Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth") is a composition for two voices and orchestra by the Austrian composer Gustav Mahler between 1908 and 1909. Described as a symphony when published, it comprises six songs for two singers who take turns singing the songs. Mahler specified the two singers should be a tenor and an alto, or else a tenor and a baritone if an alto is not available. Mahler composed this work following the most painful period in his life, and the songs address themes such as those of living, parting and salvation. On the centenary of Mahler's birth, the composer, conductor, and known Mahler conductor Leonard Bernstein described Das Lied von der Erde as Mahler's "Greatest symphony".
Three personal disasters befell Mahler during the summer of 1907. Political maneuvering and anti-semitism forced him to resign his post as Director of the Vienna Court Opera, his eldest daughter Maria died from scarlet fever and diphtheria, and Mahler himself was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. "With one stroke," he wrote to his friend Bruno Walter, "I have lost everything I have gained in terms of who I thought I was, and have to learn my first steps again like a newborn".
The following year (1908) saw the publication of Hans Bethge's Die chinesische Flöte, a volume of ancient Chinese poetry rendered into German. Mahler was very taken by the vision of earthly beauty and transience expressed in these verses and chose seven of the poems to set to music as Das Lied von der Erde. Mahler completed the work in 1909.
Text in Das Lied von der Erde
The Universal Edition score of 1911 for Das Lied von der Erde shows Mahler's adapted text as follows.
1. "Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde" ("The Drinking Song of Earth's Misery")
2. "Der Einsame im Herbst" ("The Lonely One in Autumn")
3. "Von der Jugend" ("Of Youth")
4. "Von der Schönheit" ("On Beauty")
5. "Der Trunkene im Frühling" ("The Drunken Man in Spring")
6. "Der Abschied" ("The Farewell")
Text in Mahler's sources
Mahler's source for the text was Hans Bethge's Die chinesische Flöte. In writing this volume, Bethge himself used prior translations of the original Chinese poetry. Texts now identified as being likely sources used by Bethge include Hans Heilman's Chinesische Lyrik (1905), Marquis d'Hervey de Saint Denys' Poésies de l'époque des Thang, and Judith Gautier's Livre de Jade.
Four of the songs -- Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde, Von der Jugend, Von der Schönheit and Der Trunkene im Frühling, were derived from poems written by Li Bai, the wandering poet of the Tang dynasty. Der Einsame im Herbst is based on a poem by Qian Qi, another poet of the Tang Dynasty. Der Abschied combines poems by Tang Dynasty poets Meng Haoran and Wang Wei, with several additional lines by Mahler himself. These attributions have historically been a matter of some uncertainty, and around the turn of the Twenty-First Century, Chinese scholars extensively debated the sources of the songs following a performance of the work in China in 1998.
Mahler had already included movements for voice and orchestra in his Second, Third, Fourth and Eighth Symphonies. However, Das Lied von der Erde is the first work giving a complete integration of song cycle and symphony. The form was afterwards imitated by other composers, notably by Shostakovich and Zemlinsky. This new form has been termed a "song-symphony", a hybrid of the two forms that had occupied most of Mahler's creative life.
Das Lied von der Erde is scored for a large orchestra: 3 flutes (3rd flute doubling on 2nd piccolo), piccolo, 3 oboes (3rd oboe doubling on English horn), clarinet in E-flat, 3 clarinets in B-flat, Bass clarinet in B-flat & A, 3 bassoons (3rd bassoon doubling on contrabassoon), Brass, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in F & B-flat, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani (used only in "Von der Schöneit"), snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tambourine (used only in "Von der Schönheit"), tam-tam (used only in "Der Abschied"), glockenspiel, Keyboards, celesta (used only in "Der Abschied"), 2 harps, mandolin, 1st and 2nd violins, violas, cellos, double basses (with low C string). Mahler deploys these resources with great restraint: only in the first, fourth and sixth songs does the entire orchestra play at once, and in some places the texture almost resembles chamber music, with only a few instruments playing.
Mahler's habit was to subject the orchestration of every new orchestral work to detailed revision over several years; though the musical material itself was hardly ever changed, the complex instrumental 'clothing' would be altered and refined in the light of experience gained in performance. In the case of Das Lied von der Erde, however, this process could not occur as the work's publication and first performance occurred posthumously.
The score calls for tenor and alto soloists. However, Mahler includes the note that "if necessary, the alto part may be sung by a baritone". For the first few decades after the work's premiere, this option was little used. On one occasion Bruno Walter tried it out, and engaged Friedrich Weidemann, the baritone who had premiered Kindertotenlieder under Mahler's own baton in 1905. However, Walter felt that tenor and baritone did not work as well as tenor and alto, and he never repeated the experiment.
Following the pioneering recordings of the work by baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau under conductors Paul Kletzki and Leonard Bernstein, the use of baritones in this work has increased.
Arnold Schoenberg began to arrange Das Lied von der Erde for chamber orchestra, reducing the orchestral forces to string and wind quintets, and calling for piano, celesta and harmonium to supplement the harmonic texture. Three percussionists are also employed. Schoenberg never finished this project, and the arrangement was completed by Rainer Riehn in 1980.
In 2004, the Octavian Society commissioned Glen Cortese to create two reductions of the work, one for a chamber ensemble of twenty instruments and one for a small orchestra with woodwinds and brass in pairs. Both these reductions are published in critical edition by Universal in Vienna.
Mahler also arranged the work for piano accompaniment, and this has been recorded by Cyprien Katsaris with Thomas Moser and Brigitte Fassbaender. Katsaris has also performed this version in concert.
The first public performance was given, posthumously, on 20 November 1911 in the Tonhalle in Munich, sung by Sara Cahier and William Miller (both Americans) with Bruno Walter conducting. Mahler had died six months earlier, on 18 May.
One of the earliest performances in London (possibly the first) occurred in January 1913 at the Queen's Hall under conductor Henry Wood, where it was sung by Gervase Elwes and Doris Woodall. Wood reportedly thought that the work was 'excessively modern but very beautiful'.
According to the musicologist Theodor W. Adorno, Mahler found in Chinese poetry what he had formerly sought after in the genre of German folk song: a mask or costume for the sense of rootlessness or "otherness" attending his identity as a Jew. This theme, and its influence upon Mahler's tonality, has been further explored by John Sheinbaum. It has also been asserted that Mahler found in these poems an echo of his own increasing awareness of mortality.
Curse of the Ninth
Mahler was aware of the so-called "curse of the ninth", a superstition arising from the fact that no major composer since Beethoven had successfully completed more than nine symphonies: he had already written eight symphonies before composing Das Lied von der Erde. Fearing his subsequent demise, he decided to subtitle the work A Symphony for Tenor, Alto and Large Orchestra (Eine Symphonie für eine Tenor- und eine Alt- (oder Bariton-) Stimme und Orchester), rather than numbering it as a symphony. His next symphony, written for purely instrumental forces, was numbered his Ninth. That was indeed the last symphony he fully completed, because only the first movement of the Tenth had been fully orchestrated at the time of his death.
金玉满堂应不守 富贵百年能几何 死生一度人皆有
◇* Das Trinklied vom Jammer der Erde *
天空靛蓝依旧 大地存续如昔 且恒于春天绽放千华
在这繁琐红尘中 你与欢愉的交集 岂逾有百年之久
举殇今际勿迟疑！吾友 错此良辰 更待何时
◇* Der Einsame im Herbst *
心已疲惫 微灯在一阵闪烁后 溶化在暗风中
◇* Von der Jugend *
鲜著玉戴 肆酒喧哗 笔颂抑扬
◇* Von der Sch heit *
◇* Der Trunkene im Fr ling *
◇* Der Abschied *