Let us return to the subject of Expression, and examine a song; for


Der Nussbaum by Schumann.

The prevailing mood through it is one of quiet gayety, consequently

one demanding a pleasant expression of countenance. The song picture

must rustle by us like a fairy story. The picture shows us the

fragrant nut tree putting forth its leaves in the spring; under it a

maiden lo
t in reverie, who finally falls asleep, happy in her

thoughts. All is youth and fragrance, a charming little picture, whose

colors must harmonize. None of them should stand out from the frame.

Only one single word rises above the rustling of the tree, and this

must be brought plainly to the hearing of the listening maiden--and

hence, also, of the public--the second next year. The whole song

finds its point in that one word. The nut tree before the house puts

forth its green leaves and sheds its fragrance; its blossoms are

lovingly embraced by the soft breezes, whispering to each other two by

two, and offer their heads to be kissed, nodding and bowing; the song

must be sung with an equal fragrance, each musical phrase in one

breath: that is, with six inaudible breathings, without ritenuto.

They whisper of a maiden who night and day is thinking, she knows not

of what herself. Between selber and nicht was a slight separation

of the words can be made, by breaking off the r in selber nasally;

and holding the tone nasally, without taking a fresh breath, attacking

the nicht anew. In this way an expression of uncertainty is lent to

the words nicht was.

But now all becomes quite mysterious. They whisper, they

whisper--one must bend one's thoughts to hear it; who can understand

so soft a song? But now I hear plainly, even though it be very

soft--the whisper about the bridegroom and the next year, and again

quite significantly, the next year. That is so full of promise, one

can scarcely tear one's self away from the thoughts, from the word in

which love is imparted, and yet that, too, comes to an end!

Now I am the maiden herself who listens, smiling in happiness, to the

rustling of the tree, leaning her head against its trunk, full of

longing fancies as she sinks to sleep and to dream, from which she

would wish never to awaken.

Feldeinsamkeit by Brahms.

This song interprets the exalted mood of the soul of the man who,

lying at rest in the long grass, watches the clouds float by, and

whose being is made one with nature as he does so. A whole world of

insects buzzes about him, the air shimmers in the bright sunlight,

flowers shed their perfume; everything about him lives a murmuring

life in tones that seem to enhance the peace of nature, far from the

haunts of men.

As tranquil as are the clouds that pass by, as peaceful as is the mood

of nature, as luxurious as are the flowers that spread their

fragrance, so tranquil and calm must be the breathing of the singer,

which draws the long phrases of the song over the chords of the

accompaniment, and brings before us in words and tones the picture of

the warm peace of summer in nature, and the radiant being of a man

dissolved within it.

I mark the breathing places with V. Ich liege still im Nohen gruenen

Gras V und sende lange meinen Blick V nach oben V [and again

comfortably, calmly] nach oben.

Von Grillen rings umschwaermt V ohn' Unterlass V von Himmelsblaeue

wundersam umwoben V von Himmelsblaeue V wundersam umwoben.

Each tone, each letter, is connected closely with the preceding and

following; the expression of the eyes and of the soul should be

appropriate to that of the glorified peace of nature and of the soul's

happiness. The last phrase should soar tenderly, saturated with a warm

and soulful coloring.

Die schoenen weissen Wolken zieh'n dahin V durch's tiefe Blau V,

[I gaze at it for a moment] wie schoene, stille Traeume V [losing

one's self] wie schoene stille Traeume. V [A feeling of dissolution

takes away every thought of living and being.] Mir ist V als ob V

ich laengst V gestorben bin! [The whole being is dissolved in the

ether; the end comes with outstretched wings soaring above the earth.]

und ziehe selig mit V durch ew'ge Raeume V und ziehe selig mit V

durch ew'ge Raeume. [Dissolution of the soul in the universe must sound

forth from the singer's tone.]

The Erlking, by Schubert.

For him who is familiar with our native legends and tales, the willows

and alders in the fields and by the brooks are peopled with hidden

beings, fairies, and witches. They stretch out ghostly arms, as their

veils wave over their loose hair, they bow, cower, raise themselves,

become as big as giants or as little as dwarfs. They seem to lie in

wait for the weak, to fill them with fright.

The father, however, who rides with his child through the night and

the wind, is a man, no ghost; and his faithful steed, that carries

both, no phantom. The picture is presented to us vividly; we can

follow the group for long. The feeling is of haste, but not of

ghostliness. The prelude should consequently sound simply fast, but

not overdrawn. The first phrases of the singer should be connected

with it as a plain narrative.

Suddenly the child hugs the father more closely and buries his face in

terror in his bosom. Lovingly the father bends over him; quietly he

asks him the cause of his fear.

Frightened, the child looks to one side, and asks, in disconnected

phrases, whether his father does not see the Erlking, the Erlking

with his crown and train. They had just ridden by a clump of willows.

Still quietly, the father explains smilingly to his son that what he

saw was a bank of fog hanging over the meadow.

But in the boy's brain the Erlking has already raised his enticing

whisper.[3] The still, small voice, as though coming from another

world, promises the child golden raiment, flowers, and games.

[Footnote 3: The voice of the Erlking is a continuous, soft,

uninterrupted stream of tone, upon which the whispered words are hung.

The Erlking excites the thoughts of the fever-sick boy. The three

enticements must be sung very rapidly, without any interruption of the

breath. The first I sing as far as possible in one breath (if I am not

hampered by the accompanist), or at most in two; the second in two,

the third in three; and here for the first time the words reizt and

branch ich Gewalt emerge from the whispered pianissimo.]

Fearfully he asks his father if he does not hear the Erlking's

whispered promises.

It is only the dry leaves rustling in the wind. The father quiets

him, and his voice is full of firm and loving reassurance, but he

feels that his child is sick.

For but a few seconds all is still; then the voice comes back again.

In a low whisper sounds and words are distinguished. Erlking invites

the boy to play with his daughters, who shall dance with him and rock

him and sing to him.

In the heat of fever the boy implores his father to look for the

Erlking's daughters. The father sees only an old gray willow; but his

voice is no longer calm. Anxiety for his sick child makes his manly

tones break; the comforting words contain already a longing for the

journey's end--quickly, quickly, must he reach it.

Erlking has now completely filled the feverish fancy of the child.

With ruthless power he possesses himself of the boy--all opposition is

vain--the silver cord is loosened. Once more he cries out in fear to

his father, then his eyes are closed. The man, beside himself, strains

every nerve--his own and his horse's; his haste is like a wild

flight. The journey's end is reached; breathless they stop--but the

race was in vain.

A cold shudder runs through even the narrator; his whole being is

strained and tense, he must force his mouth to utter the last words.