Marie-Nicole Lemieux touches my heart with Mahler

One of my mp3 file folders is labelled “Requiem for a Drama Queen (me)”. In it are no less than 23 pieces of music, orchestral and vocal, I would like playing in the background at whatever reception may follow my memorial service, the date of which of course has not been determined. I will not list the 23 here but two of them I heard Thursday.

Québec contralto extraordinaire Marie-Nicole Lemieux appeared last evening with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on the second night of its season-launching Beethoven and Mahler festival. Ms. Lemieux warmly interpreted Gustav Mahler’s Rückert Lieder – five poems of German author Friedrich Rückert set to Mahler’s music.

Two of the five songs were particularly meaningful to me – Um Mitternacht (At midnight) and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I have lost touch with the world). The sentiments I have shared at times, like Mahler and/or Rückert, either in the midst of depression or illness or both.

Here are the translations. (Ms. Lemieux sang in the original German):

At midnight
I awoke
and looked up at the sky.
Not a star in the galaxy
Smiled at me
At midnight.

At midnight
My thought went out
To the limits of darkness.
There was no thought of light
To bring me comfort
At midnight.

At midnight
I paid heed
to the beating of my heart.
One single pulse of pain
caught fire
at midnight.

At midnight
I fought the fight,
Oh humanity, of your sorrows.
I could not decide it
For all my power
At midnight.

At midnight
I gave my power
Into Your hands.
Lord! Over life and death
You keep guard
At midnight!

I have lost touch with the world,
with which I used to waste much time;
it has heard nothing of me for so long,
it may well think I am dead!
And for me it is of no concern at all
if it treats me as dead.
Nor can I say anything at all against it,
for in truth I am dead to the world.
I am dead to the hurly-burly of the world,
and repose in a place of quietness!
I live alone in my heaven,
In my loving, in my song!

Ms. Lemieux sang from her heart and, as the music mixed with her voice (particularly in the latter song), I could not deny myself a teary eye. That’s what live music is meant to do! Thank you Marie-Nicole Lemieux and the Toronto Symphony!



2 thoughts on “Marie-Nicole Lemieux touches my heart with Mahler

  1. Aaron

    Hi there, it’s Aaron in Vancouver. I am a huge fan of Mahler and I really love Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen from the Ruckert lieder. What do you think of Ferrier’s version, do you have a favorite recorded version? Regards, Aaron.

  2. Kenn Chaplin

    Hi Aaron,

    Great to hear from you. Kathleen Ferrier is difficult to top, isn’t she? The only other recording of the Ruckert lieder I have is one from 2003 by Violeta Urmana with the Vienna Philharmonic.

    (Update: I’ve just bought a recording by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau which is fantastic in its simplicity – his rich voice with just piano accompaniment.)

    Thursday was the first time I had ever heard them performed live which was, partly, what endeared me so much to Marie-Nicole Lemieux. (The experience would have been richer, admittedly, had the orchestra only held back a little. Ms.Lemieux needed no help with the dynamics!)

    I, too, am a great fan of Mahler. His struggles seem to be so beautifully captured in his music.


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