Der Seufzer


Der Seufzer - (2008)     

Christian Morgenstern

for mezzo soprano and piano

Hiroko Kashiwagi gewidmet

Ein Seufzer lief Schlittschuh auf nächtlichem Eis
und trämte von Liebe und Freude.
Es war an dem Stadtwall, und schneeweiss
glänzten die Stadtwallgebäude.

Der Seufzer dacht' an ein Maidelein
und blieb erglühend stehen.
Da schmolz die Eisbahn unter ihm -
und er sank - und ward nimmer gesehen.

[ 4 pages, circa 2' 00" ]

Christian Morgenstern


 A sigh was skating on the evening ice,
and dreamed of love and joy.
It was on town's embankment, and snow white
gleamed the embankment's houses.

The sigh thought of a lovely girl
and stood aflame with passion.
Then ice rink melted under it,
And it sank - and was never seen again.


The comic personification of a sigh is set against the opposites of ice and flame in this sweet little tale. For merely thinking did it burst into flame only to be extinguished by the cold. For this we take a lesson? Perhaps not, for such metaphors of love equating ardent passion with heat are but metaphors. The charm lies in the personification, wherein that sigh is our tragic hero who lives out then ends of its life in only two short verses.



Composed for mezzo soprano and piano, the range is not challenging. Yet the vocal line is in a measured an elongated duple rhythm against the triple rhythm of the accompaniment's meter. The humming is to be an expression of delight, and perhaps irony as well.



The sigh becomes "overheated" with thoughts of love and finds itself sinking into the ice, which is characterized by a change of mode in this setting, the tonic falling in upon the mediant. The opening gesture then finds itself similarly transformed, before the E of the mediant functions as the third of the dominant seventh G absent its root note, bringing the setting back to its opening gesture in C major for the summation.



Hiroko Kashiwagi


Mezzo soprano Hiroko Kashiwagi was a featured soloist for over fifteen years at the Deutschen Oper am Rhein (Düsseldorf-Duisburg). She received many fine reviews for her title role of Rossini's La Cenerentola, as well as for Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and has been a guest soloist at the Nationaltheater München, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Semperoper in Dresden, and is a teacher of voice in Berlin. Her husband, Shigeo, is a physician with a practice split between Wuppertal and Berlin.


The score for Der Seufzer 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.


Der Seufzer