Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sheet music: Carl Krebs, 1840, "Mein Herz ist im Hochland"

In a previous article I have discussed the first publication of "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" as a so-called "Volkslied" in 1837 by Friedrich Silcher. But since 1836 numerous composers also wrote new tunes for this text. The first one was Friedrich Wilhelm Jähns whose Schottische Lieder und Gesänge (here Heft 2, No. 1, pp. 2/3) were published that year. Until 1840 works by Greulich, Tomaschek, Marschner, Kücken and Schumann followed and from then on it never disappeared from the music market for the next 60 years. All in all this song was listed more than 130 times in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten (information from Hofmeister XIX) until 1900.

Different translations were available. Jähns had used Philipp Kaufmann's whose text was already circulating at that time although his book only came out in 1839 (here pp. 5/6). Robert Schumann (in Myrthen, Heft 3, No. 1, p. 2) preferred Wilhelm Gerhard's adaptation (in Robert Burns' Gedichte, Leipzig 1840, No. 66, p. 126). But the translation most often used was the one by Ferdinand Freiligrath (see Fleischhack, p. 19 & 68-73) that had first been published in 1836 on February 20th, 1836 in the Blätter zur Kunde der Literatur des Auslands (Vol. 1, No. 4, p. 13) and then in 1838 in his Gedichte (p. 443). 

Freiligrath's text was also set to music by Carl Krebs, at that time Kapellmeister at the court in Dresden. Krebs (1804-1880, see Fürstenau in ADB 17, 1883, pp. 99-100; also Christern 1850), composer, pianist, conductor, is hardly known today even though at that time especially his "melodic songs were [...] popular" among amateur musicians (Fürstenau, dto.):
  • Mein Herz ist im Hochland. Lied für eine Singstimme mit obligater Pianoforte-Begleitung componirt von Carl Krebs, Kapellmeister, Op. 73, Für Sopran od. Tenor, 1/3 Thlr., Schuberth & Comp, Hamburg u. Leipzig, T. Trautwein, Berlin, T. Haslinger, Wien, n. d. [1840], at the Internet Archive
This work was first listed in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten in December 1840 (p. 172, at Hofmeister XIX) together with three more new songs: "Sehnsucht am Strande (Traurig schau' ich von der Klippe)", "Liebliche Maid (Früh mit der Lerche Sang)", "Mein Lieb (O wär' mein Lieb' die rothe Ros'"). These were translations of Burns' "Musing On The Roaring Ocean", "Phillis The Fair" and "O Were My Love Yon Lilack Fair", the first two taken from Wilhelm Gerhard's book (p. 94 & p. 266) and the last also by Freiligrath (first also in Blätter zur Kunde der Literatur des Auslands, Vol. 1, No. 4, 20.2.1836, p. 13).

The same month an advert for these publications in the AMZ (Vol. 42, No. 52, December 1840 p. 1078) claimed that the "most recent songs" by Kapellmeister Krebs "exert with their lovely melody and solidity [Gediegenheit] such a peculiar impression on the singer and listener that they have rapidly become the favorites of the day and will stay for a long time". Interestingly some more newly published pieces are listed here. 

In fact during the early '40s Krebs wrote a whole series of new settings for adaptations of Robert Burns' songs (see for example Hofmeister, März 1841, p. 44, April 1841, p. 61, Dezember 1843, p. 190). According to J. W. Christern (1850, p. 31) he had found in a bookshop Wilhelm Gerhard's collection of translations and was so fascinated by these texts that he sat down at the piano and created a "significant series of songs that can be called not only the best Krebs has composed but also almost the best of their kind". Now I don't want to judge if this somewhat bombastic claim is true. But at least Carl Krebs was one of the many composers from that era who felt genuinely inspired by the germanized Burns. And besides Gerhard's book he was also familiar with Freiligrath's works, otherwise he wouldn't have used the latter's translation of "My Heart's in the Highlands".

The tune he created for this text sounds a little strange to me and I am not particularly convinced of this attempt. But I assume it would sound much better when performed by a competent singer. I wonder if he knew the original tune. Most likely not. As far as I know it wasn't available in Germany at that time. Here is the first verse of Krebs' version. The song is through-composed and the other verses have different melody lines:

The critics were at first not so fond of this work. One reviewer (in Bohemia, No. 13, 28. 1. 1841, [p. 7], at Google Books) who had heard it performed by singer Carl Julius Eicke called it "empty" and claimed that Krebs' setting was not as good as the one published the year before by W. J. Tomaschek (in: Drei Gesänge, Op. 92, see Hofmeister XIX, Oct Nov 1839, p. 142, see also RISM ID 553002166). A writer in the AMZ (Vol. 43, No. 12, March 1841, p. 261) also compared it unfavourably to Tomaschek's version. Nonetheless "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" by Carl Krebs became popular and remained available for a considerable time.

One and a half year later (see Hofmeister XIX, Juli 1842, p. 106) the song was published again in a series with the the title Auswahl der beliebtesten Lieder and an arrangement for guitar came out in November 1844 (dto., p. 173). This piece was still performed on stage in 1856. A critic of the Landshuter Zeitung (Vol. VIII, No. 51, 29.2.1856, p. 212, at Google Books) heard it from a female singer who sang the song "with a comprehensive, melodious alto voice, perfect purity and a warm sentiment and was rewarded with thunderous applause".

In July 1857 a new revised edition was announced in Hofmeisters Monatsberichten (p. 108) and as late as 1873 an arrangement for zither found a place in a musical publication with the title Münchener Gartenlaube, as can be seen from an ad in Signale für die musikalische Welt from October that year (p. 685). It seems that Krebs' version of "Mein Herz ist im Hochland" was among the most successful of the numerous new settings for this text that were published during the 19th century. In fact his series of songs based on translations of songs by Robert Burns would deserve further investigation. 

  • [J. W.] Christern, Carl Krebs, als Mensch, Componist und Dirigent. Eine biographisch-musikalische Studie, Hamburg & New York 1850 (available at the Internet Archive)
  • Ernst Fleischhack, Freiligraths Gedichte in Lied und Ton, Bielefeld 1990
  • Moritz Fürstenau, Art. Krebs, Karl August, in ADB 17, 1883, pp. 99-100 (available at BSB)
  • Rosemary Anne Selle, The Parritch and the Partridge: The Reception of Robert Burns in Germany. A History, 2 Vols, Phil. Diss., Heidelberg 1981 (now available as: 2nd Revised and Augmented Edition, Frankfurt/M. 2013)

No comments:

Post a Comment