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Song Beyond the NationTranslation, Transnationalism, Performance$
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Philip Ross Bullock and Laura Tunbridge

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197267196

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197267196.001.0001

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Szymanowski, a Hafiz ‘Grablied’, and the ‘Translation’ of Nietzsche

Szymanowski, a Hafiz ‘Grablied’, and the ‘Translation’ of Nietzsche

(p.30) 2 Szymanowski, a Hafiz ‘Grablied’, and the ‘Translation’ of Nietzsche
Song Beyond the Nation

Stephen Downes

British Academy

Szymanowski’s two cycles of ‘Love Songs of Hafiz’ (1911 and 1914), settings of paraphrases by Hans Bethge, are often considered crucial steps in the composer’s shift from a style which openly displays its debts to Wagner and Strauss to a more personal idiom. He discovered Bethge’s Hafiz while tiring of the Straussian idiom but remaining an enthusiastic Nietzschean. Bethge’s translations of Hafiz offered Szymanowski a seductive vehicle for ‘translating’ what he wished to preserve of Nietzsche into the spirit of his new compositional style. The ‘Grablied’ was a particularly important idea in this creative re-thinking. In Nietzsche’s Zarathustra the ‘Grablied’ has a crucial function in overcoming past seductions (Wagner) and present enemies. Bethge’s poem, ‘Das Grab des Hafis’ is replete with echoes of Nietzsche. Szymanowski’s setting (1914), in the same key (B minor) as Strauss’s Zarathustra ‘Grablied’, introduces an ‘Urmotiv’ of exotic cut, as the musical equivalent of perfume rising from the grave. It offers distance from the style of Austro-German modernism while retaining transformed traces of its legacy. In this song Szymanowski ‘translates’ his ‘German’ musical idiom and key aspects of the Nietzschean ‘Grablied’ into a new language evocative of ‘Persian’ regeneration.

Keywords:   Szymanowski, Nietzsche, Bethge, Hafiz, Grablied

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