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Auch Kleine Dinge – Wolf

By March 28, 2018September 28th, 2019No Comments

Auch Kleine Dinge

Before moving on from Wolf, there is one more Lied that I wanted to play for you.  It is called “Auch kleine Dinge”.  It is the first song from Wolf’s first book of his Italienischesliederbuch, which was published in two parts; the first part was published in 1892, and the second part was published in 1896.  The poems in the two books come from a collection of Italian poems collected and translated into German by Paul Heyse.  Wolf tended to prefer shorter poems of eight line of ten or eleven syllables each.

Wolf sought out high-quality poetry and wrote beautiful music.  This is in contrast to Schubert, who took mediocre poetry and wrote wonderful music.  Wolf’s muse seem to require a higher standard of literature than Schubert’s.

This Lied is extraordinarily hard to sing and to accompany. I was looking for artists who could do it justice, and I found two. One of them, I have already introduced. Her name is Irmgard Seefried. The second is someone we haven’t spoken about yet. His name is Walter Ludwig, and there is a little bit about him below.  Remember to listen to the way in which the singer follows the text and really sings about precious, small things.  Which do like better?

Auch kleine Dinge, Walter Ludwig

I’m going to put two translations of Auch Kleine Dinge below.  The first is a word for word translation of the German poem, and the second is a more poetic English translation:


Auch kleine Dinge können uns entzücken,
Auch kleine Dinge können teur sein.
Bedenkt, wie gern wir
Uns mit Perlen schmücken;

Sie werden schwer bezahlt und sind nur klein.
Bedenkt, wie klein ist die Olivenfrucht,
Um wird um ihre Güte doch gesucht.
Denkt an die Rose nur, wie klein sie ist,
Und duftet doch so lieblich, wir ihr wißt.

Line by line English

Also small things could delight us,
Also small things could expensive be.
Considering, how much we like
Us with pearls to decorate;

They are heavily paid and are only small.
Considering how small is the olive fruit,
And is for its goodness yet sought.
Think of the rose only, how small it is,
And smells yet so lovely, as you know.

And now, I’ll put a more fluent, poetic translation:

Even small things can delight us,
Even small things can be precious.
Think how gladly we bedeck ourselves with pearls;
They fetch a great price but are yet small.
Think how small the olive is,
And yet it is prized for its goodness.
Think only of the rose, how small it is,
And yet smells so lovely, as you know.

There is a detailed relationship between the poetry that Wolf used and this expression is evidenced by repeating their sounds and their meaning in musical form. “Auch kleine Dinge” introduces a musical and harmonic pattern that can be seen in other songs of the Italienischesliederbuch. It is not my intention to give you a musicological study of the harmonics of these songs (I’m not qualified to do that!), but rather to suggest that all of these songs in the the Italienischesliederbuch are related to one another vocally and harmonically.

I will merely suggest that the theme of “small things” is carried out in the music by using adjacent harmonies, where there would be little sound changes, and a step-wise vocal line, which would also echo the theme of small things.

Walther Ludwig

Walter Ludwig was born on March 17, 1902 in Bad Oeynhausen.  He first studied medicine in Freiburg before turning to voice studies in Königsberg, where he made his debut in 1928. He then sang in Schwerin, where he created the title role in Paul Graeners’s Friedmann Bach in 1931. He joined the Städtische Oper Berlin in 1932, where he established himself in Mozart roles such as Belmonte, Don Ottavio, Tamino, Idomeneo, Ferrando, etc. After the war, he began appearing at the Hamburg State Opera, and made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1947 and at the Salzburg Festival in 1948.

He also made guest appearances at La Scala in Milan, the Paris Opéra, the Royal Opera House in London, the Liceo in Barcelona.

He taught in Berlin from 1952 until 1969. He died on May 15,1981 in Lahr, Germany.