Kein Elend


Kein Elend -  (1990)      

Johann Wolfgang Goethe

for soprano and piano

Ruth Floeren gewidmet

Feiger Gedanken, bängliches Schwanken,
Weibisches Zagen, ängstliches Klagen,
Wendet kein Elend, macht dich nicht frei.
Allen Gewalten zum Trotz sich erhalten,
Nimmer sich beugen, kräftig sich zeigen,
Rufet die Arme der Götter herbei.

6 pages, circa 2' 45"

Johann Wolfgang Goethe


Along with the small song cycle, Goethe-lieder, and Talent, this short epigram is a side of Goethe not known to many. Along with his world famous dramatic works, he penned many short works, some with only two lines.


Cowardly thoughts, timid wavering,
Effeminate hesitation, fearful lamentation,
These turn away no misery, nor make one free.
Preserve yourself defiantly against all forces,
Never bow, but show yourself powerful,
And call for aid from the arms of the gods.


(translation with the kind assistance of Michael Lindner)



As Ruth Floeren had sung a fine Elizabeth in Tannhäuser and showed her top range to advantage, I thought to set this text with a hard edge and with a top B natural, as that role demanded as well. Goethe's sentiment condemns such "cowardly thoughts" as one often sees in any time and every place, and so the musical setting had to reflect a contempt for such "lady-like" sentimentality, in favor of an aggressive yet positive and forceful reading of the text. Therefore the full chords is measures 12-15, for example, are the anti-sentiment to the sentimental and the aggressive set against this litany of weaknesses.




The antidote to cowardly sentiment is recommended by Goethe therein, and so this was set with an only slightly more lyrical texture, though wholly related to the opening gestures. To "never bow" to weakness is the advice, and while stern it is also sweet, for freedom is the irritant to totalitarians but the ultimate answer to the "poor."




The score 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.


Kein Elend