Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Another Rusalka - Nixe Binsenfuss

Rusalkas exist in Germany too. Nixe Binsenfuß is a poem by Eduard Mörike, set by Hugo Wolf. Mörike's Nixe is a feisty creature. In the middle of a frozen winter night, she's out in the moonlight tending her fish. Note, she's looking after them not hunting them down like fishermen do. They are safe in a casket of Bohemian crystal (ie under thick ice). Arpeggiatos lilt, evoking the sharp frost, the moonlight, the Nixe's light, deft steps.

This Nixe is untamed and untameable. "Komm mir mit deinen Netzen !" she cries to the fisherman, "die will ich schön zerfetzen!" (Come at me with your nets ! But I'll rip them to shreds !". He's just a humble fisherman but he does violence to Nature. His domesticity is an affront to the elemental Nixe, who exists beyond time and boundaries. Nonetheless, being an earth spirit, the Nixe is a nurturer.

Much as she dislikes the fisherman, she feels sorry for his daughter, who is fromm und gut (gentle, good natured, worthy) who wants to marry a nice young hunter (doesn't kill fish). So the Nixe hangs a Hochzeitsstrauß (a wedding wreath) on the house and einen Hecht, von Silber schwer, er stammt von König Artus her, (an icon of a pike in solid silver, that came from the time of King Arthur). "ein Zwergen Goldschmids Meisterstück,
wer's hat, dem bringt es eitel Glück:
er läßt sich schuppen Jahr für Jahr,
da sind's fünfhundert Gröschlein baar."

a masterpiece fashioned by a dwarf (fairy) goldsmith, which has miraculous powers. Year after year it will yield 500 little Groschen, like the scales of a fish. Supernatural magic, possibly not even visible to mortal eyes, but a powerful symbol of protection and good fortune. The maiden may not know but the magic still works. The Nixe is like a secret guardian, who must disappear at cockcrow with the morning dew, but she'll always be present in spirit. Ade, mein Kind! Ade für heut! (Adieu, my child - for today) Like the magic, the piano part wafts mysteriously into the ether.

See the full text HERE Emily Erzust's Lied and Art Song Text site is an essential source, quick link to it here on this blog on the list at right. Click on the photo to enlarge the detail. See the Nixe's alternative world under the waters.

1 comment:

Jessie said...

I'm learning this song at the moment and found this really helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!!