June 15, 2007

Liebestraum no. 3 – Franz Liszt


Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum no. 3 found its way into my repertoire late last month, and it has been a more turbulent journey than ever. Liszt attached a poem by Ferdinand Freiligrath to it:

O lieb, so lang du lieben kannst!
O lieb, so lang du lieben magst!
Die Stunde kommt, die Stunde kommt,
Wo du an Gräbern stehst und klagst!

Und sorge, daß dein Herze glüht
Und Liebe hegt und Liebe trägt,
So lang ihm noch ein ander
Herz In Liebe warm entgegenschlägt!

Und wer dir seine Brust erschließt,
O tu ihm, was du kannst, zulieb!
Und mach ihm jede Stunde froh,
Und mach ihm keine Stunde trüb!

Und hüte deine Zunge wohl,
Bald ist ein böses Wort gesagt!
O Gott, es war nicht bös gemeint –
Der Andre aber geht und klagt.

Dann kniest du nieder an der Gruft,
Und birgst die Augen, trüb und naß
-sie sehn den Andern nimmermehr –
In’s lange, feuchte Kirchhofsgras.

Und sprichst: O schau auf mich herab
Der hier an deinem Grabe weint!
Vergib, daß ich gekränkt dich hab!
O Gott, es war nicht bös gemeint!

Er aber sieht und hört dich nicht,
Kommt nicht, daß du ihn froh umfängst;
Der Mund, der oft dich küßte, spricht
Nie wieder: ich vergab dir längst!

Er that’s, vergab dir lange schon,
Doch manche heiße Träne fiel
Um dich und um dein herbes Wort –
Doch still – er ruht, er ist am Ziel!

and the english translation:

O love, love as long as you can!
O love, love as long as you will!
The time will come, the time will come,
When you will stand grieving at the grave.

And let it be that your heart glows
And nurtures and carries love,
As long as another heart is still
Warmly bestruck by love for you!

And to one who spills his breast to you,
O to him, do what you can, in Love!
And make him happy for each moment,
And never let him be sad for one!

And guard your tongue tightly,
In case any slight escapes your mouth!
O God, it was not meant that way, –
But the other recoils, hurt and sighing.

Then you will kneel down at the grave
And your eyes will be cloudy and wet,
– You will never see the other again, –
In the church graveyard’s long, damp grass.

You say: O look at me below,
I who cry here at your grave!
Forgive me that I insulted you!
O God, it was not meant that way!

Yet he sees and hears you not,
You cannot comfort him again;
The lips which kissed you often speak
Not again: I forgave you long ago!

Indeed, forgive you he did,
But tears he would freely spend,
Over you and on your harsh word –
Hush, still! – he rests, he is past.

Practicing it brings back so much emotion, the lovely melody in the mellow, soft key of A-flat major, weaving in and out of the accompaniment passage, the longing, the innocence.
Back then. Back to when we were just children. Running around the garden. Eating ice cream and making a mess out of our faces.

The melody darkens into the key of A-flat minor and weaves in and out of the tonalities of A-flat major and minor. The memories flood my mind in a wave of emotions. When you protected me. When you got hurt for me. When you stood up to those nasty bullies.

It builds to a quasi-climax and it stops on an F-flat, followed by a tumultuous passage of thirds in a quasi-cadenza, and it moves into the glorious key of B major. The years pass by. The childhood years fade away, and we’re into our teenage years. Building a snow-couple in your back yard at the christmas party, taking strolls by the lake, then running back into the house all wet and cold… playing music for each other and laughing at the silly mistakes, intentionally playing wrong notes to laugh even more…

Now in E major, louder and more passionate than ever. The grandeur and beauty in the octaves and parallel passages. The touch of your hand, the feeling of knowing that you’ll always be there for me. Our goodbye at the airport, with you promising that we’ll see each other again soon..
It builds up, higher, higher and it finally explodes in a heart-wrenching, highly-chromatic cadenza which recapitulates the beginning simple theme back in its home key, with the memories of the events lingering on. I can’t help but wonder if it’s been a dream.

Hush, still! He rests, he is past.

The painful sense of longing for someone who’s passed on, for something that can never be gotten again, for a best friend and companion. Many practice sessions have ended in tears, for the painful memories that just keep haunting me while I play this masterpiece of Liszt. Oh Liszt, why do you torment me so?

It’s been two-and-a-half years. I still won’t let go.

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