At a recital in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw on 12 February 1912 the Hungarian alto/mezzo-soprano Ilona Durigo sang three songs by Diepenbrock: besides Clair de lune (Moonlight, RC 43) and Mandoline (Mandolin, RC 99), she premiered his Ist alles stumm und leer (Is Everything Silent and Empty) which he later entitled Liebesklage (Love’s Lament). Diepenbrock most likely dedicated the song he had written in December 1908 to her at the end of October 1910, when he was awed by her talents during the preparations for and performances of his Hymne an die Nacht “Muss immer der Morgen wiederkommen” (Hymn to the Night “Must the Morning Always Return”, RC 50). In a letter to Balthazar Verhagen, Diepenbrock called Durigo an
almost godly singer, endowed with a diversity of gifts of intelligence and voice. (BD VI:161) A year later, in October 1911, at the premiere of the symphonic song Die Nacht (The Night, RC 106) Durigo proved to be an ideal interpreter of his work.
The untitled poem is attributed to Karoline von Günderrode (1780-1806), who died at an early age1. Like Kann ich im Busen heisse Wünsche tragen (Can I Carry Hot Desires in My Heart, RC 55) on another text by this Romantic poet, which Diepenbrock set to music in 1902, the poem describes the despair over lost love. In a letter of July 1910 Diepenbrock calls his composition
l’art pour l’art, that is to say:
not stemming directly from daily life, but made for exterior reasons, although it is also full of sounds that reflect deep sorrow. It is awfully melancholic when sung properly. (BD VI:339).
We may add to this characterisation by the composer that the dynamics, which are limited to p and pp, contribute to the static and introverted character of the overall strophic song.
At first Durigo was going to combine the two above-mentioned French songs with Puisque l’aube grandit (Since Dawn Awoke, RC 97) at the concerts of February 1912 (the programme was repeated in Rotterdam, Utrecht and again in Amsterdam). However, at her suggestion it was replaced by the “schön-trauriges” (beautiful and sad) Ist alles stumm und leer. (BD VII:311) Diepenbrock’s songs were combined with arias by Handel and songs by Richard Strauss. After the second performance in Amsterdam A. de Wal expressed his admiration for the Günderrode setting in particular in the newspaper Het Vaderland:
Diepenbrock has conveyed the mood of this meaningful poem in the piano and in the voice that independently flourishes over it in a highly Mahlerian manner. I should hear music such as this, in which one immediately feels the detached, strongly inward living nature of the poet-composer, his expert hand in the declamation and technique, again before I can make many assertions about it. More assertions than that this song has made a huge impression on me. (BD VII:586)
The term ‘Mahlerian’ may be questioned, but the other comments of the critic still apply.
Diepenbrock chose the title Liebesklage in 1917 when preparing the printed edition that was to be published by G. Alsbach & Co in 1918, because he concluded that
the first line of the verse is too long and meaningless as a title. (BD IX:261)
Désirée Staverman & Ton Braas
1 According to the critical Günderrode edition, the authenticity of this poem is doubtful; see: Walther Morgenthaler (ed.), Karoline von Günderrode. Sämtliche Werke und ausgewählte Studien. Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe Vol. 3 (Frankfurt/M.: Stroemfeld/Roter Stern 1991), 281.