Friday, November 03, 2006

For All Souls

With yesterday being All Saints' Day, I've thought a lot of a Schubert lied I studied years ago, which still moves me deeply: Litanei [auf das Fest Aller Seelen]. My brother died in a tragic accident the semester I was preparing this song, which I'm sure is a major part of why it spoke so deeply to me at the time.

While not strictly speaking a sacred song, the author Jacobi tapped deeply into the spiritual realm with this text. Schubert wrote one of his most sublimely simple melodies and a hauntingly beautiful accompaniment for it. I consider this one of Schubert's most undeservedly neglected lieder. It is an exhausting song to sing, however, with its long phrases which require absolute control on the part of the singer and restraint by the accompanist. In no sense of the word is it a "fun" song to learn or to perform. However, singing this remarkable lied was, despite its technical demands, always a prayerful experience. I commend the Litanei to you.


Litanei auf das Fest aller Seelen
(Litany for the Feast of All Souls)
Author: Johann Georg Jacobi (1740-1814)
Composer: Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828), D. 343 (1816), published 1831

For an English translation and additional information, see
http://www.recmusic.org/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=8802

Among artists who have recorded this lied, I recommend Elisabeth Schwartzkopf (vintage, native language) and Heidi Grant-Murphy (current, American).

(Verses set by Schubert are bold.)

Ruh'n in Frieden alle Seelen,
Die vollbracht ein banges Quälen,
Die vollendet süßen Traum,
Lebensatt, geboren kaum,
Aus der Welt hinüberschieden:
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Die sich hier Gespielen suchten,
öfter weinten, nimmer fluchten,
wenn vor ihrer treuen Hand
keiner jeden Druck verstand:
Alle die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Liebevoller Mädchen Seelen,
Deren Tränen nicht zu zählen,
Die ein falscher Freund verließ,
Und die blinde Welt verstieß
Alle die von hinnen schieden,

Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Und der Jüngling, dem, verborgen,
Seine Braut am frühen Morgen,
Weil ihn Lieb' ins Grab gelegt,
Aus sein Grab die Kerze trägt:
Alle die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Alle Geister, die, voll Klarheit,
Wurden Märtyrer der Wahrheit,
Kämpften für das Heiligtum,
Suchten nicht der Marter Ruhm:
Alle die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Und die nie der Sonne lachten,
Unterm Mond auf Domen wachten,
Gott, in reinen Himmelslicht,
Einst zu sehn von Angesicht:
Alle die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Und die gern im Rosengarten
Bei dem Freudenbecher harrten,
Aber dann, zur bösen Zeit,
Schmeckten seine Bitterkeit:
Alle die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Auch die keinen Frieden kannten,
Aber Mut und Stärke sandten
Über leichenvolles Feld
In die halbentschlaf'ne Welt:
Alle die von hinnen schieden,
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

Ruh'n in Frieden alle Seelen,
Die vollbracht ein banges Quälen,
Die vollendet süßen Traum,
Lebensatt, geboren kaum,
Aus der Welt hinüberschieden:
Alle Seelen ruhn in Frieden!

3 comments:

St. Inuksuk said...

Peace to your soul for sharing this piece. You know German is the third holiest language after Hebrew and Greek!!

SingingOwl said...

I took a look at the English words. Lovely. I wanna hear the music!

Psalmist said...

Sorry to say, SO, that I couldn't find a complete recording anywhere online. I did try! Heidi Grant-Murphy's "Innocence and Twilight" recording includes a brief clip, as do a couple of the vintage re-mastered recordings available commercially. But the clips are so short, they really don't do justice to the song.

Thank you both for commenting. I don't know about any particular language being intrinsically more holy than another, but I love studying several and wish I were more fluent. At least I can sing in a bunch of languages, thanks to diction classes!