A Small Tour of the Website

Welcome! The first pages you might encounter while exploring our collection are the indexes by composer or text author.

Every composer has a dedicated page, for example, here is Franz Peter Schubert's composer page. Many composer pages can be viewed alphabetically or by opus or catalog.

Every author of textual material has a dedicated page as well, for example, here is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's author page. On author pages, you can look up texts by title and first line.

You can also search for words or phrases, search by composer or author surname, or search by title or first line.

The links on all these pages will bring you to the texts that have been set to music. Here are some examples:

When viewing a text, you can often see links to translations in different languages that look like this: ENG. If you scroll down further, below the text you can often find footnotes, tidbits of our research, and then a list of the musical settings we have found of the text. These might be art songs, choral works, symphonic works, oratorios, stage works, or other kinds of pieces. Whenever possible we include information about when the piece was written or published, and its instrumentation.

Sung texts can be gathered into groups such as song cycles, for example, Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, with texts by Wilhelm Müller, can be found here.

Translations can be gathered into groups for a song cycle or similar collection, for example, an English translation of Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin, titled "The fair miller-maid", can be found here.

You can also view the groups of texts determined by the publishers of the poems as stand-alone works, for example, Heine's collection Lyrisches Intermezzo in Buch der Lieder.

Special Features

As you explore our holdings, you might see texts with copious footnotes, alternative versions of the same poem, texts marked as adaptations or variants, singable translations that depart starkly from the literal meaning of their originals, single vocal pieces made up of more than one poem, pieces that omit stanzas of a poem or even rearrange them, and translations of translations that have returned to the original language but are surprisingly different from the original poem.

Below we showcase some of the fascinating relationships between Texts, Settings, and Translations, and how they are represented on the website.

  • Many titles. When the author of a text chooses one title and a composer who sets the text to music chooses another title, the headline shown at the top becomes the italicized first line. The various titles can then be seen below the text, next to the author and the composer name(s).

    When possible, we show translated titles in the footnote area of a given translation, for example in this translation to German of a poem by John Keats.

  • Textual variations. Composers often make changes to a text they are setting to music. When possible, we show the differences between the poem as originally published and the text as sung (except for simple repetitions of phrases or additions of "oh!"), with the alterations made by composers appearing as footnotes. Red and green labels beside the author and composer names indicate whether the source material was verified yet. You can read more about how this works here.

    In this text by Hermann Hesse set by Immo Schneider, two changes can be seen. When possible, we add notes about how each translation might be affected by these small changes.

    Here is another example with many footnotes: a text by Gottfried August Bürger set by many composers. Not all of the settings have yet been checked against the original.

  • Selections. Sometimes only a part of a poem will be set to music, for example, this text by Esaias Tegnér set by Bernhard Crusell, which uses only two stanzas. When we view the entire song cycle, of which this is the third selection, the extra stanzas are omitted.

    This particular text has also been translated into German and English, several stanzas of which (not the same stanzas as Crusell) were set to music by Maude Valérie White. On this page we can see the texts laid out in parallel, with the German on the right and the Swedish on the left; and on this page we can see the English laid out in parallel with the German on the left.

    Stanzas may also be re-ordered in their song-cycle presentation, as can be seen in Clara Schumann's setting "Geheimes Flüstern hier und dort", whose stanzas are visually re-ordered in the song-cycle view in the third selection.

  • Vocal pieces made up of multiple texts. Sometimes one vocal piece is made up of more than one stand-alone poem, or parts of different poems. For example, Franz Schubert's Der Hirt auf dem Felsen is made up of four of the ten stanzas of a poem by Wilhelm Müller titled "Der Berghirt", two stanzas by Wilhelmina Christiane von Chézy, and a final stanza adapted from the second stanza of a different poem by Wilhelm Müller titled "Liebesgedanken".

    Anton Rubinstein's Gott hieß die Sonne glühen is taken from two separate poems, each of which has been set many times by other composers: Gott hieß die Sonne glühen and Und was die Sonne glüht.

    These multi-text settings may also be included in a song cycle, for example, "In Erwartung des Freundes", the third selection of Anna Hegeler's Vier Lieder nach chinesischen Texten.

  • Adaptations. Sometimes a composer makes changes that are too numerous to list as footnotes, for example, part of the sixth selection from Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. This text is an adaptation of Hans Bethge's Der Abschied des Freundes, with changes to almost every line.

  • Settings published in many languages. Sometimes a vocal piece is published with a singable translation embedded in the score. We include these alongside regular translations but also add beside the composer's name a link to show that a text is, for example, "also set in Russian", as we saw at the top of the page in Gott hieß die Sonne glühen. We can also see the link in this view of the first poem.

    A list of language abbreviations can be found here.

  • Alternate versions. If different versions of a text were published as stand-alone poems, the texts will appear as alternate versions as opposed to adaptations. For example, Pushkin published two versions of the poem "Роза" (often transliterated, "Roza"). Mikhail Glinka set the first version, and Nikolai Medtner set the second version, with some additional changes shown as footnotes.

    As another example of alternate versions, in trying to locate and verify the source text for Mathilde de Rothschild's setting Ein Herz in mir!, we found two possible candidates had been published, neither of which was an exact match: Das Herz in mir and Mein Herz in mir.

  • Translations: there and back again. Sometimes a text will be translated and set to music in translation, but because the translation is loose, we will include a translation back to the original language to show how it has changed. For example, Wilhelm Gerhard's translation of Robert Burns's "My Heart's in the Highlands" attempts to follow the rhythm and rhyme-scheme of the original, losing some literal meaning along the way, as we can see in the second line, where "a-chasing the deer" becomes "in Waldes Revier". The translation of the German to a more literal English, therefore, is included here for comparison, and that section of the line is translated "on the forested hunting-grounds".

    Jean de La Fontaine's La cigale et la fourmi, itself an adaptation of a famous fable by Aesop often titled "The grasshopper and the ant", was adapted by Ivan Krylov into a slightly longer poem titled Стрекоза и Муравей, or "The dragonfly and the ant". Its re-translation back to French shows many changes.

Page created: 2016-02-27. Last updated: 2019-12-26.