Six Elizabethan Songs (Dominick Argento 90)

Dominick Argento (27 ottobre 1927): Six Elizabethan Songs (1958). Barbara Bonney, soprano; André Previn, pianoforte.

I. Spring (Thomas Nashe, 1567-1601: da Summer’s Last Will and Testament, 1592)

Spring, the sweet Spring, is the year’s pleasant king;
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing,
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The palm and may make country houses gay,
Lambs frisk and play, the shepherd pipes all day,
And we hear aye birds tune this merry lay,
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet,
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit,
In every street these tunes our ears do greet,
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
Spring! The sweet Spring!

II. Sleep (Samuel Daniel, 1562-1619: da Delia, 1592) [a 1:38]

Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night,
Brother to Death, in silent darkness born,
Relieve my anguish and restore thy light,
With dark forgetting of my cares, return;
And let the day be time enough to mourn
The shipwreck of my ill-adventur’d youth:
Let waking eyes suffice to wail their scorn,
Without the torment of the night’s untruth.
Cease, dreams, th’ images of day-desires
To model forth the passions of the morrow;
Never let rising sun approve you liars,
To add more grief to aggravate my sorrow.
Still let me sleep, embracing clouds in vain;
And never wake to feel the day’s disdain.

III. Winter (William Shakespeare, 1564-1616: da Love’s Labour’s Lost V/2, 1597) [a 4:45]

When icicles hang by the wall
And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,
And Tom bears logs into the hall,
And milk comes frozen home in pail;
When blood is nipt and ways be foul,
Then nightly sings the staring owl:
Tu-whit! Tu-who! — A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

When all aloud the wind doth blow,
And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,
And birds sit brooding in the snow,
And Marian’s nose looks red and raw;
When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl
Then nightly sings the staring owl:
Tu-whit! Tu-who! — A merry note!
While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.

IV. Dirge (Shakespeare: da Twelfth Night II/4, 1602) [a 6:22]

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.

Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
[A thousand, thousand sighs to save,]
Lay me, O where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
To weep there!

V. Diaphenia (Henry Constable, 1562-1613: Damelus’ Song to his Diaphenia, c1600) [a 9:51]

Diaphenia, like the daffadowndilly,
White as the sun, fair as the lily,
Heigh ho, how I do love thee!
I do love thee as my lambs
Are belovèd of their dams:
How blest were I if thou would’st prove me.

Diaphenia, like the spreading roses,
That in thy sweets all sweets encloses,
Fair sweet, how I do love thee!
I do love thee as each flower
Loves the sun’s life-giving power;
For dead, thy breath to life might move me.

Diaphenia, like to all things blessèd,
When all thy praises are expressèd,
Dear joy, how I do love thee!
As the birds do love the spring,
Or the bees their careful king, —
Then in requite, sweet virgin, love me!

VI. Hymn (Ben Jonson, 1572-1637: Hymn to Diana) [a 11:44]

Queen and huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair,
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.

Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia’s shining orb was made
Heav’n to clear when day did close;
Bless us then with wishèd sight,
Goddess excellently bright.

Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short so-ever:
Thou that mak’st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.

(La poesia di Ben Jonson è stata musicata anche da Benjamin Britten: fa parte della Serenade per tenore, corno e archi op. 31, che può essere ascoltata in questa pagina del presente blog.)


Lady Greensleeves e Mistress Ford

Anonimo inglese della seconda metà del Cinquecento: Greensleeves. Alfred Deller, haute-contre; Desmond Dupré, liuto.
L’interpretazione di Deller e Dupré ci dà modo di ascoltare la più antica versione conosciuta della melodia e, insieme, alcune strofe tratte dalla prima edizione nota del testo, una raccolta del 1584 intitolata A Handful of Pleasant Delites. Ecco il testo completo (le parti in corsivo sono omesse da Deller):

Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously,
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your company.

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my lady Greensleeves.

I have been ready at your hand,
To grant whatever you would crave;
I have both waged life and land,
Your love and good-will for to have.

I bought three kerchers to thy head,
That were wrought fine and gallantly;
I kept them both at board and bed,
Which cost my purse well-favour’dly.

I bought thee petticoats of the best,
The cloth so fine as fine might be:
I gave thee jewels for thy chest;
And all this cost I spent on thee.

Thy smock of silk both fair and white,
With gold embroidered gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of sendall right;
And this I bought thee gladly.

Thy girdle of gold so red,
With pearls bedecked sumptously,
The like no other lasses had;
And yet you do not love me!

Thy purse, and eke thy gay gilt knives,
Thy pin-case, gallant to the eye;
No better wore the burgess’ wives;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

Thy gown was of the grassy green,
The sleeves of satin hanging by;
Which made thee be our harvest queen;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

Thy garters fringed with the gold,
And silver aglets hanging by;
Which made thee blithe for to behold;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

My gayest gelding thee I gave,
To ride wherever liked thee;
No lady ever was so brave;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

They set thee up, they took thee down,
They served thee with humility;
Thy foot might not once touch the ground;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

For every morning, when thou rose,
I sent thee dainties, orderly,
To cheer thy stomach from all woes;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
But still thou hadst it readily,
Thy music still to play and sing;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

And who did pay for all this gear,
That thou didst spend when pleased thee?
Even I that am rejected here,
And thou disdainst to love me!

Well! I will pray to God on high,
That thou my constancy mayst see,
And that, yet once before I die,
Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me!

Greensleeves, now farewell! Adieu!
God I pray to prosper thee!

For I am still thy lover true;
Come once again and love me!


Da una ristampa, datata 1878, di A Handful of Pleasant Delites

In una antologia di «musica scespiriana», Greensleeves non può mancare: la canzone della bella signora dalle maniche verdi è infatti menzionata nella commedia The Merry Wives of Windsor (scritta forse tra il 1599 e il 1601, ma tradizionalmente la si fa risalire al 1597). La trama è nota: il panciuto cavaliere John Falstaff tenta maldestramente di sedurre due signore, Mistress Ford e Mistress Page, sposate a ricchi borghesi di Windsor (nel Berkshire); sir John, trovandosi a corto di quattrini, spera così di mettere le mani sui loro averi, ma è subito smascherato e cade vittima di alcune perfide burle ordite dalle due donne.
Quando l’imbroglio viene scoperto, questo è il commento di Mistress Ford (atto II, scena 1ª):

I shall think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an eye to make difference of men’s liking: and yet he would not swear; praised women’s modesty; and gave such orderly and well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words; but they do no more adhere and keep place together than the Hundredth Psalm to the tune of Green Sleeves.

È vero, Greensleeves non va d’accordo con il centesimo salmo: ma è un impedimento di carattere puramente metrico – i versi («Acclamate il Signore, voi tutti della terra»; nella versione della Great Bible, 1539: «O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands») non combaciano affatto con la melodia – e non una sorta di divieto morale. L’adattamento di un testo sacro a una melodia profana («travestimento spirituale») non ha mai costituito un problema, e del resto abbiamo già visto (qui) che, nel corso della sua storia pluricentenaria, la stessa Greensleeves ha prestato la propria melodia a un canto religioso (e non solo).

L’ultima burla ai danni di Falstaff ha luogo nella foresta di Windsor, dove egli viene invitato a recarsi, vestito da cacciatore, per un incontro amoroso (atto V, scena 5ª). «Sir John!», lo apostrofa Mistress Ford, «Art thou there, my deer? my male deer?»; Falstaff risponde affermando che nemmeno una «tempesta di amorose provocazioni», fra le quali la melodia di Greensleeves, riuscirà a distoglierlo da lei:

My doe with the black scut! Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green Sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.

Per chi fosse interessato, l’elenco degli articoli in cui ho trattato l’argomento Greensleeves si trova qui.


2016, anno scespiriano

Al concludersi dell’anno del Bardo, desidero dedicare l’insieme dei miei scritti sull’argomento «musica e Shakespeare» a tutti coloro che hanno avuto la pazienza e la voglia di leggerli, e in particolare a Barbara e al suo infinito amore per il teatro.

Morte di Ofelia

Hector Berlioz (11 dicembre 1803-1869): La mort d’Ophélie, ballade op. 18 n. 2, H. 92 (1842); testo di Ernest Legouvé. Cecilia Bartoli, mezzosoprano; Myung-Whun Chung, pianoforte.

Auprès d’un torrent Ophélie
cueillait, tout en suivant le bord,
dans sa douce et tendre folie,
des pervenches, des boutons d’or,
des iris aux couleurs d’opale,
et de ces fleurs d’un rose pâle
qu’on appelle des doigts de mort.

Puis, élevant sur ses mains blanches
les riants trésors du matin,
elle les suspendait aux branches,
aux branches d’un saule voisin.
Mais trop faible le rameau plie,
se brise, et la pauvre Ophélie
tombe, sa guirlande à la main.

Quelques instants sa robe enflée
la tint encor sur le courant
et, comme une voile gonflée,
elle flottait toujours chantant,
chantant quelque vieille ballade,
chantant ainsi qu’une naïade
née au milieu de ce torrent.

Mais cette étrange mélodie
passa, rapide comme un son.
Par les flots la robe alourdie
bientôt dans l’abîme profond
entraîna la pauvre insensée,
laissant à peine commencée
sa mélodieuse chanson.


2016, anno scespiriano

Romeo e Giulietta al pianoforte

Sergej Sergeevič Prokof’ev (1891-1953): 10 Pezzi da Romeo e Giulietta op. 75 (1937). Igor Roma, pianoforte.

  1. Danze popolari
  2. Scena [a 3:53]
  3. Minuetto [a 5:20]
  4. Giulietta [a 8:33]
  5. Maschere [a 12:23]
  6. Danza dei cavalieri [a 14:37]
  7. Frate Lorenzo [a 18:01]
  8. Mercuzio [a 21:15]
  9. Danza delle fanciulle dai lillà [a 23:15]
  10. Romeo nella stanza di Giulietta [a 25:41]


2016, anno scespiriano

…und Julia

Heinrich Sutermeister (12 agosto 1910-1995): momenti dell’opera Romeo und Julia (1940). Adolf Dellapozza, tenore (Romeo); Urszula Koszut, soprano (Julia); Tölzer Knabenchor & Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Münchner Rundfunkorchester, dir. Heinz Wallberg.


2016, anno scespiriano

Essere o non essere

Franz Liszt (1811 - 31 luglio 1886): Hamlet, poema sinfonico n. 10 (1858). London Philharmonic Orchestra, dir. Bernard Haitink.

Pëtr Il’ič Čajkovskij (1840 - 1893): Amleto, ouverture op. 67a (1889). London Symphony Orchestra, dir. Valerij Gergiev.

Heinz Tiessen (1887 - 1971): Hamlet-Suite op.30 (1922). Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin, dir. Israel Yinon.

I. Vorspiel
II. Ophelias Tod [7:12]
III. Totenmarsch [11:34]


2016, anno scespiriano