Tag Archives: Robert Schumann

Recordings of rarely-heard Thomas Moore part 1

Project ERIN has published forty-one podcasts of individual pieces of music, music either set to words by Thomas Moore or inspired by his work in some way. Today we will introduce the first set within these podcasts, which were taken from a student-based project for the Queen’s University Belfast BMUS module ‘A Night at the Opera’ in spring 2017. Since this was the bicentenary of Moore’s Lalla Rookh, it was decided to recreate this tale through a mixture of narration (written and delivered by the students themselves) and a selection of music, ranging from domestic songs dating from as early as 1818 to the 1893 version of a grand opera. The students provided their own arrangements to these works, sometimes adding an obbligato instrument to a song originally conceived for voice and piano only, sometimes working as a small chamber group to perform a piece originally conceived for orchestra.

Feramorz singing to Lalla Rookh, as drawn by John Tenniel

Our programme opened with the “Slow March” from Frederic Clay’s cantata Lalla Rookh – originally written for the Brighton Festival of 1877. We used our arrangement of this as an atmospheric piece that recurred to suggest ‘travel’ from one section of Moore’s work to the next. We then followed the structure of Moore’s tale, drawing on Clay again for the song “Princess thy royal father”, sung by Lalla Rookh’s officious chaperone Fadladeen as he supervises that princess’s reluctant wedding journey to meet a groom she has never met. Said groom has disguised himself as the poet Feramorz so he can join Lalla Rookh’s train and court his bride; we recorded the runaway hit of Clay’s cantata, “I’ll sing thee songs of Araby” as the poet’s first – and successful – attempt to intrigue his betrothed. Prior to this, we hear Lalla’s expression of restlessness and lack of fulfilment in “Sous le feuillage” from Félicien David’s opera comique Lalla Roukh (Paris, 1862).This highly popular work travelled across the theatres of Europe, and did much to circulate Moore’s tale to new audiences (for further see project ERIN’s OMEKA exhibit, ‘The tales and travels of Lalla Rookh, at http://omeka.qub.ac.uk/exhibits/show/tales-travels-lalla-rookh/.)

Zelica sings ‘Bendermeer’s Stream’ to Azim, as drawn by John Tenniel

‘The Veiled Prophet of Khorassan’ is the first poetic tale that Feramorz sings to Lalla Rookh in Moore’s original. This dark story of a cult built around a false prophet does not seem to have inspired any domestic songs or cantatas for amateur choral societies to enjoy, but it did stimulate the Irish composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford to write a grand opera derived from Moore’s work. Within this tale we find ‘Bendemeer’s Stream’ – a mournful reminiscence sung by the prophet’s concubine Zelica to her former lover Azim – from Stanford’s second adaptation of his own work as Il profeta valeto (London, 1983). We offer a unique arrangement of this song for soprano, piano, and obbligato clarinet.

Peri with dead lovers, lithograph by Owen Jones and Henry Warren

Feramorz’s second tale for Lalla Rookh was ‘Paradise and the Peri’, a lighter but still poignant story of a fallen Persian angel whose desire to enter heaven obliged her to find ‘that perfect gift’. This resulted in the Peri undertaking three quests, from which she brings back: a drop of blood (from a hero), a sigh (from a dying lover), and a tear (from a repentant sinner). We chose music to mark the three recurring actions of this story. Each quest starts with the Peri waiting at the gate of heaven, for which we recorded an arrangement of “Vor Eden’s Thor” from Robert Schumann’s ‘poem in music’ Das Paradies und die Peri (1843). The guardian angel’s repeated refusal to give the Peri entrance is captured by “’Sweet’, said the Angel” from John Francis Barnett’s cantata Paradise and the Peri (Birmingham, 1870). An expression of the Peri’s dashed hopes we also took from Barnett, “But ah! Even Peri’s hopes are vain”. We returned to Schumann for an atmospheric chorus of Arabian maidens, “Schmucket die Stufen”. We concluded our adaptation of this tale with John Clarke Whitfield’s  “Joy, joy forever!”, which the Peri sings as Heaven’s gate is finally opened for her. This was taken from his cantata for soprano,  The Peri Pardoned; this was published by Moore’s regular music publisher James Power in 1818.

Lalla Rookh by Kenny Meadows

Recordings of all the pieces mentioned above can be found at: http://www.erin.qub.ac.uk/podcasts/. Copies of all the images, with full metadata, can be found at http://omeka.qub.ac.uk/collections/show/15.

Music credits: Oscar Aiken (arranger); Megan Boyd (piano); Courtney Burns (soprano); Ellen Campbell (soprano); Matthew Campbell (tenor); Sarah Coulter (mezzo); Galina Crothers (piano); Jenny Garrett (piano); Ciara Jackson (flute); Jason Jackson (recording engineer); Linzi Jones (violin); Alison Montgomery (piano); Gerard Mullaly (clarinet); Daniel Steele (baritone); Poppy Wheeler (arranger, bassoon, flute).

Part 2 of this blog series will cover the pieces this ensemble recorded from Moore’s ‘The Fire-worshippers’, ‘The Light of the Harem’, and also from the conclusion of Lalla Rookh’s wedding journey.

Robert Schumann’s Das Paradies und die Peri and its early Performances


Guest contributor Conor Browne

Romantic era composer Robert Schumann (1810- 1856) is most likely to be known his numerous lieder. His great interest in literature led him to read Moore’s story of Lalla Rookh. Schumann first came across Moore’s poem in the early 1840s. In a  diary shared with his wife, Clara, he declared “Thomas Moore’s Paradise and the Peri has just been making me very happy” (translated Litzmann, p. 328). Schumann then continues by claiming that “something good in the way of music might be made of it”, showing his initial excitement at this prospect. Inspired by Moore, Schumann began to develop his oratorio, Das Paradies und die Peri, with a sustained composition period in the early months of 1843. He wrote this beautiful music in his spare time, as he had a full teaching schedule at the Leipzig conservatory with over 40 pupils. The diary entries are the perfect insight to Schumann’s progress through Clara’s reaction to each new piece of music that he wrote. “The music is as heavenly as the text; what a wealth of feeling and poetry there is in it!” (Litzmann, p. 350) . It is clear that Clara enjoyed the music of her spouse.

For those who may not know the story behind the work, it is this. A Peri, (an angel  from Persian mythology) is expelled from paradise. She  is told that in order to regain entrance she must bring a gift that is most dear to heaven. The Peri ponders what this could be and makes attempts to bring various gifts. First she brought the last drop of blood from a fallen young hero who died in battle. This was not enough. After this she journeys to Egypt where she acquires the last loving sigh of a lover who died from disease. Again, this was not enough. Eventually she comes across a repentant old sinner who witnesses a young boy praying. She takes a tear from the old man’s face and brings this gift to the gates of paradise. The gates flew open to receive this gift, admitting the Peri once more. It is a rather sweet fairy tale with morality being the core message. Repentance is the greatest gift.

The oratorio premiered in Leipzig on 4th December 1843 and evidently was a rousing success as several  repeat performances followed, including  Dresden on the 23rd of December and Berlin early the following year.  Clara’s diary also records some of the early performance issues that nearly frustrated the work’s premiere, including singers unable to handle the more technically demanding parts. Yet the first audience was attentive , and the press positive. However “Lalla Rookh” was being performed in Germany much before this. Gaspare Spontini wrote a series of tableaux vivant on “Lalla Rookh” for the Berlin royal court in 1821. Furthermore, a translation of “Lalla Rookh” was published in 1839 by the Leipzig-based publisher Bernhard Tauchnitz, so it is quite possible that it was through this  that Schumann first became inspired.

The Musical Times contains an article by George Grove which shows a letter written by Felix Mendelssohn in 1844, praising the work of his friend Schumann, in a bid to persuade Ewer and Co. of London to publish the oratorio. “It is a worthy musical translation of that beautiful inspiration of your great poet, Moore” (716). Even though no immediate action was taken, word of Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri eventually spread, so much so that it had made waves across the Atlantic. Clara records that the American Musical Institute in New York was preparing it for performance in late 1847. By 1854 it had premiered back in Ireland at Great Brunswick Street, Dublin in a performance  of the Royal Choral Institute conducted by John William Glover. According to Freeman’s Journal the music had been re-adapted to Moore’s original poem for the purpose of this performance. As Thomas Moore was from Dublin himself, we can be sure that “Lalla Rookh” and the tale of Paradise and the Peri would already have been well known in in his home city. The Peri premiered in England in June 1856. That performance was given by the Philharmonic Society for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. By 1869 Victor Wilder translated the work into an opera libretto titled Le Paradis et la Péri, performed in Paris at the Théatre impérial italien. These performances not only show just how successful the work was, but that  it changed and evolved from performance to performance, and even inspired new works, breathing new life into Thomas Moore’s beautiful poetry.

The image  shows the beautifully ornate cover page of “Lalla Rookh”, as illustrated by John Tenniel. The Peri is depicted on the cover leaning  across the two lovers’ bodies as she takes the last sigh. Image courtesy of Special Collections, McClay Library, Queen’s University Belfast.

Works Cited
Grove, George – “Schumann’s Music in England” – Musical Times 47.753 (1905): 716-718. JSTOR.
Litzmann, Berthold – Clara Schumann: An artist’s life, based on materials found in diaries and letters, translated by Grace E. Hadow. 1913. Cambridge University Press, 2014. E-book.