RC 125 Geistliches Lied (“Wenn ich ihn nur habe”)

  • Novalis
  • soprano and instrumental ensemble
  • September 1, 1915 - September 30, 1915

In 1915, at the request of the Concertgebouw Sextet, Diepenbrock wrote an accompaniment for wind quintet and double bass for the song Wenn ich ihn nur habe (If Only I Have Him, RC 45) on a text by Novalis, which he had composed in 1898 for Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius. He had already arranged this Geistliches Lied (Sacred Song) for small orchestra (RC 72) in 1906. Diepenbrock did not use this orchestral version as a basis for the new arrangement that he most likely made in September 1915. As he indicated in the autograph, the setting for wind quintet and double bass is based on the original version with organ accompaniment in which he gave specific instructions for the registration. In the new arrangement the composition’s interplay of lines comes more into its own than on the organ, thanks to the different timbres of the solo wind instruments playing over the double bass. Thus, also in this song Diepenbrock achieved the greater transparency he continued to strive for in later years, like e.g. in 1913 when he thinned out of the accompaniment of his other orchestrated song on a text by Novalis, the Abendmahlshymne “Wenige wissen das Geheimnis der Liebe” (Hymn of the Last Supper “Few Know the Secret of Love”, RC 58).

In May 1916 Diepenbrock mentioned that Noordewier had already presented the new version of Wenn ich ihn nur habe in Arnhem, under Evert Cornelis (1884-1931), the pianist of and the driving force behind the Concertgebouw Sextet. (BD IX:111) Unfortunately no information about this premiere has been transmitted. The performance by the same musicians in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw on 18 October of that year received a warm ovation from the audience. The next day Matthijs Vermeulen praised Diepenbrock’s new arrangement of Wenn ich ihn nur habe in the newspaper De Telegraaf:

The text sounds as a prayer, or a page by Suso, that most romantic mystic, the music yearns of that infatuation in the softest, yet most trembling spring sensations. [...] The four woodwinds were also a success in the Geistliches Lied by Diepenbrock, who once again had one of his innovative colouristic ideas when he added a double bass to the ensemble. It blended wonderfully. (BD IX:515)

In February 1918 the song was repeated, this time alongside Diepenbrock’s Come raggio di sol (Like a Ray of Sun, RC 139) for soprano and wind quintet which he had written in the summer of 1917. After that the two pieces regularly featured on the programmes of the Concertgebouw Sextet.

Désirée Staverman