König David - (2010)
medium voice and piano
Lächelnd scheidet der Despot,
denn er weiß, nach seinem Tod
wechselt Willkür nur die Hände,
und die Knechtschaft hat kein Ende.
Armes Volk! wie Pferd und Farrn
bleibt es angeschirrt am Karrn,
und der Nacken wird gebrochen,
der sich nicht bequemt den Jochen.
Sterbend spricht zu Salomo
König David: Apropos,
daß ich Joab dir empfehle,
einen meiner Generäle.
Dieser tapfre General
ist seit Jahren mir fatal,
doch ich wagte den Verhaßten
niemals ernstlich anzutasten.
Du, mein Sohn, bist fromm und klug,
gottesfürchtig, stark genug,
und es wird dir leicht gelingen,
jenen Joab umzubringen.
pages, circa 3' 30"]
Smiling fails the tyrant,
For he knows, after his death,
Power only changes hands
And slavery has no end.
Poor people! like horse and groom
Remain harnessed to the cart,
And necks will be broken,
If they consent not to their yoke.
Dying speaks Solomon to
King David: "And for this,
I recommend to you, Joab,
One of my generals.
"This gallant general
Has been working secretly against me,
But against this hated one
I never acted in earnest.
"You, my son, are pious and wise,
God-fearing, strong enough
And in time you can easily
Kill one like a Joab."
Heine has taken the story from I Kings 2:1-7
[ 1 ] in
which Solomon's charge is somewhat more personal and wholly unrelated to a
people governed, and applied it to the more universal complaint of
tyrannical government. For this the poet interpolates the images of horses
and driver, the breaking of necks and slavery. Heine, of Jewish background
but a convert to Lutheranism in his time in Germany as well as correspondent
with Karl Marx, had notions of class struggle in his thinking, and this tale
constructed on top of a biblical story allows that generalized political
sentiment to ride atop the fabled names of Solomon and David. In our modern
day one sees families of tyrants operating much in the manner of Heine's
vision, as the Kims pass North Korea from generation to generation, or as
the economic stagnation of Cuba is being passed from "revolutionary" to his
own brother. Another horrid image which comes to my mind is the film of a
young Saddam Hussein acquiring his tyrannical power ordering Iraqi party
legislators to leave the room, whereupon many were summarily shot. The tale
is old and the tale is wholly contemporary, for true tyranny continues to
live in the modern era.
setting is a large falling line of minor triadic chromaticism over a tonic
pedal, over which the first and last stanzas of the poem are articulated.
That chromaticism invites the vocal line into darkly twisting shapes to tell
the tale of tyranny and the passing of power from generation to generation.
countersubject to chromaticism over its tonic pedal is a blurred gesture,
recalling the "harp" in so many settings about King David, this in the tonic
minor with its major seventh and a decorative line in the right hand
including more dissonant half-step lower neighbors.
last stanza's vocal line rises at the verb "umzubringen," and a last
cry to remember the "poor people" of Heine's vision of tyranny passed from
generation to generation ends the setting.
The score for
König David is available as a free PDF download, though any major
commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior
arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this
[ 1 ] I include the
biblical passage in a King James, to show the trunk onto which Heine
grafts his branch.
That translation reads: 1) Now the days of
David drew nigh that he should die; and he charged Solomon his son,
saying, 2) go the way of all the earth: be thou strong therefore,
and shew thyself a man; 3) And keep the charge of the LORD thy God,
to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and
his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of
Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and
whithersoever thou turnest thyself: 4) That the LORD may continue
his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take
heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart
and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man
on the throne of Israel. 5) Moreover thou knowest also what Joab the
son of Zeruiah did to me, and what he did to the two captains of the
hosts of Israel, unto Abner the son of Ner, and unto Amasa the son
of Jether, whom he slew, and shed the blood of war in peace, and put
the blood of war upon his girdle that was about his loins, and in
his shoes that were on his feet. 6) Do therefore according to thy
wisdom, and let not his hoar head go down to the grave in peace. 7)
But shew kindness unto the sons of Barzillai the Gileadite, and let
them be of those that eat at thy table: for so they came to me when
I fled because of Absalom thy brother.