Kathleen Ferrier - Songs for Dead Children (1949)

Can't see a better re-up that this one in these terrible times. No much to add to the below comment. Listened to this 5 lieder-series the whole day. Catch it here.

I don't think I need to explain why I update this post today. One visitor left a comment that says it all. The recent killing is a sum of sufferings, from the killer (his childhood was surely a hell to do such a thing at 20) to (of course) the killed. The dramatic illustration that something's going wrong in our societies. We got a similar event in France last May, and Norway got their own massacre the previous year, so throwing the stone to US like many French and Europeans will do is misleading (although there's surely a problem with access to any sort of guns). Why some of us are drowning in such a misanthropic and destructive path, is a crucial point. I know what it's like for having taken it (without the act) in my life and for still, from time to time, feeling disgust and hate for my contempories. But I must say that never children are concerned by this inner feeling and that such a hate really questions our ability of understanding (sorry for this poor way to formulate things but as you know my English is quite uncertain). So, providing a free link to what I consider the strongest songs about children death in music, is the only contribution I can make to this awful event.

If someone'd asked which songs I considered the doomest of the 20th century, I would not say "Gloomy Sunday", or "Avec le Temps", or "Black Sabbath" or even anyone by a Doom band, but the Kindertotenlieder (songs for dead children) composed by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) between 1902 and 1904 from 5 poems he chosed in the 428 ones that the poet Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866) had written after the death of 2 of his children. Strangely, few years later, Mahler would lost his daughter. In the poems that Mahler had selected, children seem to be out of home and not coming back. Maybe it's a metaphor for death (a far away travel from where they'll never be back) but since it is the main fear of every parent today (children kidnapped, raped and killed while away), this makes these songs still more moving. This is the reason I chose for the sleeve a picture by Wynn Bullock (1902-75), who had begun as a tenor singer and whose picture of this child (her daughter) in the wood is quite disturbing. For the back of the sleeve I took an other disturbing and doomer than doom picture by Peter Hujar (1934-87) that he shot in the catacombs of Palerma in 1963. Kathleen Ferrier had also a doomed life since her career began late (at 30) and finished prematurely in 1953 (she had 41) from leukemia. She is considered as one of the greatest vocalist of the century and to have interpreted the best version of these lieders. I will not have the irony to write enjoy it here, but at least, cry with it.

In Diesem Wetter, In Diesem Braus. In diesem Wetter, in diesem Braus, Nie hätt' ich gesendet die Kinder hinaus; Man hat sie getragen hinaus,Ich durfte nichts dazu sagen! In diesem Wetter, in diesem Saus,Nie hätt' ich gelassen die Kinder hinaus,Ich fürchtete sie erkranken; Das sind nun eitle Gedanken.In diesem Wetter, in diesem Graus, Nie hätt' ich gelassen die Kinder hinaus; Ich sorgte, sie stürben morgen, Das ist nun nicht zu besorgen. In diesem Wetter, in diesem Graus! Nie hätt' ich Gesendet die Kinder hinaus!Man hat sie hinaus getragen,ich durfte nichts dazu sagen! In diesem Wetter, in diesem Saus, in diesem Braus,Sie ruh'n als wie in der Mutter Haus,Von keinem Sturm erschrecket,Von Gottes Hand bedecket.

In this weather, in the windy storm. In this weather, in this windy storm, I would never have sent the children out.They have been carried off,I wasn't able to warn them! In this weather, in this gale, I would never have let the children out. I feared they sickened: those thoughts are now in vain. In this weather, in this storm, I would never have let the children out, I was anxious they might die the next day: now anxiety is pointless. In this weather, in this windy storm, I would never have sent the children out. They have been carried off, I wasn't able to warn them! In this weather, in this gale, in this windy storm, they rest as if in their mother's house: frightened by no storm, sheltered by the Hand of God.


Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier and Bruno Walter

Gustav Mahler

Friedrich Rückert

1 comment:

Ronnie Carnwath said...

It's horribly ironic that I should find this post (quite by chance) after hearing about the tragedy in Conneticut, USA.

The music is incredibly moving and the vocals terrifying - like Górecki's Symphony No.3.

Thanks for posting :'(