RC 72 Geistliches Lied (“Wenn ich ihn nur habe”)

  • Novalis
  • soprano and orchestra
  • October 13, 1906 - October 22, 1906
  • duration 5:35

In the autumn of 1906 there was a lot of interest in Diepenbrock’s music. Thanks to the effort of the composer Jan Ingenhoven, who was active as a conductor in Germany, his work was also performed there. On 18 September Ingenhoven conducted Vondels vaart naar Agrippine (Vondel’s Voyage to Agrippine, RC 64) with the soloist Gerard Zalsman and the Munich Kaim Orchestra in Mannheim. Then on 17 November, Diepenbrock’s tone poem Im grossen Schweigen (In the Great Silence, RC 67) for large orchestra and baritone solo, which had been completed in February of that year, was performed – again with Zalsman – in Munich. On that very same day the soprano Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius sang the Hymne an die Nacht “Gehoben ist der Stein” (Hymn to the Night “Uplifted is the Stone”, RC 49), which Diepenbrock had composed for her on a text by Novalis, with the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Willem Mengelberg in The Hague. The programme was repeated the following days in Arnhem and Haarlem.

Diepenbrock spent the entire autumn orchestrating three piano songs for two other concerts in November by Aaltje Noordewier and the Concertgebouw Orchestra, at which she was allowed to present five of his orchestral songs. Before tackling the sonnet Ik ben in eenzaamheid niet meer alleen (I Am No Longer Alone in Solitude, RC 41/73) and the Lied der Spinnerin (Song of the Spinner, RC 42/75), he turned his hand to Wenn ich ihn nur habe (If Only I Have Him, RC 45), the first of the two sacred songs on texts by Novalis he had composed in 1898.

Diepenbrock reworked the original organ accompaniment of Wenn ich ihn nur habe into an arrangement for small orchestra, with double woodwinds and bass clarinet, 4 horns, timpani and strings. He makes good use of the colour of the woodwinds, with many oboe and clarinet solos, in subtle dynamic shades so the voice is not drowned out. The strings are often divided and occasionally play con sordino, resulting in a thin flutelike sound in the high register.

On 21 November 1906 the Concertgebouw Orchestra and the soloist Aaltje Noordewier premiered Wenn ich ihn nur habe, alongside Wenige wissen das Geheimnis der Liebe (Few Know the Secret of Love, RC 58), which had already been orchestrated in 1902; the following day they presented the other three songs. Due to Mengelberg’s tight schedule that month, the orchestra had not rehearsed the songs properly, as Elisabeth Diepenbrock wrote in her diary after the concert:

The preparations were abominable, almost no rehearsals, just a quick run through to see if there were any mistakes, Mengelberg was not into it, no coherence at all. Wenn ich ihn nur habe was a complete failure, the second, Wenige wissen das Geheimnis der Liebe, went a lot better, that was lovely to hear and it was a great success. (BD V:267)

Diepenbrock commented on the careless approach to Johanna Jongkindt:

Again the orchestra had no understanding what so ever. At times those who were supposed to play, were not there, and all one could hear was a few droning basses. The impression was flat; this has to be redone. Only “Wenige wissen” sounded great despite the mistakes and absences and carried away the audience. (BD V:271)

However, in their reviews the critics could not conceal that neither of the compositions had convinced them.

Almost ten years later Diepenbrock returned to Wenn ich ihn nur habe, which resulted in a setting for wind quintet and double bass (see RC 125).

Désirée Staverman