To coincide with the Proprietor's 80th birthday in May 2018 a project is underway that brings together much of our German repertoire of recent times. As a sort of sequel to our highly successful CD Haydn à l'anglaise - music by Haydn as available and performed in England even before his arrival here in 1791 and English songs composed before he left in 1795, we now plan Goethe à l'anglaise -
songs to texts by the great German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and other significant (plus some less significant !) poets of the time.
The project will embrace some of the material from our earlier CD Goethe & the Guitar. This time, however, the songs will be performed in English in the Proprietor's verse translations. The project therefore has literary as well as musical substance.
Why, you may ask, in English? In the musical scene c1800, while Italian opera will have been performed in Italian and settings of Latin liturgical texts were still performed in their original language, songs – being designed as drawing room informal entertainments – were inevitably translated into English. Sometimes the original texts were either very loosely paraphrased or simply replaced by other texts with the same rhyme schemes and metre. In short, the “historically informed performance” of German songs prior to Schubert and the emergence of the Kunstlied (Art Song), in a British context should arguably be in English.
It is worth remembering that Haydn's major work, The Creation, was designed specifically to be performed in either German or English, depending on where it was to be sung. The performing of Die Schőpfung in German in Britain is not only pretentious, it is not “historically informed” !
Haydn's friend and associate William Shield had set the ball rolling in the 1780s by publishing German songs by Haydn to English texts, and was quickly followed by others. Shortly before 1800 an Anglican clergyman with a most colourful curriculum vitae, Benjamin Beresford, published in Berlin the first of several anthologies of German songs to his translations, and these ran into several editions, such was their popularity with the Anglophone cultural world.
In 1999 the Proprietor won the English Goethe Society award for the best verse translation of a Goethe poem. This proved a motivation to produce English singing versions of many of the songs Café Mozart performs to English audiences – some seriously lyrical, some simple narrative ballads – and others overtly witty.
The project envisages a CD of 20-24 such songs, together with a song book giving both the English and the original texts for comparison. At the same time it is hoped that an exhibition of early editions of Goethe's literary output can be organised at a suitable venue together with a lecture-recital on the theme of verse translation – a lost, perhaps even undervalued art, demonstrated by the songs themselves. These negotiations are now in progress.
In the run-up to May 2018 we hope to entertain music societies, Anglo-German societies, academic institutions with the material, in whatever form they like – the songs being interspersed with instrumental music as described on the REPERTOIRE page.
Do get in touch with us for more information. You will not be disappointed!