Schubert: Der Wanderer, D. 489

sung by Dietrich FischerDieskau; Gerald Moore, piano

Music You Can Understand: Part 3
This is an actual ‘song,’ in the actual sense of having lyrics, although we could more properly call it by its German name, a Lied (rhymes with ‘need’), plural Lieder (rhymes with feeder). 
I was preparing for what will now be next week’s post, and it is based on this song, so I thought it only logical to get familiar with this one first. 
It nearly made me weep. The video above has the German text with English translation, but below is the German text. 
Ich komme vom Gebirge her,
Es dampft das Tal, es braust das Meer,
Ich wandle still, bin wenig froh,
Und immer fragt der Seufzer, wo?

Die Sonne dünkt mich hier so kalt,
Die Blüte welk, das Leben alt,
Und was sie reden, leerer Schall,
Ich bin ein Fremdling überall.

Wo bist du, mein geliebtes Land,
Gesucht, geahnt, und nie gekannt?
Das Land, das Land so hoffnungsgrün,
Das Land, wo meine Rosen blühn;

Wo meine Freunde wandelnd gehn,
Wo meine Toten auferstehn,
Das Land, das meine Sprache spricht,
“O Land, wo bist du? . . .”
Ich wandle still, bin wenig froh,
Und immer fragt der Seufzer, wo?
Im Geisterhauch tönt’s mir zurück,
“Dort, wo du nicht bist, dort ist das Glück.”
If you’ve never been abroad, or away from home or a long time (and perhaps you haven’t),

(but almost everyone has) missed someone, or something, or wanted things to be back a certain way or at a certain place, then you should understand what’s going on here. You may not be patriotically missing your homeland, but maybe you’re wondering what home really is. Is it where you’re from, where you are now, where your family is, or where you intend to go?

Think about all these things and listen to Schubert’s plight. You can’t not understand it. 
More specifically, there are some really simple musical things going on here, like the change of key. It opens in C# minor, which as a minor key is obviously sad sounding, and it is played very slowly. This is when our wanderer is describing the landscape and feeling like a stranger everywhere. However, when he begins to describe “Das Land, wo meine Rosen blühn” (the land where my roses bloom) and “Das Land, das meine Sprache spricht” (the land that speaks my language) we find ourselves in the relative major (E) and a much more energetic tempo in 6/8. 
The original slow tempo and minor key return, but after answering the ‘where’ question with Dort, wo du nichst bist, dort ist das Glück” (“There, where you are not, there is your happiness”), we return to E major and close the piece. 
It’s gorgeous, and if you put yourself in that mindset, or are already there, you feel what this Wanderer feels, and in this brief six minutes, have made a connection with art, with music, with a man who lived two centuries ago and felt about something the same way you do about something; it’s validation and connection and comfort that as awful as the human condition can be, the one thing it isn’t is unique or solitary. It is these kinds of connections that build friends and make for good stories, it is this kind of discovery, that ‘you feel that way too?’ that can change people’s viewpoints and lives. 
That may sound cliché, but when you make a connection with a piece of music, and it feels like that was written to or for or by me, then you understand the composer, and it becomes real. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s