When I lived in Germany, I sang with the Rhineland Pfalz International Choir (second soprano). Lately, I’ve been thinking about a song we performed called In Stiller Nacht (In the Silent Night). Although the title is similar to Silent Night (Stille Nacht) this song is one of the german folk songs that Brahms set to music.
I was told that the song was originally a poem which was written during the reformation in Germany by a an individual who was going to be executed the following morning. This is what he wrote in the still of the evening. It’s so very sad and yet, if you listen there is an incredible majesty and sense of longing in this song.
In stiller Nacht zur ersten Wacht
ein Stimm beginnt zu klagen
der nächt’ge Wind hat leis und lind
zu mir den Klang getragen.
Von herbem Leid und Traurigkeit
ist mir das Herz zerflossen.
mit Tränen mein
hab ich sie all begossen.
Der schöne Mond will untergeh’n
dem Leid nicht mehr mag scheinen.
Die Sterne fein im Glitzerschein
mit mir sie wollen weinen.
Kein Vogelsang noch Freudenklang
man höret in den Lüften.
Die wilden Tier’ trauern auch mit mir
in Steinen und in Klüften.
My sister posted the following translation:
In the quiet night, at the first watch,
a voice began to lament;
sweetly and gently, the night wind
carried to me its sound.
And from such bitter sorrow and grief
my heart has melted.
The little flowers – with my pure tears
I have watered them all.
The beautiful moon wishes to set
out of pain, and never shine again;
the stars will let fade their gleam
for they wish to weep with me.
Neither bird-song nor sound of joy
can one hear in the air;
the wild animals grieve with me as well,
upon the rocks and in the ravine
Here is the youtube I found of the performance. It’s a home-grown video so there is some background noise, but it’s beautiful and very heartfelt and moving. There are other verisions on youtube, but most the american ones don’t understand the context of the song and they really rush through it as a result.