An Earth Day tribute to Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier

Kathleen Ferrier

In addition to being Earth Day, April 22nd is also the birthday of the great English contralto Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953). I can’t think of a more fitting tribute for both events than these two selections from her stunning 1952 studio recording (Decca 466 576-2) of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth), with Bruno Walter conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.


The Solitary One in Autumn
Blue autumn mists undulate over the lake;
the grass is standing stiff with frost;
One might think an artist had strewn jade dust
over all the fine blossoms.

The sweet fragrance of flowers has flown away;
a cold wind forces them to bow their stems low.
Soon the wilted golden leaves
of lotus flowers will drift upon the water.

My heart is weary. My small lamp
has gone out with a splutter;
it reminds me of sleep.
I am coming to you, comfort place of rest!
Yes, give me rest - I have need of rejuvenation.

I weep much in my solitude.
The autumn in my heart has lasted too long.
Sun of love, will you never shine again,
gently to dry my bitter tears?
(English translation by Emily Ezust)

Das Lied von der Erde – “Der Einsame in Herbst


Of Beauty
Young maidens pick flowers,
pick lotus flowers at the edge of th shore.
Among bushes and leaves they sit,
Gathering blossoms in their laps and calling
to one another teasingly.

Golden sunlight weaves among the figures,
mirroring them in the shiny water.
The sun reflects their slender limbs,
their sweet eyes,
and the zephyr lifts caressingly
the fabric of their sleeves, wafting the magic
of their fragrance through the air.

O see the handsome young men galloping
there along the shore on their lively horses,
glittering like sunbeams;
already among the branches of the green willows,
the fresh-faced young men are approaching!
The trotting horse of one whinnies merrily
and shies and canters away;
over flowers and grass, hooves are flying,
trampling up a storm of fallen blossoms.
Ah, how wildly its mane flutters,
how hotly its nostrils flare!
The golden sun weaves among the figures,
mirroring them in the shiny water.

And the fairest of the young women sends
a long, yearning gaze after him.
Her proud appearance is only a pretense.
In the flash of her large eyes,
in the darkness of her ardent glance,
the agitation of her heart leaps after him, lamenting.
(English translation by Emily Ezust)

“Von der Schönheit”


1 Comment

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One response to “An Earth Day tribute to Kathleen Ferrier

  1. sleeplessinseattle

    Thanks Bobo — I love that recording and I’m embarrassed to say I don’t own it. So nu?

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