Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


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 sänge
Zur schönen Maienzeit.

Der Kuckuck sprach: "Das kann ich!"
Und hub gleich an zu schrein.
"Ich aber kann es besser!"
Fiel gleich der Esel ein.

Das klang so schön und lieblich,
So schön von fern und nah;
Sie sangen alle beide:
Kuku kuku, ia!

[ 3 pages, circa 1' 30" ]


The Contest


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 original.



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.