Now the sun will rise as brightly / as if no misfortune had occurred in the night. / The misfortune has fallen on me alone. / The sun - it shines for everyone.
April 3, 2006 10:49 AM Subscribe
Kindertotenlieder. In 1833-34, Frederich Rückert wrote 425 poems after two of his children died within 16 days of each other; seven decades later, Mahler set five of them to music. Kindertotenlieder, or Songs on the Death of Children, has been recorded by both male and female singers, in both orchestral and piano-vocal arrangements. The song cycle is a powerful meditation on grief and loss, which is somewhat surprising since we think of the 18th, 19th, and even early 20th centuries as being a time when people -- especially young children -- lived closer to death and had a different relationship with grief than we do today. Mahler, who was one of 14 children, eight of whom died in infancy and one of whom died at 12, had much personal experience to bring to the Kindertotenlieder; indeed, just three years after the song cycle's completion, his own daughter died of scarlet fever. But some musicians dismiss the idea that the music is premonitory, or indicative of Mahler's personal tragedy, and posit instead that Mahler's intent was not to showcase his own grief but capture the intensity of Rückert's first-person text. Modern works on the topic of Kindertoten range from mixed media and text to dance to film, and even to modern stage works. And there is, of course, music -- the most famous contemporary work in this tradition might just be the Grammy-award winning song inspired by real-life tragedy, Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven.
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