Congratulations on a marvelous start to the term, singers!
There were already some beautiful moments, as we began to sense the richness of Brahms's writing: and it can only get better from here!
In these first weeks, my columns will be devoted to a rather rough, home-made pronunciation guide to the movements. I certainly know how daunting it is to approach German for the first time, but also how satisfying it is to sing on so many levels.
Please, I urge you, invest in a fine-line (red?) sharpie, so that you can carefully place the "correct!" consonant above the ones in print! You'll never be sorry if you take the time now, as we begin, and certainly it will save a lot of correction down the road.
So here we go with the 4th movement:
[NOTE: THERE'S REALLY NO PHONICALLY CLEARWAY TO REPRESENT THE "ch" SOUND THAT WE WORKED ON, SO I'M GOING TO JUST SAY "CAT" AND YOU'LL KNOW WHAT I MEAN!
IT'S PUSHED AIR ACROSS THE ROOF OF YOUR MOUTH.]
Vee leeblee(cat) zint dinah Vohnoongun,
Mynah zayluh fair-long-et ooont zaynut
zee(cat) nah(cat) dane For-hoef-fen des heh(r)n.
Mine Lype oont Zayluh froyen zee(cat)
in dameluh-ben-dee-gun Gott.
vole daynun, dee in dynum Howzuh vohnun,
dee lowbun dee(cat) immuuh dah(r)!
Vee leeblee(cat).... etc etc etc
The two other sounds I can't do well with this method are the umlaut (two dots above a vowel) and the schwa, for which I will give you the symbol. I often showed it as "uh" above, but that's too specific a sound! Don't get hooked on that, since i'll be having you indicate it every single time that un-colored, unstressed vowel occurs.
Crazy, isn't it? But because it's absolutely consistent, and we must absolutely represent every letter (Yes!), and because all consonants must be forward, German is far easier than French or even English.
One huge benefit and bonus to our work with German, quite apart from the luxury of singing Brahms, will be the way it will teach us to notice things: which consonants have pitch, the exact sound of a vowel when preceded by a tongue-onto- front -teeth "L", the way the rhythm is clarified when every consonant is sounded. It's transformative!
Once your 4th movement is marked (before Tuesday), practice speaking the phrases, pulling the words in a forward line. This movement is smooth and elegant until m.124, until we alternately dance and become major brass statements.
The text is key to the mood!
Next week's focus: Movement Two,
Can't wait to see and hear you next Tuesday!