One of the most important German poetic anthologies of the nineteenth century was Des Knaben Wunderhorn
, a collection of more than 700 folk poems compiled (and sometimes emended) by Achim [Ludwig Joachim] von Arnim and Clemens Brentano, mostly between 1804 and 1807. One of the oldest folk poems housed in this famous compendium, Hüt du dich
, is an arch warning to a susceptible man—to all susceptible men—that the pretty girl he fancies is leading him a dance. No wonder so many composers, all male, have been drawn to this poem, perhaps most famously Brahms in a duet version (Op 66 No 5) and in his Deutsche Volkslieder
WoO33 No 40; Charles Gounod and Benjamin Britten would later set this poem to music in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s English translation. Mendelssohn’s delightful setting from circa 1834–5 is every bit Brahms’s equal in quality, with its whiplash-piano figures to get our attention, its comic use of a ‘tragic’ key (G minor), its interior expeditions to brighter major keys, its mock-conspiratorial tone, and its deliciously gossipy, bustling vivacity.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2009