One of Germany’s greatest poets, Heine knew the Mendelssohns; interested in music, if not particularly knowledgeable about it, he attended Felix’s momentous revival of the St Matthew Passion in 1829 and later took acerbic note of Felix’s sacred oratorios. The two men were not friends, despite the fact that they had Jewish origins and conversion to Protestantism in common. Heine’s conversion in 1825, a deed undertaken in order to gain what he called ‘the entrance ticket to European culture’, was an act he almost immediately regretted, and his politics were far more radical than Mendelssohn’s. And yet, Heine invoked Mendelssohn’s song Wartend
on his deathbed, and Mendelssohn, whatever his feelings about Heine the man, set a number of his marvellous poems to music. One of the poems from Heinrich Heine’s 1827 anthology, the Buch der Lieder
, that was most popular with composers was Warum sind denn die Rosen so blass?
, Heine’s ‘twist’ on the pathetic fallacy, the notion that anthropomorphized Nature reflects human emotions and fate. Fanny would complete her 1837 setting
of this text, but not Felix his version from three years earlier; therefore, Eugene Asti has devised a wonderfully sensitive completion of the musical stanza to two of Heine’s verses, plus its slightly varied repetition to constitute the second half of the song.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2009