Wrecked! – 30/06/21

To listen press on the audio player below
(you can also download the file –
click on the three dots on the right):


Ravel‘s Une barque sur l’océan in the original piano version and then in the composer’s own orchestration. It’s interesting to compare them:


Three Shakespearean shipwrecks, by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius & Adès:


Whales. Alan Hovhaness and Toru Takemitsu; two very different sound portraits:

I. The Night
II. Moby Dick
III. Cape Cod


Hector Berlioz and Théophile Gautier invite a pretty young woman to join them on a sea trip:

L’île inconnue
Théophile Gautier

Dites, la jeune belle,
Où voulez-vous aller?
La voile ouvre son aile,
La brise va souffler!

L’aviron est d’ivoire,
Le pavillon de moire,
Le gouvernail d’or fin;
J’ai pour lest une orange,
Pour voile une aile d’ange,
Pour mousse un séraphin.

Dites, le jeune belle,
Où voulez-vous aller?
La voile ouvre son aile,
La brise va souffler!

Est-ce dans la Baltique
Dans la mer Pacifique,
Dans l’île de Java?
Ou bien est-ce en Norvège,
Cueillir la fleur de neige
Ou la fleur d’Angsoka?

Dites, le jeune belle,
Où voulez-vous aller?

Menez-moi, dit la belle,
À la rive fidèle
Où l’on aime toujours.–
Cette rive, ma chère,
On ne la connaît guère
Au pays des amours.

Où voulez-vous aller?
La brise va souffler.

The unknowable isle
English Translation © Richard Stokes

Tell me, pretty young maid,
Where is it you would go?
The sail is billowing,
The breeze about to blow!

The oar is of ivory,
The pennant of watered silk,
The rudder of finest gold;
For ballast I’ve an orange,
For sail an angel’s wing,
For cabin-boy a seraph.

Tell me, pretty young maid,
Where is it you would go?
The sail is billowing,
The breeze about to blow!

Perhaps the Baltic,
Or the Pacific
Or the Isle of Java?
Or else to Norway,
To pluck the snow flower
Or the flower of Angsoka?

Tell me, pretty young maid,
Where is it you would go?

Take me, said the pretty maid,
To the shore of faithfulness
Where love endures forever.–
That shore, my dear,
Is scarce known
In the realm of love.

Where is it you would go?
The breeze is about to blow!

Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder, published by Faber, provided courtesy of Oxford Lieder (www.oxfordlieder.co.uk)


Wanderlust. Ravel in his song cycle Shéhérazade makes an imaginary voyage to see the wonders of the East:
Apologies that there’s no French text – I was going slowly crazy trying to align it with the English translation. I (wisely, I think) gave up!

Asia

Tristan Klingsor
English Translation © Richard Stokes

Asia, Asia, Asia,
Ancient wonderland of fairy tales,
Where fantasy sleeps
Like an empress
In her mystery-filled forest,
Asia,I long to set sail with the schooner
Which rocks this evening in the harbour,
Mysterious and solitary
And which spreads at last its violet sails
Like a huge night-bird in the golden sky.
I long to set sail for isles of flowers
As I listen to the song of the wayward sea
With its old bewitching rhythm;
I long to see Damascus and the cities of Persia
With their airy minarets;
I long to see beautiful silken turbans
Above black faces with white teeth;
I long to see eyes dark with love
And pupils sparkling with joy
Sunk in skins as yellow as oranges;
I long to see velvet raiments
And long-fringed robes;
I long to see calumets in mouths
Fringed about with white beards;
I long to see grasping merchants with shifty looks,
And cadis and viziers
Who with a single crook of the finger
Dispense life or death on a whim.
I long to see Persia, and India, and then China,
Portly mandarins beneath their sunshades,
And princesses with delicate hands,
And learned men disputing
About poetry and beauty;
I long to linger in enchanted places,
And like a foreign traveller
Gaze at leisure on landscapes painted
On fabrics in pinewood frames,
With a figure in the midst of an orchard;
I long to see assassins smiling,
As the executioner cuts off an innocent head
With his great curved Oriental scimitar;
I long to see beggars and queens;
I long to see roses and blood;
I long to see death for love or else for hate,
And then to return later
And recount my adventures to those intrigued by dreams,
While raising like Sinbad
My old Arabian pipe
From time to time to my lips,
Artfully to interrupt the tale...

Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder, published by Faber, provided courtesy of Oxford Lieder (www.oxfordlieder.co.uk)


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