Creative Works

Night Songs

Wanderer’s Nachtlied and Ein Gleiches
For six part male chorus and piano (2006) 8:20

Performers on sample tracks, under the direction of Joe Dan Harper, are: Joe Dan Harper, Owen Hughes, Christopher Lynch, Eric Perry, Ben Pfeil, Joseph Pow, and William Prapestis, voice, and Jeffrey Borowiec, piano.

Night Songs, for six part male chorus and piano, are settings in the original German of two poems by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  The translation supplied here is by the composer and is intended to convey the clearest intent of the poetry rather than attempting to maintain the structural actualities of the Goethe material.

Wanderer’s Nachtlied
is announced with a loud statement in the lower range of the piano.  This forms an abrupt contrast with the gentle entry of the voices and the subsequent quieter material that ushers in the opening lines of the Goethe poetry.  The angular, brusque motive of the opening piano statement is finally matched with a choral out-cry as the music reaches a climax with the poetic line, “Ah, I am so tired of these doings and dealings!”  The song ends quietly after repeated, imploring statements of “Sweet peace, come, oh come into my breast.”

The second song, Ein Gleiches, begins quietly with small references to the outburst with which the preceding song began.  The chorus treats the text quietly until a gradual crescendo emphasizes the text, “Simply wait.” The primarily chordal texture of the setting is interrupted by a brief section of quasi-imitative vocal entries before the chorale-like setting is resumed.  The last two lines of the poetry are repeated in several settings with increasing intensity.  An eventual subsiding of energy at the conclusion leads to an E natural pedal tone responding to the B natural pedal tone with which the song began.

Wandrers Nachtlied
Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Der du von dem Himmel bist,    
Alles Leid und Schmerzen stillest,
Den, der doppelt elend ist,
Doppelt mit Erquickung füllest,
Ach, ich bin des Treibens müde!
Was soll all der Schmerz und Lust?    
Süßer Friede,    
Komm, ach komm in meine Brust!

Wanderer’s Night Song
translation by Donald Bohlen

Thou that art from heaven,
Doth still all grief and pain,
They that are doubly wretched,
Are doubly filled with refreshment.
Ah, I’m so tired of these doings and dealings!
What of all this ache and desire?
Sweet peace,
Come, oh come into my breast!

Ein Gleiches

Text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Über allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Spürest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vögelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.

A Similar Night Song
translation by Donald Bohlen

Over every mountain top
Is stillness,
In every tree top
You feel
Hardly a breeze;
The little birds remain silent in the forest.
Simply wait, soon
You, also, will rest.

Copyright © 2008 Donald Bohlen.

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