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Educational Events at Wigmore Hall - Mörike Lieder Study Afternoon
Karin Sousa and Roderick Swanston

The Wigmore Hall is presently on a high, with full houses for many evening and lunchtime concerts, and also for daytime educational events, which attract less notice than they deserve.

Mörike Lieder Study Afternoon Wigmore Hall, 10 February

Wolf's Möricke settings were featured at Werner Gura's lunchtime recital, broadcast live on R3, and in the afternoon lectures session (3.30-6, with refreshments at the break - excellent value!) there were two meaty illustrated talks perfectly placed to satisfy listeners at all levels of previous knowledge, a difficult balance to achieve.

Roderick Swanston contrasted song and lieder, the latter distinctive in its role to 'translate' poems - 'positive interference with the words'. Wolf never set poems unless he felt he could improve on settings by his predecessors. His concentrated and intense lieder are 'long pieces that are short' - 'what is going to happen will do so in the next bar', c.p. the longer spans of his hero, Wagner, who was not fashionable in Vienna - wars in the press were fought 'at white heat'. Swanston is a fluent speaker with excellent delivery which carries to the back row, and deservedly a popular lecturer with this audience,

Karin Sousa, in a more academic and well prepared lecture, had contrasted Möricke's geographically restricted life (although he moved his domicile many times, he never left Swabia and Stuttgart was the biggest city he ever visited) with Heine's manifold involvement with affairs and the vigorous cultural politics of the time. She began with an overview of 19th century German history which was marked by fundamental social, economic, scientific and technical changes at an unprecedented speed. Steamships, trains and telegraphy changed the rhythm of life and altered the way time and space were experienced, engendering a naïve belief in progress and material gain on one hand, leaving worries and melancholy on the other. There were two opposite literary movements in Germany, writers, who showed political commitment and turned away from classical and romantic traditions. The so-called Biedermeier authors reacted either with self-resignation or with last ditch attempts to preserve classical traditions and principles.
The "Biedermeier" and "Junges Deutschland" movements characterised opposing attitudes, Mörike and Heine discussed representing contrary examples. Neither Heine nor Mörike felt integrated in society.

Heine's defiant self-assertion let him dare to live the life of an independent writer at a very early stage of his career, in contrast to Mörike, who, for many years wavered between his theologian profession and his poetic vocation. Mörike's biography appears as a chain of failed attempts to earn a daily living with his literary works, and, already in his early twenties, he was conscious of the fact - quote: "that I am not suitable for the culture industry, even less than all my friends". He was a very modest poet who, at least in the beginning, had serious doubts about his poetic talent.

Mörike tried to avoid political involvement throughout his entire life and has been described as a person who was constantly fleeing; into himself, into his fantasies, into his art and into his illness. It can be seen as an act of expatriation from a world which the artist could not and did not want to understand any more. He justified cutting himself off from the world differently: "… it is the rareness of certain phenomena that increases our awareness. ... Only a few strong impressions from the outside are necessary, which we have to assimilate in a quiet, modest corner; ... the main impulse has yet to come from the depth of our own heart".

Karin Sousa told us that no book about Moricke's poetry had been published for thirty years, and both speakers emphasised that this is a poet ripe for re-appraisal. She ended with fascinating analyses of Gesang Weylas, Denk es, o Seele!, Begegnung, Der Gartner and the Peregrina-Cycle, illustrated by recordings (mostly by Joan Rodgers), and highlighted different subtleties of emphasis reflected in the songs on a projection screen. For the full text of this fascinating lecture, enquiries to Karin Sousa.

Peter Grahame Woolf

© Peter Grahame Woolf