on April 2, 2016.
While it’s accepted that many old tales have become inconsistent over the years, Semiramis is in her own class when it comes to the sheer number and diversity of variations. The version Rossini chose to write about in his last Italian opera comes from Voltaire’s tragedy Semiramis.
There are threads of consistency among the plethora of different versions. The most common is that she is beautiful—so much so that men cannot escape her aura. She also has quite a controversial relationship with her son. In certain stories, she sought his love and affection while not realizing that it was her son. Lastly, she is a woman in power who rules over large swaths of land.
Several versions associate her with the symbol of the dove and others point to her deification of her late husband whom she worships. In the Bible, she is the wife of King Nimrod, the founder of Babylon. Pagans modeled all of their goddesses after her. In historical accounts, she is Queen Shammuramat, the wife of Shamshi-Adad V of Assyria.
Many writers from Dante to Faulkner have written about her, too. Dante mentions her among the souls of the lustful in the Second Circle of Hell while Faulkner casts her as Eula Varner in The Hamlet (of the Snopes Trilogy) as the center of every boy’s desire.
In Rossini’s version, Semiramis is the widowed Queen who must choose the next king. What follows is an exhilarating drama of hedonistic love, mistaken identities, faith and betrayal, unintentional (and unfulfilled) incest, and ghost spirits. This overture contains many of the themes from the opera—something we take for granted now, but was very unusual for its time—and perfectly captures the overall mood of the story. Listen for the deception, the voluptuousness of Semiramis, the faintly ghost apparitions, and the exciting drama.
Many look to Des Knaben Wunderhorn, an anthology of folk songs, as one of the major forces in the 19th century German nationalist movement. Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, its editors, dedicated the anthology to Goethe who said of these volumes that every German household ought to have a copy. The lyrical poetry and melodic phrases of old German folk songs contained in Des Knaben Wunderhorn contributed a lot to the Romanticism movement—it is no surprise that Brentano, Arnim, and Goethe all were leaders of literary Romanticism in Germany.
Many composers have set music to various texts from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, but perhaps the most famous to date is the collection of songs from Gustav Mahler. For Mahler, these songs became the basis of several of his symphonies including the second, third, and the fourth. One of the songs, “Urlicht” even became the entire fourth movement of his second symphony.
This song was not originally published with the twelve songs that were called collectively as Humoresken (Humoresques). Instead, when Mahler decided to withdraw “Urlicht” from the collection, he replaced it with “Revelge” which he composed in July of 1899.
Des Morgens zwischen drei’n und vieren, │ In the morning between three and four, da müssen wir Soldaten marschieren │ we soldiers must march das Gäßlein auf und ab, │ up and down the alley, trallali, trallaley, trallalera, │ trallali, trallaley, trallalera, mein Schätzel sieht herab! │ my sweetheart looks down! │ Ach Bruder, jetzt bin ich geschossen, │ Oh, brother, now I’ve been shot, die Kugel hat mich schwere, schwer getroffen, │ the bullet has struck me hard, trag’ mich in mein Quartier, │ carry me to my billet, trallali, trallaley, trallalera, │ trallali, trallaley, trallalera, es ist nicht weit von hier! │ it isn’t far from here! │ Ach Bruder, ich kann dich nicht tragen, │ Oh, brother, I can’t carry you, die Feinde haben uns geschlagen! │ the enemy has beaten us, Helf’ dir der liebe Gott! │ may the dear God help you! Trallali, trallaley, │ Trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, trallalera! │ trallali, trallaley, trallalera, Ich muß, ich muß marschieren bis in’ Tod! │ I must, I must march on until death! │ Ach Brüder, ach Brüder, │ Oh, brothers, oh, brothers, ihr geht ja mir vorüber, │ you go on past me als wär’s mit mir vorbei! │ as if I were done with! Trallali, trallaley, │ Trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, trallalera! │ trallali, trallaley, trallalera, Ihr tretet mir zu nah! │ you’re treading too near to me! │ Ich muß wohl meine Trommel rühren, │ I must nevertheless beat my drum, ich muß meine Trommel wohl rühren, │ I must nevertheless beat my drum, trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, │ trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, sonst werd’ ich mich verlieren, │ otherwise I will lose myself, trallali, trallaley, trallala. │ trallali, trallaley, trallala. Die Brüder, dick gesät, │ My brothers, thickly covering the ground, sie liegen wie gemäht. │ lie as if mown down. │ Er schlägt die Trommel auf und nieder, │ Up and down he beats the drum, er wecket seine stillen Brüder, │ he wakes his silent brothers, trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, │ trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, sie schlagen und sie schlagen │ they battle and they strike their enemy, ihren Feind, Feind, Feind, │ enemy, enemy, trallali, trallaley, trallalerallala, │ trallali, trallaley, trallalerallala, ein Schrecken schlägt den Feind! │ a terror smites the enemy! │ Er schlägt die Trommel auf und nieder, │ Up and down he beats the drum, da sind sie vor dem Nachtquartier schon wieder, │ there they are again before their billets, trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley. │ trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley. In’s Gäßlein hell hinaus, hell hinaus! │ Clearly out into the alley! Sie zieh’n vor Schätzleins Haus. │ They draw before sweetheart’s house, Trallali, trallaley, │ trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, trallalera, │ trallali, trallaley, trallalera, sie ziehen vor Schätzeleins Haus, trallali. │ they draw before sweetheart’s house, trallali. │ Des Morgens stehen da die Gebeine │ In the morning there stand the skeletons in Reih’ und Glied, sie steh’n wie Leichensteine │ in rank and ﬁle, they stand like tombstones, in Reih’, in Reih’ und Glied. │ in rank, in rank and ﬁle. Die Trommel steht voran, │ The drum stands in front, daß sie ihn sehen kann. │ so that it can see him. Trallali, trallaley, │ Trallali, trallaley, trallali, trallaley, trallalera, │ trallali, trallaley, trallalera, daß sie ihn sehen kann! │ so that it can see him!
Dort oben am Berg │ Up there on the mountain, in dem hohen Haus, │ in the high house, in dem Haus! │ in the house! Da gucket ein fein’s, lieb’s Mädel heraus! │ There peers out a ﬁ ne, dear maiden! Es ist nicht dort daheime! │ There is not her home! Es ist des Wirt’s sein Töchterlein! │ She is the innkeeper’s daughter! Es wohnet auf grüner Haide! │ She lives on the green heath! │ Mein Herzle is’ wundt! │ My heart has a wound! Komm’, Schätzle, mach’s g’sund! │ Come, sweetheart, make it well! Dein’ schwarzbraune Äuglein, │ Your dark brown little eyes, die hab’n mich verwund’t! │ they have wounded me! Dein rosiger Mund │ Your rosy mouth macht Herzen gesund. │ makes hearts well. Macht Jugend verständig, │ It makes young people rational, macht Tote lebendig, │ brings the dead back to life, macht Kranke gesund, │ makes the ill healthy, ja gesund. │ yes, healthy. │ Wer hat denn das schön schöne Liedel erdacht? │ Who then thought up this pretty, pretty little song? Es haben’s drei Gäns’ über’s Wasser gebracht! │ Three geese have brought it over the water! Zwei graue und eine weiße! │ Two grey and one white! Und wer das Liedel nicht singen kann, │ And whoever cannot sing this little song, dem wollen sie es pfeifen! │ to him they will whistle it! Ja! │ Yes!
Antonius zur Predigt │ At sermon time Anthony die Kirche ﬁnd’t ledig! │ finds the church empty! Er geht zu den Flüssen │ He goes to the rivers und predigt den Fischen! │ and preaches to the ﬁsh! Sie schlag’n mit den Schwänzen! │ They flap with their tails! Im Sonnenschein glänzen, sie glänzen! │ They gleam in the sunshine, they gleam! │ Die Karpfen mit Rogen │ The carp with roe sind all’ hierher zogen; │ have all congregated; hab’n d’Mäuler aufrissen, │ their jaws gaping, sich Zuhör’n’s beﬂissen! │ intent on listening! Kein Predigt niemalen │ Never did a sermon den Fischen so g’fallen! │ so please the ﬁsh! │ Spitzgoschete Hechte, │ Sharp-snouted pike, die immerzu fechten │ that fence continually, sind eilends herschwommen, │ swam up in a hurry zu hören den Frommen! │ to hear the holy man! Auch jene Phantasten, │ Even those odd creatures die immerzu fasten: │ that continually fast: die Stockﬁsch ich meine, │ I mean the codﬁsh, zur Predigt erscheinen! │ appear for the sermon! Kein Predigt niemalen │ Never did a sermon den Stockﬁsch so g’fallen! │ so please the codﬁsh! │ Gut’ Aale und Hausen, │ Good eels and sturgeon die Vornehme schmausen, │ that people of quality relish, die selbst sich bequemen, │ even they condescend die Predigt vernehmen! │ to attend the sermon! Auch Krebse, Schildkroten, │ Crayﬁsh, too, and turtles, sonst langsame Boten, │ usually slowboats, steigen eilig vom Grund, │ climb hurriedly from the depths zu hören diesen Mund! │ to hear this voice! Kein Predigt niemalen │ Never did a sermon den Krebsen so g’fallen! │ so please the crayﬁsh! │ Fisch’ große, Fisch’ kleine! │ Fish big and ﬁsh small! Vornehm’ und Gemeine! │ Of quality and common! Erheben die Köpfe │ They raise their heads wie verständ’ge Geschöpfe! │ like rational creatures! Auf Gottes Begehren │ At God’s command Die Predigt anhören! │ they listen to the sermon. │ Die Predigt geendet, │ The sermon finished, ein Jeder sich wendet! │ each one turns away! Die Hechte bleiben Diebe, │ The pike remain thieves, die Aale viel lieben; │ the eels great lovers; die Predigt hat g’fallen, │ the sermon was pleasing, sie bleiben wie Allen! │ they all stay the same! │ Die Krebs’ geh’n zurücke; │ The crabs go backwards; die Stockﬁsch’ bleib’n dicke; │ the codﬁsh stay fat; die Karpfen viel fressen, │ the carp gorge a lot, die Predigt vergessen! │ the sermon’s forgotten! Die Predigt hat g’fallen, │ The sermon was pleasing, sie bleiben wie Allen! │ they all stay the same!
Sie: │ She: „Büble, wir! │ ‘Laddie, we! Büble, wir wollen auße gehe! │ Laddie, we want to go out! Wollen wir? │ Shall we? Unsere Lämmer besehe? │ Look at our lambs? Gelt! Komm! Komm! lieb’s Büberle, │ Come, come, dear laddie! komm’, ich bitt’!" │ Come, I beg you!’ │ Er: │ He: „Närrisches Dinterle, │ ‘Silly lassie, ich mag dich halt nit!" │ I don’t like you at all!’ │ Sie: │ She: „Willst vielleicht – │ ‘You want perhaps – Willst vielleicht a bissel nasche? │ You want perhaps a little bit to nibble? Hol’ dir was aus meiner Tasch’! │ Fetch yourself something out of my bag! Hol’, lieb’s Büberle, │ Fetch it, dear laddie! hol’, ich bitt’!" │ Fetch it, I beg you!’ │ Er: │ He: „Närrisches Dinterle, │ ‘Silly lassie, ich nasch’ dir halt nit!" │ I’ll nibble nothing of yours at all!’ │ Sie: │ She: „Gelt, ich soll – │ ‘You mean, I should – Gelt? ich soll mein Herz dir schenke? │ You mean, I should give you my heart!? Immer willst an mich gedenken. │ Always will you want to think on me. Immer! │ Always! Nimm’s, lieb’s Büberle! │ Take it! Dear laddie! Nimm’s, ich bitt’!" │ Take it, I beg you!’ │ Er: │ He: „Närrisches Dinterle, │ ‘Silly lassie, ich mag es halt nit! │ I don’t care for it at all! nit!" │ Nothing!’
Translations © 2002, Dr. Renate Stark-Voit and Thomas Hampson
This symphony is without doubt one of Mozart’s greatest and most accomplished works. The reverence for this piece has been steadfast since its first performance to the present date by musicians, composers, critics, and audiences alike. Many have called its brilliance unsurpassed even today.
What makes it even more astonishing is that he composed Symphony No. 41 and two other symphonies (Symphonies No. 39 and 40) in just six weeks in the summer of 1788. At this time in Mozart’s life, he and his family were under constant financial struggle, and it is thought that these three symphonies were composed in order to help him lift back into financial security. However, we have yet discover undeniable evidence that Mozart was able to hear these works performed in his lifetime.
Although this symphony is subtitled “Jupiter,” it was not Mozart who coined this nickname. Peter Salomon, a concert impresario in London (the same person who engineered Haydn’s visit to the U.K.—the “London” Symphonies), nicknamed Symphony No. 41 as “Jupiter” in order to advertise the concerts in 1819, 28 years after Mozart’s death. Even though the music itself is not depicting any specific imagery, its association with Jupiter is apt. Jupiter was not only the highest god in the Roman mythology, but its C Major harmonic center was associated with ceremonial and royal occasions of the 18th century and represented Jupiter’s status in the mythological realm. Nowadays, C Major is often dismissed as “all the white notes,” but back then, it was considered a very colorful key full of pomp and majesty as most of the horns and trumpets of its time were tuned—and therefore most effective—in C Major.
Jeremy Wilson is Associate Professor of Trombone at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music. Prior to his appointment at Blair in 2012, he spent five years as a member of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and its sister organization, the orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. Wilson performed as guest principal trombonist with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra during their 2013-14 classical series, and has also performed with the Saito Kinen Festival Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He holds degrees from the University of Tennessee and the University of North Texas, and is in his first season as Music Director of the Commodore Orchestra.
Keehun Nam recently graduated from the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt as a Bachelor of Music cum laude. When not working at the Blair School of Music as a Teaching Assistant in Music Theory or Accompanist for the advanced conducting course, he is preparing for further studies in Orchestral Conducting at a graduate school. He is thankful for all the opportunities afforded at the Blair School of Music and Vanderbilt University at large. He is especially thankful for Robin Fountain and Dean Mark Wait for their support of his studies in conducting as well as their commitment to the success of the Commodore Orchestra.