Hugo Wolf

Anakreons Grab ("Wo die Rose hier blüht"), song for voice & piano (Goethe Lieder)

    Description by Erik Eriksson

    Unlike Schubert, who often set mediocre poetry to glorious music, Hugo Wolf could respond only to poetry of the finest quality. Some of it was from the pen of writers of less than front-ranking celebrity, but all of it was fine enough to catch the composer's fancy. When presenting his songs in recital, Wolf usually read the texts aloud to the audience before the performance of each song. Although not every Wolf song was a masterpiece (Wolf sometimes overreached himself, or failed to receive sufficient inspiration from his muse), the best (that is, the majority of them) achieve perfection because of, not in spite of, their faithfulness to their texts. The magical Anakreons Grab (Anakreon's Grave) sets a poem by a great writer whose reputation was established. Although Goethe himself lacked sound musical judgment, his verse inspired the finest composers. Others, however, could not match Wolf in forming a psychological bond with the poems. In Anakreons Grab, there is proof. In 21 measures and three minute's time, the antiquity is seen with the sensibilities of the present day. So tender, so devotional is this paean to Anakreon, poet of the Greeks, so evocative of nature's entwining herself in sweet adoration around the dead writer's grave, that the composer gave explicit instructions to the performers, especially the singer. Sehr Langsam und Ruhig (very slowly and softly) is the notation for the pianist's solo opening, beginning "piano" and growing softer, swelling ever so slightly, then diminishing to a still softer tone, all within the first two measures. The syncopations between the right and left hand must not seem rhythmic, but quietly various, like the falling of dew drops from the flowers the singer will soon describe. The singer, quietly (the marking here instructs Zart [tenderly]), tells the listener that here -- where the rose blooms, the vine entwines itself around the laurel, the turtledove coos, and the cricket takes pleasure -- rests Anakreon. He enjoyed spring, summer, and autumn and now the tomb protects him from winter. The voice rises to nothing more than a mezzo forte for the song's duration, while the pianist must play with the utmost attention, assuring that all the exquisite harmonies clearly sound at a very subdued dynamic level. There are brief, precisely indicated rests for the singer amidst flowing legato phrases, especially when describing the poet's resting place: the singer informs the listener "Es ist" (rest) Anakreon's Ruh." (It is [rest] Anakreon's grave.) Wolf infuses an unmistakable sense of quiet reverence. Likewise, at the end, the singer observes "from winter" (rest) "finally, the grave (rest) protected him." The singer and pianist -- who respect Wolf's beautifully detailed notation, his quietly lofting melodies so well integrated with searching harmonies, and beyond that, the fragrant aura that suffuses this vignette -- can make of it a thing of purest enchantment.

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2018
    Challenge Classics
    CC 72787
    2017
    Warner Classics
    0190295886714
    2017
    Channel Classics
    CCS38917
    2016
    Decca
    4789679
    2016
    Harmonia Mundi
    HMC 902245
    2015
    Warner Classics
    553028
    2014
    Harmonia Mundi
    HMG 501837
    2014
    Music & Arts
    MACD 1279
    2014
    Decca
    4808148
    2014
    Decca
    4808160
    2012
    Decca
    2011
    EMI Classics
    2011
    Various Artists
    Capriccio Records
    CAP 5101
    2010
    Gala Records
    100.667
    2010
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099945635229
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4778707
    2010
    Deutsche Grammophon
    477 870-7
    2010
    EMI Classics
    2010
    Gala Records
    10067
    2010
    Orfeo
    826103
    2009
    Challenge Classics
    72324
    2009
    Sony Classical Essential Classics
    39189
    2009
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099926490
    2009
    Nimbus
    2521
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    447515
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Distribution
    2008
    EMI Classics
    3800402
    2007
    Gala Records
    624
    2007
    Harmonia Mundi
    2908250
    2007
    Berlin Classics
    0033132
    2007
    Urania
    URN 22325
    2007
    EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics
    0946380029
    2006
    Globe Records
    6029
    2006
    Harmonia Mundi
    901837
    2006
    Naxos Historical
    8111093
    2006
    Wigmore Hall
    2
    2005
    Orfeo D'Or
    339050
    2005
    Deutsche Grammophon
    4775250
    2005
    EMI Classics
    2004
    IDIS
    6427
    2004
    EMI Classics
    562188
    2004
    Capriccio Records
    6709192
    2004
    Music & Arts
    CD1063
    2004
    Music & Arts
    1063
    2004
    Symposium
    1339
    2003
    Deutsche Grammophon
    474006
    2003
    Orfeo
    613031
    2002
    Preiser Records
    90497
    2001
    Angel Records
    67570
    2001
    Hyperion
    67130
    2000
    Testament
    1197
    2000
    Orfeo
    543001
    1998
    EMI Music Distribution
    566640-2
    1996
    Symposium
    1164
    1996
    Simax
    1825
    1995
    Orfeo
    297921
    1995
    Mono Music
    89216
    1993
    EMI Music Distribution
    64905
    EMI Music Distribution
    66641
    Accord
    202792
    Sony Music Distribution
    53278
    Arabesque Too
    2003
    Documents
    223089303
    EMI Music Distribution
    769741