Kartoffellied - (2009)    

Matthias Claudius

for medium voice and piano


Pasteten hin, Pasteten her,
was kümmern uns Pasteten?
Die Kumme hier ist auch nicht leer
und schmeckt so gut als bonne chere
von Fröschen und von Kröten.

Und viel Pastet und Leckerbrot
verdirbt nur Blut und Magen.
Die Köche kochen lauter Not,
sie kochen uns viel eher tot;
Ihr Herren, laßt Euch sagen!

Schön rötlich die Kartoffeln sind
und weiß wie Alabaster!
Sie däun sich lieblich und geschwind
und sind für Mann und Frau und Kind
ein rechtes Magenpflaster.

[ 4 pages, circa 1' 45" ]



The Potato song

Pâtés there, pâtés here,
Shall we care about pâtés?
The bowl here is not empty
and it tastes as good as the fancy foods
which are made by frogs and toads.

And many pastries and tasty breads
only upset one's blood and stomach.
Chefs cook with such a fuss,
and cook us into an early grave;
My friends, let's say it!

Beautifully reddish are potatoes
and white as alabaster!
They're light and sweet and easy to cook,
designed for men and women and child
as a fine cure for the stomach.



Call it a Pastet, vol-au-vent, tourte, torta or tortino, it is a puff paste shell filled with a savory meat mixture usually with a sauce. It is against this and other pastries which Claudius sweetly rages. That "windblown" vol-au-vent, that Pastet and the Leckerbrot of which Claudius warns was seen as quite the health threat, much as in today's world the social activist busies himself with all sorts of warnings about one sort of food or another. It seems worrying for others -- what might otherwise be called as being "nosy" -- has long been the province of men, from then until now. Alas for such health concerns, pâtés are happily still with us centuries later.


In the last line of the poem, Matthias Claudius employs a word from a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Magenpflaster, which one does not find in use in modern German. The reference is charming, for the notion that the "old ways" are best is reflected in this strange little poem. Not rich food, but plain, is prescribed, and there is some antipathy to the haute cuisine which is so corruptibly "French."


For this, the opening is most aggressive, a double forte to attract attention. What then follows is a waltz with that stylish "late" third beat. The vocal line leads over the "oomph pah" accompaniment with its lower and upper neighbor decorations.



The last stanza of the poem becomes the B section in an AABA song form, as the texture changes lightly before a reprise of elements from the opening lines.



The score for Kartoffellied 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.