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Lula Mysz-Gmeiner, German Mezzo and Contralto

By January 12, 2024No Comments

There is not very much on the internet about this singer. Although she was a famous concert artist and a very famous teacher, there is just not much information about her. But I am posting her anyway because she was enormously talented. One thing to note is that the recordings here have had some kind of remastering done to them, and we don’t have the sound of the overtones in her voice. That is, we can’t hear the full voice. What we do hear is a mastery of the text, beautiful legato (connecting notes together), and wonderful expressiveness without becoming over done. I have put some explanations of the lieder into the post, I hope that they help you to enjoy Mysz-Gmeiner.

In a cold night in a big forest, a man finds a woman galloping alone and offers to escort her home. She tells him about her worries and about a lost love that broke her heart and asks him to leave her alone as he does not realise who she is. Nonetheless, the man refuses to abandon her and insists on taking her home but it suddenly strikes him who she really is. Although he had never seen her, he knew about Lorelei’s existence. Then she says: “You know me well”. Since he is lost in the woods, it is not difficult to imagine what will happen after the encounter. The villagers who live outside the forest are aware of the nature of that place, as no one who has ventured inside the woods has ever come back alive. In the next two lines of the verse, it explains us for the first time where we are. “I rule alone in towers high over the Rhine”. This is the first reference to the river Rhine. Then Lorelei pronounces the first sentences that the man said to her. When she repeats “this night is cold”, we can understand it as a presage of the man’s death.

Schumann, “Waldesgesprach”, Op. 39, no.3

Es ist schon spät, es wird schon kalt,
Was reitst du einsam durch den Wald?
Der Wald ist lang, du bist allein,
Du schöne Braut! Ich führ dich heim!

“Groß ist der Männer Trug und List,
Vor Schmerz mein Herz gebrochen ist,
Wohl irrt das Waldhorn her und hin,
O flieh! Du weißt nicht, wer ich bin.”

So reich geschmückt ist Roß und Weib,
So wunderschön der junge Leib,
Jetzt kenn ich dich – Gott steh mir bei!
Du bist die Hexe Lorelei. –

“Du kennst mich wohl – von hohem Stein
Schaut still mein Schloß tief in den Rhein.
Es ist schon spät, es wird schon kalt,
Kommst nimmermehr aus diesem Wald.”

Schumann, Conversation in the Woods”, Op. 39, no.3

It is already late, the glow is gone,
Why are you riding alone through the woods?
The woods are long, you are alone,
I’ll bring you home, you lovely bride.’

‘Men have such cunning to deceive.
Because of pain, my heart is broken.
The wood-horn’s echoes come and go.
Flee! You do not know who I am.’

‘Both horse and lady richly bejeweled,
Fair form of youth, a noble sight.
I know you now – pray God be with me!
You are the witch Lorelei!’

‘You know me well! That cave is mine,
That waits and broods above the Rhine.
It is already late, it will soon be cold,
You will never leave this wood!’

Robert Schumann’s “Der Nussbaum” (The Walnutut Tree) comes from the song cycle that he gave to his wife Clara on their wedding day. The song cycle was named after the traditional bridal finery, Myrthens (Myrtles). Schumann wrote Der Nussbaum in 1840, and it marked a radical turning point in his career, as shortly after this piece was composed, he seized upon poetry with a passion, producing more than half his solo songs that year. It is one of four flower-like songs contained in the cycle; others include “Die Lotusblume,” “Du bist wie eine Blume,” and “Aus den östlichen Rosen.” “Der Nussbaum” is a delicate setting of poem, in which a meditative melody is shared between the piano and voice. The text tells of the whispers and caresses shared by two nut tree blossoms, revealing a certain maiden’s dreams of a bridegroom; nearby a girl listens, drifting gently into reverie.

Schumann, “Der Nußbaum”, Op. 25, No. 3

Es grünet ein Nußbaum vor dem Haus,
Breitet er blättrig die Äste aus.

Viel liebliche Blüten stehen dran;
Kommen, sie herzlich zu umfahn.

Es flüstern je zwei zu zwei gepaart,
Zierlich zum Kusse die Häuptchen zart.

Sie flüstern von einem Mägdlein, das
Die Nächte
Und Tage lang
Wusste, ach! selber nicht was.

Sie flüstern – wer mag verstehn so gar
Weis’ –
Flüstern von Bräut’gam und nächstem Jahr.

Das Mägdlein horchet, es rauscht im Baum;
Sinkt es lächelnd in Schlaf und Traum.

Schumann, “The Walnut tree”, Opus 25, no. 3

A walnut tree blossoms in front of the house,
spreading out its leafy branches.

Many lovely blossoms are on it;
come to caress them.

They whisper, paired two by two,
their tender heads to kiss.

They whisper of a maiden
who thinks
through nights and days
of… but alas! she does not herself know!

They whisper – who can understand
such a soft
song? –
they whisper of a bridegroom and of the coming year.

The maiden listens, the tree rustles;
she sinks smiling into sleep and dream.

The young nun has to work hard to convince herself that the storm outside is an echo of an inner conflict that has now been resolved by her decision to enter the cloister. She insists that her inner storm has abated, but she cannot avoid stirring it up again as she tries to contrast her past with the present in the second stanza: the current flash of lightning allows her to refer again to the burning of a forbidden love. The lightning leaves her blinded and acutely conscious of the darkness around her and within her breast – a darkness that is like the grave.

She tries again to tell us that the storm outside is unrelated to her current spiritual state. She tries to sublimate her passion by turning her mind to Christ as the heavenly bridegroom. The storm had drawn her attention to the forces of nature that bent tree tops and threatened buildings, but she now tries to concentrate on the artificial sound of a bell and the strength of a tower. The bell calling her to prayer is supposed to remind her that God is in the still small voice not in the wind or the fire, but her attraction to the power of the storm cannot be easily overcome. The sweet sound lures her with total power to eternal heights and so in the Alleluja she enters an ecstatic state that has transcended the initial storm.

Schubert, “Die junge Nonne”, Op. 43, No. 1, D828

Wie braust durch die Wipfel der heulende Sturm!
Es klirren die Balken, es zittert das Haus!
Es rollet der Donner, es leuchtet der Blitz,
Und finster die Nacht, wie das Grab!

Immerhin, immerhin, so tobt’ es auch jüngst noch in mir!
Es brauste das Leben, wie jetzo der Sturm,
Es bebten die Glieder, wie jetzo das Haus,
Es flammte die Liebe, wie jetzo der Blitz,
Und finster die Brust, wie das Grab.

Nun tobe, du wilder, gewalt’ger Sturm,
Im Herzen ist Friede, im Herzen ist Ruh,
Des Bräutigams harret die liebende Braut,
Gereinigt in prüfender Glut,
Der ewigen Liebe getraut.

Ich harre, mein Heiland, mit sehnendem Blick!
Komm, himmlischer Bräutigam, hole die Braut,
Erlöse die Seele von irdischer Haft.
Horch, friedlich ertönet das Glöcklein vom Turm!
Es lockt mich das süsse Getön
Allmächtig zu ewigen Höh’n.

Schubert, The young nun”, Op. 43, No.1, D828

How the raging storm roars through the treetops!
The rafters rattle, the house shudders!
The thunder rolls, the lightning strikes,
and the night is as dark as the grave.

Still, still, not long ago a storm still raged in me.
My life roared like the storm now,
my limbs trembled like the house now,
love flashed like the lightning now,
and my heart was as murky as the grave.

Now rage, wild, powerful storm;
in my heart is peace, in my heart is calm.
The bridegroom awaits the loving bride,
purified in the purging flames,
betrothed to eternal love.

I await, my Redeemer, with longing gaze!
Come, heavenly bridegroom, take your bride.
Free the soul from earthly imprisonment.
Listen, the bell sounds peacefully from the tower!
It beckons me, the sweet sound,
Omnipotently to eternal heights.

This poem touches on a number of moods and themes that proliferate within Brahms’ body of solo songs: a poetic joining of death and lost love; a pervading sense of absence that leaves room for the piano to convey more subtle, unspoken sentiments; and an ambiguous feeling toward the beauty of nature. A habitual hovering just shy of harmonic return to the tonic, evokes the blurred, dreamlike mood of the first stanza and, in sharpening the contrast between the real and imaginary worlds, highlights the fractured mood of the text. Brahms reuses the same melody figure described above, but poignantly drains it of its warmth. The poet’s final glimmer of hope, suggested by the images of May breezes and songbirds in the forest, offers a brief musical respite as well, with brighter harmonies, a more lyrical melodic arc, and animated accompaniments. The spring’s promise of renewal, however, is bittersweet; as the vocal line once again grows taut, the singer cries out to the lost lover with a final plea sung with ardor: “If you would see me ever again/Come, o come soon!”

Brahms, “Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer”, Op. 105, No. 2

Immer leiser wird mein Schlummer,
Nur wie Schleier liegt mein Kummer
Zitternd über mir.
Oft im Traume hör’ ich dich
Rufen drauß vor meiner Tür:
Niemand wacht und öffnet dir,
Ich erwach’ und weine bitterlich.

Ja, ich werde sterben müssen,
Eine Andre wirst du küssen,
Wenn ich bleich und kalt.
Eh’ die Maienlüfte wehn,
Eh’ die Drossel singt im Wald:
Willst du mich noch einmal sehn,
Komm, o komme bald!

Brahms, “More and more peaceful grows my sleep”, Op. 105, No. 2

More and more peaceful grows my sleep,
Only my grief, like a veil,
Lies trembling over me.
I often hear you in my dreams
Calling outside my door,
No one keeps watch and lets you in,
I awake and weep bitterly.

Yes, I shall have to die,
You will kiss another
When I am pale and cold.
Before May breezes blow,
Before the thrush sings in the wood;
If you would see me once again,
Come soon, come soon!

Lula Mysz-Gmeiner
August 15, 1876 – August 7, 1948)

Mysz-Gmeiner, Lula (née Gmeiner), noted German contralto; b. Kronstadt, Transylvania, Aug. 16, 1876; d. Schwerin, Aug. 7, 1948. She studied violin in her native town, and singing in Berlin with Etelka Gerster and Lilli Lehmann. She made her concert debut in Berlin in 1899; then traveled in Europe as a concert singer; was greatly praised for her interpretations of German lieder. She was a prof, at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik (1920–45).