Geistliche Lieder aus dem Spanischen Liederbuch, für tiefe Stimme*

Ed. L. Spitzer. Doblinger/Universal


The editor of these ten sacred songs assumes a pious (not to say sanctimonious) tone. Nowadays lieder are sung only in German, we are admonished; so there will be no singing versions, just plain prose translations into Italian and English, as the world languages of singers and of people in general (an interesting distinction). Again, the songs have been most scrupulously kept in their original authentic group, and not transposed separately, for example for anthologies, as other publishers do. Furthermore, Doblinger know very well that original keys are always to be preferred. It is thus only after much soul-searching as well as breast-beating that they have persuaded themselves to transpose the sacred songs. But then they forfeit all credibility with the specious claim that Wolf's keys are “too high”, and that “the character of the songs would seem to demand a low voice for the most effective interpretation”. It might just as convincingly be argued that what the music really needs is a bright yellow Doblinger cover. Wolf must be allowed to know his own range best. Perhaps he felt it only fitting that in songs of torment and retribution even the tessitura should be cruel. Die du Gott gebarst for example will in my view lose, not gain, from being dropped a whole 4th, to E minor. But no doubt there is much to be said for making this admittedly rather neglect­ed group more widely available to amateur singers. All the other transpositions are either a major 3rd down (III, IV, V, VIII, X), a minor 3rd (I, VI, VII) or just a tone (IX), and the whole group now becomes accessible to a compass of at most written g#' to e" (in VIII) and mainly around the top 9th or less.

   The clearly printed text is derived from the admirable Jancik Gesamtausgabe volume of 1967, which among many other merits improves on Peters Editions in one word (“ihr” is corrected to “die” in bar 43 of IV) and one note (Cg, here Ea, is added to the second and third right-hand chords in bar 37 of X). -Bui I'm still perplexed by the continued absence, in any edition, of a sharp at the last left-hand chord of bar 17 in VII (cf bar 47). And one final cavil; if English and Italian prose versions, why not the original Spanish poems? The source of VII might be rather hard to locate; perhaps the attribution “Don Manuel del Rio” is a pseudonym for the translator Emanuel Geibel. But the Lope de Vega text for IV, Cantorcillo de la Virgen, is famous; the rest should prove accessible enough; all would be of some interest to serious singers.    


The Musical Times, Aug. 1979 (p. 664) © the estate of eric sams