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"Three Heine Songs"

Title Three Heine Songs
ComposerF.G.J. Absil (Lyrics: H. Heine)
Instrum.Mixed Choir (6 part)
Date5 July 2004
Duration1. 4'10 / 2. 3'30 / 3. 2'40 / Total: 10'20
Style1. Sad / 2. Solemn / 3. Cheerful
Key1. Dm / 2. C Dorian / 3. D Augmented (various modes)
Tempo1. 80 / 2. 160 / 3. 164 BPM


A musical score excerpt
  • Mixed Choir: Soprano 1, Soprano 2, Alto, Tenor, Baritone, Bass.


The Three Heine Songs are composed for mixed choir (6 parts). The lyrics are based on three poems from Heinrich Heines series Neue Gedichte - Romanzen, published in 1844. The harmonic setting is tonal-modal with extended harmonies; there are frequent meter changes and modulations. Vocal ranges are kept within bounds for intermediate level choirs; a strong deep bass voice will certainly be of good use in these songs.

1. Klagelied eines altdeutschen Jünglings (141 mm, 4'10, 4/4, 80 BPM)

The story of a sad young man, who gets carried away by his friends. After a good night of gambling, losing money, drinking and having fun with the babes, he finds himself the next morning on the Kassel police station. A typical case of 19th century hooliganism.

Musically, there is frequent use of a symmetric 9-pitch scale, used for both melodies and harmonies. The chaos of the festive night is expressed in intertwining voices (counterpoint, imitation), frequent meter changes and weird melodic skips.

2. Die Beschwörung (160 mm, 3'30, 3/4, 160 BPM)

A song about a young monk who has a slight mental or motivation problem. In a weak, midnight moment he calls for the corpse of a beautiful young woman to be revived for him. His wish is fulfilled, but upon her appearance they find themselves uncapable of communicating. May seem familiar to some of you who have ever tried to have a good conversation in a disco.

Musically, there is some ancient music tricks (parallel 4ths and 5ths) suggesting the monastery mood, interlaced with angelic female comments. When the midnight clock strikes 12, we hear a Bb-pedal combined with haunting dissonance. As the atmosphere gets more spooky, there is bi-tonality (chords in 4ths in both Bb minor for male and F# minor for female voices), with more intense dissonant clashes. The song dies out in a soft unisono, illustrating the falling silent of the two solitary souls.

3. Frühling (110 mm, 2'40, 2/2, 164 BPM)

All is well; in the spring season a young sheperdess is weaving flower garlands by the riverside, hoping to soon lasso a lost lad. Unfortunately, an arrogant guy on horseback passes by, not catching the general mood. The frustrated girl throws the garlands in the water and sneers about falling in love so easily in spring.

Musically, the cheerful spring season and the flowing of the river is supported by the augmented scale and the meandering of the inner voices. A homophonic forte is used to underpin the returning phrase about the springtime romantic potential. The song gets a horse-riding setting as the knight on horseback appears, with dissonants expressing the disappointment. There is rapid change between the augmented (major) scale and the Phrygian (minor) mode. The concluding springtime love statement combines both modes as extended chords, giving a wry flavour to the positive lyrics.