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Robert Schumann, Melodrama "Die Flüchtlinge", Op. 122,Nr. 2 Fischer-Dieskau

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Published on May 24, 2009

When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau ended his singing career at the end of 1992, it did not mean that he had "retired". He continued to use his voice by doing recitations in such works that require them. He also continued to make appearances as a conductor, teach masterclasses, write and paint. One of the things he most enjoyed doing was performing what are known as "Melodramas", or "declamations" as Schumann called them, a spoken or declaimed text with accompaniment by piano, chamber ensemble or orchestra.

Schumann's three melodramas date from the years between 1849 and 1852 during the final phase of his creative life. "Die Flüchtlinge", Op. 122, No. 2, is a German adaptation of a ballad by Percy Bysshe Shelley called "The Fugitives".

A note about the text. The English is the original poem by Shelley. I must mention that the German adaptation does not always match line for line. Some verses are in a different order so in my video those of you who know both German and English will notice there are times when the two do not agree if taken line by line. The only way to have remedied this would have been to retranslate the German adaptation instead of using Shelley's original. This I did not wish to do. I had the same difficulty in my earlier videos of Schubert's settings of Sir Walter Scott.

In any case, I hope you will enjoy this small taste of an unusual art form.




The Fugitives
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I.
The waters are flashing,
The white hail is dashing,
The lightnings are glancing,
The hoar-spray is dancing --
Away!

The whirlwind is rolling,
The thunder is tolling,
The forest is swinging,
The minster bells ringing --
Come away!

The Earth is like Ocean,
Wreck-strewn and in motion:
Bird, beast, man and worm
Have crept out of the storm --
Come away!

II.
Our boat has one sail,
And the helmsman is pale; --
A bold pilot I trow,
Who should follow us now, --
Shouted he --

And she cried: Ply the oar!
Put off gaily from shore! --
As she spoke, bolts of death
Mixed with hail, specked their path
O'er the sea.

And from isle, tower and rock,
The blue beacon-cloud broke,
And though dumb in the blast,
The red cannon flashed fast
From the lee.

III.
And Fear'st thou? and Fear'st thou?
And Seest thou? and Hear'st thou?
And Drive we not free
O'er the terrible sea,
I and thou?

One boat-cloak did cover
The loved and the lover --
Their blood beats one measure,
They murmur proud pleasure
Soft and low; --

While around the lashed Ocean,
Like mountains in motion,
Is withdrawn and uplifted,
Sunk, shattered and shifted
To and fro.

IV.
In the court of the fortress
Beside the pale portress,
Like a bloodhound well beaten
The bridegroom stands, eaten
By shame;

On the topmost watch-turret,
As a death-boding spirit,
Stands the gray tyrant father,
To his voice the mad weather
Seems tame;

And with curses as wild
As e'er cling to child,
He devotes to the blast,
The best, loveliest and last
Of his name!



Die Flüchtlinge

I

Der Hagel klirrt nieder,
Es leuchten die Wogen,
Die Blitze rings sprühen,
Der Schaum kommt geflogen -
Fort! Fort!

Der Donner laut kracht,
Die Wälder all' stöhnen,
Der Sturmwind rings braust
Die Glocken ertönen -
Fort! Fort!

Die Erd' gleich dem Meere
Wankt trümmerbedeckt,
Thier und Mensch sind entfloh'n
Vor dem Sturm erschreckt -
Fort! Fort!


II

"Der Steur'mann erbleicht,
Nur ein Segel hat's Boot,
Wer zu folgen jetzt wagte,
Wär' ein kühner Pilot!"
(Rief er.)

(Und sie rief:) "Greif zum Ruder,
Stoß' kühn vom Gestad!"
Und Hagel und Kugeln
Bestreu'n ihren Pfad
Über's Meer.

Die Leuchtfeuer glüh'n
Von Klippen und Thurm:
Das Geschütz stumm blitzt,
Erstickt von dem Sturm
Von seewärts her.



III

"Und siehst du, und hörst du?
Und banget dein Sinn?
Und jagen wir frei nicht
Über's Meer dahin,
Ich und du?"

Ein Schiffsmantel deckt
Die Liebenden beide;
Ihr Herz schlägt vereint
In stolzer Freude,
Sie flüstern sich zu.


IV

In dem Schloßhof, neben
Der Pförtnerin, gleich
Geschlagenem Bluthund,
Steht der Bräutigam, bleich
Vor Scham.

Ein todkündend Gespenst,
Steht auf oberstem Thurm
Ein Greis, und vor seiner
Stimme der Sturm
Scheint zahm.

Auf die Letzte und Schönste
Seines Stammes zur Stunde
Einen Fluch er ruft
Wie aus Vaters Munde
Nie kam!

adapted by Julius Seybt



Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (speaker)
Burkhard Kehring (piano)

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