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Robert Franz

Brief von Robert Franz an Carl Armbruster vom 6. Februar 1888


 Robert Franz (Verfasser)
 Carl Armbruster (Empfänger)
  • Full title: Brief von Robert Franz an Carl Armbruster vom 6. Februar 1888
  • Date: 03.02.1888
  • Language: Englisch
Engl. Übersetzung

Linked works

S. 279
S. 279
Altes Lied
S. 280
Die süsse Dirn' von Inverness
S. 280
Nun holt mir eine Kanne Wein
S. 280
Liebliche Maid
S. 280
Zwanzig geistliche Lieder der Schemellischen Sammlung entnommen


Honoured Sir:

What you write to me about the success of my songs in Scotland sounds to my ears like a fairy tale. For I had not believed that such an immediate effect on the public was possible. Here in North Germany three or four of my songs are continually given in concerts, mostly in surroundings where they make no impression, much less leave any behind. Therefore, when in my last letter I asked you to send me some programmes, I was not thinking of any detailed description, but only of a report of the bare titles, in order to show native music-managers what notice is taken of me abroad. In all the larger towns of the dear Fatherland there live musicians who also have their own goods on sale and are very much occupied in keeping away from their own neighbourhood products which are not yet accepted everywhere. Besides this, most of our singing-masters cannot play the accompaniments of my songs without giving themselves away. These two reasons explain everything! But treat it with discretion, for I do not want to bring more enemies on my head than I have already. No audience in this country  has yet heard a note of the songs by me which Miss Cramer introduced to the London public. I wonder what our concertgoers would say about "Frtihlingsfeier," Op. 39! "Who is Adonis?" And then the bass notes in the concluding symphony, in which one hears the savage wild-boar growl in the distance? Apropos of Op. 39, I wish you would especially cherish No. 6, "Altes Lied," with its cockcrowings. It is a great favourite of mine. But you must give a long pause for the moon-speech, and then it will make most effect! The trumpet-sounds and the clang of bells in  the last verse are also important. But more than anything it interests me that my Burns songs were received so favourably in Scotland; there must be something in them pointing to national sympathy. I have been for years convinced of the fact that in every genuinely lyric poem the corresponding melody lies hidden. Given the necessary talent, it will then appear inevitably as an addition to the right material. Without having a clear understanding of Old German, Russian, Bohemian, Carniolan, Scandinavian and Scotch national music, I have succeeded in expressing by sounds their strongly differentiated characteristics, a thing that I could do only with the help of the poetical contents of the words before me. This is not mere fancy, but is based on sure grounds, for I have never made music for words, but have always drawn the former from the  latter. My songs consequently require the most intense understanding of their poetic basis; where there is this, the right conception of the flow of melody cannot possibly be wanting. If people in Scotland were not intimately acquainted with Burns' songs, my little tunes could not have made such a lively impression on them; that cannot be doubted! You speak in your letter of your intention of drawing up for Scotland some day a programme consisting entirely of my Burns songs. There are, I see, fifteen of them which (what is especially important) bring in full force the meaning of the noble poet's lyrics. In "The Lovely Lass of Inverness" it might seem as if my conception of the angry cry "Now wae to thee, thou cruel lord, a bluidy man I trow thou be" contradicted the principles above-stated. But it is a woman who, in a moment of the highest passion, is conscious of her helplessness and breaks out to herself in quiet lament. The passage also admirably introduces the close, "For mony a heart hast thou made sair," which would not be the case with a wild curse. Without knowing the original English, I have here and there hit the mark better than the translation.Thus, for example, in "Go fetch to me a pint o' wine," at the beginning of the second verse I make the trumpet sound at the right place; and in "While larks with little wing" my piano accompaniment reproduces the fluttering flight of the noisy bird, of which the original speaks, but not the translation. One may call such things "accidents"; but is it absolutely impossible that my feeling in composing irradiated and understood the originals? You must not be angry with me that I let myself go so volubly about my own stuff. Perhaps such dissertations here and there contribute to the elucidation of my conception. I am very glad that you have become acquainted at Dr. Hans Richter's in Vienna with the Twenty Sacred Songs of Sebastian Bach's arranged by me. In them one gazes into the depths of the heart, so that one becomes dazed! It is hard to understand how these marvellous works for nearly two hundred years should be thought unsolved problems, when one looks at the natural form in which I have filled out the harmonies. Hitherto our schoolbooks misused the text as exercises in deciphering figured bass, in which plenty of nonsense can be brought to light. The pedants had no idea that an intensive share in the expres sion of the whole could be taken by the middle parts; the notes between the Discant and the Bass were stuffed in according to the figures-and so basta! If I were in your place, I should try energetically to make these precious jewels known, for you will be the first to introduce them in England, where there is certainly a future for them. I am most highly indebted to Dr. Hans Richter for his amiable participation in efforts at reconstructing the vocal compositions of our old masters. He is a true artist, who with true unselfishness depends only on things, not on people-a rarity of which in these days one cannot speak well enough. You evidently belong to the same class! With warmest greetings to you and Friiulein Cramer,

Halle, Feb. 6, 1888.

Yours truly,
Rob. Franz.

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