Wettstreit - (2008)
August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben
for medium voice and piano
Der Kuckuck und der Esel,
Die hatten großen Streit,
Wer wohl am besten
Zur schönen Maienzeit.
Der Kuckuck sprach: "Das kann ich!"
Und hub gleich an zu schrein.
"Ich aber kann es besser!"
der Esel ein.
Das klang so schön und lieblich,
So schön von fern
Sie sangen alle beide:
Kuku kuku, ia!
[ 3 pages, circa 1' 30" ]
The cuckoo and the donkey,
they made a great display,
as to which was the finest singer
in a lovely month of May.
The cuckoo spoke: "That I am!"
And so he began to cry.
"But I can and better!"
Did the donkey then reply.
All sounded sweet and pretty
Both near and faraway;
They sang these two together:
With "cuckoo" and that bray!
There are several regional variants of the text, though the above is the
This has been sung to a well-beloved melody for generations, composed by
Carl Friedrich Zelter (1758–1832) in 1810 originally as a setting of
Goethe's "Es ist ein Schuss gefallen." In that setting, the two last lines
of each stanza are repeated, while in this setting the form of Hoffmann von
Fallersleben is rightly observed. The form is strophic, with a slight
alteration as necessary to the text and sense.
The little coda spreads the "cuckoo" and donkey's bray across several
measures, each time skewed by one quarter's duration. This might be
performed with exaggerated dynamics a piacere per the text's note
their cries coming from both "near and faraway." I leave this to the whimsy
of the performers.
The score for Wettstreit 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 piano-vocal score.