To Music

March 19, 2014

Hearing Kaufmann sing about the “Lindenbaum” in that video, I’m carried back to childhood, where I learned an English-language version of the song. So, for better or worse, as he sings “Am Brunnen vor dem Tore/ Da steht ein Lindenbaum,” my mind provides the counterpoint of “Beside the well and doorway/ There stands a linden tree.” That might be considered a little impure as a listening experience, but it brings up for me long personal association with this music and the approximate atmosphere of its text. When the musical climax comes, I’m recalling:

And on its many branches
I carved the name I love.
In sorrow or in sadness,
They call me from above.

At least those are the rather soupy words that I remember (and the German original is hardly restrained). The subject of translations of sung texts into a local language is a hoary, complex, and irresolvable one, but I can’t regret having trudged through the decades with English words bearing the music of “Der Lindenbaum” in my head any more than I regret that, when I hear “An die Musik,” there is a ghostly “Thou lovely art, my joy and consolation” going on in the background. I can’t even remember what school or what music teacher taught us to sing those songs of Schubert, but all my schooling was in public institutions. How many children are receiving such lifelong-lasting gifts now in the schools?

If I had not had such teaching — given, remember, to all my classmates as well — how different might my life have been? I don’t know what these Lieder meant to the rest of them, but they couldn’t have hurt. As for me, I could hardly have known that the climactic words to which I sang “An die Musik” (To Music) were fairly prophetic:

Thou lovely art!
I give my live to thee!

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