Friday, 30 October 2009

Hexen for Halloween

Ein schwarzer Bock,
Ein Besenstock,
Die Ofengabel, der Wocken
Reißt uns geschwind,
Wie Blitz und Wind,
Durch sausende Lüfte zum Brocken!

Um Beelzebub
Tanzt unser Trupp
Und küßt ihm die kralligen Hände!
Ein Geisterschwarm
Faßt uns beim Arm
Und schwinget im Tanzen die Brände!

(A black goat, a besom broom, an oven spade, a pitchfork, rip us along with lightning and wind, thru the turbulent air to the Brocken (mountain where witches hang out). Round Beelzebub we dance and kiss his claw-like hands. Arm in arm with a swarm of ghosts we brandish torches of fire!)

Strictly speaking this song, Hexenlied, isn't about Halloween in the Anglo-Saxon sense, but it refers to Walpurgisnacht, in the German Saxon sense. On Walpurgisnacht, the night before May 1st, the Devil gathers the witches for a wild party before the coming of Spring when their powers temporarily wane. That's why the song is also called Anderes Mailied, "alternative May song". Here it's sung with great frisson by Peter Schreier, recorded around 1973. Who says Mendelssohn can't write wild and spooky? See HERE for more clips from Schreier's recording with Walter Olbertz. Even after all these years it's my top Mendelssohn song recommendation because it's so lively and animated. It was re-released earlier this year as a boxed set with discussion. There is another Schreier Mendelssohn set with Karl Engel, which is more mellow, but I like Olbertz better because it's so vivid. This is the classic, leagues ahead of anyone else.

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