Ruckert-Lieder, III: Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen

Today I’m sharing the third in a set of five songs Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer and conductor Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) wrote in 1901-1902.

Mahler’s collection is a setting of poems by the German professor, translator and Romantic poet Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). The first four pieces in the set were premiered in 1905, with Mahler conducting the performance. (While you’re here, check out this post for another composer’s setting of Rückert’s poetry.)

The title “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” has been interpreted as “O garish world, long since thou hast lost me,” indicating the feelings of world-weariness and isolation experienced by the writer. Mahler is said to have felt a deep, personal connection to the poem, having felt disrespected throughout his career.

The piece moves from a mournful beginning to a peaceful conclusion as the writer reaches what I interpret as acceptance and a move to stability with his music and place in the world.

“Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
[I am lost to the world]
Mit der ich sonst viele Zeit verdorben,
[with which I used to waste so much time,]
Sie hat so lange von mir nichts vernommen,
[It has heard nothing from me for so long]
Sie mag wohl glauben, ich sei gestorben.
[that it may very well believe that I am dead!]

Es ist mir auch gar nichts daran gelegen,
[It is of no consequence to me]
Ob sie mich für gestorben hält,
[Whether it thinks me dead;]
Ich kann auch gar nichts sagen dagegen,
[I cannot deny it,]
Denn wirklich bin ich gestorben der Welt.
[for I really am dead to the world.]

Ich bin gestorben dem Weltgewimmel,
[I am dead to the world’s tumult,]
Und ruh’ in einem stillen Gebiet.
[And I rest in a quiet realm!]
Ich leb’ allein in mir und meinem Himmel,
[I live alone in my heaven,]
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied.”
[In my love and in my song!]

“Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen,” poem by Friedrich Rückert (1788-1866). Translation copyright © by Emily Ezust,
from the LiederNet Archive — https://www.lieder.net/.
Used with kind permission. See official translation here.

The piece appears on an album of songs by Mahler and German composer, conductor and theatre director Richard Wagner (1813-1883), featuring Latvian mezzo-soprano Elīna Garanča performing in concert with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of German conductor Christian Thielemann. The order of the five pieces is altered on this recording, with “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” closing the album.

The recording is a compilation of performances from the 2020 and 2021 Salzburg festivals. Such events were, and still are, significantly reduced by the pandemic and lockdowns. This ongoing crisis has affected the livelihoods of musicians and many others and isolated most of us from loved ones and favourite activities (like live concerts). I think it’s fitting that the album should close with this piece as it acknowledges the feelings of loneliness though doing so with the intention of acceptance, or resignation, depending on how one looks at it.

I’m certainly feeling this weariness and isolation while, at the same time, appreciating my good health, activities and fun times with my sweety, and how we’ve been able to maintain relationships with loved ones, making some new connections along the way.

Now you know a little about why this is My Song of the Day for Today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.

Here’s the video from the Deutsche Grammophon YouTube channel:

With my best wishes,

Steve

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