An old christian song
first written in the early 19th century
and popularized over the years was arranged by several American
composers. The most recognizable of which is Aaron Copland's arrangement.
Though it is difficult to categorize this as purely an art
song due to its arguably more popular use in tradition christian hymn
books. The simplicity and beauty of the music and text has allowed it to
transcend the realm of "classical
music" and into the traditions of millions of peoples.
During his time, Debussy was a brilliant innovator of song, stretching
harmonic and artistic language even further into the 20th century. All the
while he kept his mind on the past and infused the beautiful poetry and music
of the 14th century. The poem, written by Francois Villon is a prayer for his
mother, who was illiterate and wished for a deathbed prayer. Debussy
artfully uses medieval modal harmonies to grace the poetry and create a song
cycle which is hauntingly beautiful.
The antithesis of the German art songs is to
be found in Mahler's works, particularly this piece. Originally a chamber
piece, it is equally beautiful when performed with piano. Magnificent poetry,
coupled with 300 years of German counterpoint, this song takes the number one
position, in my mind, of all art-songs.
La Scena Musicale is a monthly Canadian classical, opera, jazz and world music magazine published in English and French by La Scène musicale/The Music Scene, a non-profit charity dedicated to the promotion of music and the arts. La Scena Musicale's award-winning website SCENA.org has been a world leader of classical music and arts news since 1996. The LSM Blog is the place for commentary and news on music and the arts in Canada and around the world. Publisher: Wah Keung Chan; ISSN 1925-9700