Wohl bete ich - (2015)
Bertram Kottmann, after Emily Dickinson
for medium voice and piano
Wohl bete ich -
Hat’s Gott berührt?
So viel, als wenn ein Vöglein würd'
- aufstampfen - in der Luft
und schrein „Mehr noch“ -
Mein Grund - ich würd'
gewiss nicht da sein - ohne Dich -
verbliebt' ich in Atomes Schoß -
im frohen Nichts, empfindungslos,
als tragen dieses Joch.
Copyright © Bertram Kottmann Used with permission
2 pages, circa 2' 10"
Of Course – I prayed –
And did God Care?
He cared as much as on the Air
A Bird – had stamped her foot –
And cried ‘Give Me’ –
My Reason – Life –
I had not had – but for Yourself –
’Twere better Charity
To leave me in the Atom’s Tomb –
Merry, and nought, and gay, an numb –
Than this smart Misery.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Bertram Kottmann has made this German language interpretation of Dickinson's text above. In his reinterpretation and use of language, a setting came to mind of a simple repetition with small changes in harmonic implications. The notion of her seeming irreligious stance is unsubtle, for she also wrote ""Some keep the Sabbath going to church / I keep it staying at home."
As with many other instances in the last centuries, anger with or at God has driven various expressions, such as the angry "bet din" sometimes enacted after the Holocaust of the 2oth century. But it echoes also a Christian theme which bespeaks Dickinson's cultural surroundings and religious universe, when one considers the very Christian question, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" A "smart misery" is the lot of mankind, which Kottmann translates as that yoke which might also imply a yoke of tyranny. That existential Angst has considered its own potential meaninglessness is another expression of such a questioning sentiment. For this, in the setting, I chose to end with the repetition of the first line, "wohl bete ich." Of course, I prayed.
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.
Wohl bete ich