Antonin Dvorak’s Indelible “Songs My Mother Taught Me”

There is something soothing in listening to Dvořák’s “Songs.” From the moment the violin begins its endearing lullaby to its melancholy finish, the piece leaves one with a sense of longing. The feeling is similar to when you finish a great story. You close the book at the end, knowing it’s over, but you crave more. So you may read it again, in case you missed something that could fill that void.

And you might listen to “Songs” perpetually, eager to learn more to the story.

No wonder this piece has been performed with a variety of instruments, including the violin, piano, cello and vocal.

Antonin Dvorak

Antonin Dvořák (1841-1940), well known for his symphonies, cello and violin concertos, wrote a series of songs titled Seven Gypsy Songs. His most notable piece is the fourth he composed in the series in 1880, Songs My Mother Taught Me. When the great violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) arranged the piece for violin and piano, “Songs” grew in its popularity.

The piece is based on a poem in German by the Czech Poet Adolf Heyduk (1835-1923). Heyduk hoped to portray gypsy life as romantic, emphasizing their love for song and music. The folk influence in Dvořák’s “Songs” can be heard almost at the outset.

English Lyrics (by Natalia Macfarren)
Songs my mother taught me,
In the days long vanished;
Seldom from her eyelids
Were the teardrops banished.
Now I teach my children,
Each melodious measure.
Oft the tears are flowing,
Oft they flow from my memory’s treasure.*

To listen to Songs My Mother Taught Me in its entirety, check out this link from YouTube

For a vocal version, view this video starring the late Dame Joan Sutherland

What about you? Are there any particular pieces of Dvorak you adore?

*Source: “Songs My Mother Taught Me Lyrics and Text Translation,” by Aaron Green

Upcoming Performances:
Dec. 14 – 18, 2010

Handel: Messiah
Karina Gauvin, soprano
Marie-Nicole Lemieux, contralto
Tilman Lichdi, tenor
Andrew Foster-Williams, bass
New York Philharmonic

Dec. 16 – 18, 2010
Mozart: Piano Concerto no. 22
Robert Levin
Haydn: Symphony no. 93
Los Angeles Philharmonic

Dec. 16 – 18, 2010
Works of Bach, Gabrieli, Grainger,
Prokofiev, Wagner, Revueltas
Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Dec. 19, 2010
Handel: Messiah
Lisa Saffer, soprano
Michelle DeYoung, mezzo-soprano
Gordon Gietz, tenor
Christopheren Nomura, baritone
The Philadelphia Orchestra

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