Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
I have done a posting very similar to this one before, and I am repeating myself, but with different performers. This particular Lied merits repeating.
“Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”, one of Mahler’s Rückert lieder, is one of Mahler’s finest Lieder. I have been told that the word “Weltschmerz” or “world pain” is used much more by non-Germans than by Germans. However, I think that the sense of having to withdraw from an ever too painful world is a feeling that all have shared at one time or another. The first of Mahler’s compositions based on a “world-weary” theme (Das Lied von der Erde being the largest example), this song is rich in lush, late-Romantic harmonies and beautiful melodic lines. The song is generally imbued with a mood of quiet acceptance and resignation. The scoring consists of double woodwinds without flutes and with English horn, two horns, harp, and full strings.
This is one of my favorite Lieder, if not my most favorite. Everyone sings it, but most of them should not. They cannot do it justice. Here I have posted Maureen Forrester and Ljuba Welitsch.
The German Romantic poet Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866), linguist and Orientalist, was one of Gustav Mahler’s favorite poets, and he set a number of his poems to music, including the Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children). Mahler composed four of the five Rückert Lieder in 1901, initially with piano accompaniment, but immediately orchestrated them. He was in his fifth year as musical director of the Vienna Hofoper, a prestigious post he accepted even though it meant converting to Roman Catholicism to allay the anti-Semitism rife in Austria. In 1899 he took on the added position of conductor of the Philharmonic concerts but in 1901 had to relinquish this duty as a result of a serious illness and his inability to get along with the orchestra. These setbacks, however, did not prevent him from experiencing a burst of creativity during the summer, when – in addition to four of the Rückert Lieder – he also completed the Symphony No. 4, started on No. 5 and composed three of the Kindertotenlieder. Mahler composed a fifth Rückert Lied, “Liebst du um Schönheit?” (Do you love for beauty?) a short while later, but never orchestrated it.
Mahler’s Rückert Lieder do not form a cycle and there is no conventional order in which they are to be sung. Each song is distinct from the others in subject matter, structure and orchestration. Although the musical form is strongly conditioned by the poetic structure, Mahler uses different ways to vary the traditional strophic organization.
The poetic theme of “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (I have been lost to the world) is the peace achieved through the poet’s withdrawal from the turmoil of the world into his heaven, his life, and his song. The comparatively long introduction is used as both an interlude and a
counterpoint with the singer. It features that orchestral symbol of isolation, and often desolation, the English horn, with an arch-shaped melody that moves upward from a simple two notes, to three, and then more rapidly to the line’s melodic peak, followed by a descent that completes the arch. The voice then repeats the melody, in a dialogue with the English horn. Mahler sets the song’s three stanzas irregularly by repeating the interlude after the third line of the first stanza with only the shortest break between the last line and the first line of the second stanza. The second stanza presents a passionate contrast as the poet declares himself dead to the world. The final stanza begins with the song’s main theme but continues with new musical material leading to the climax, the poet’s song. The English horn concludes the song echoing the final line of the voice.