Cornelius created an interesting collection of songs of mourning in his Trauerchöre
, Op 9 (1869, revised 1870/71) for five voices (TTBBB or ATBBB), since there he put together five plaintive texts by four different poets: Michael Franck, Cornelius (twice, one after Thomas Moore), Martin Luther and Schiller. As varied as the authors are the poetic texts, which are united only to the extent that each illuminates some aspect of death and mourning. The musical settings also differ significantly, although most works of Op 9 show his desire to draw on the past to one extent or another. The extended five-voiced ‘Ach, wie nichtig, ach, wie flüchtig’ (No 1) refers to the chorale of Franck and Vopelius, which is repeated and varied in an ever-changing choral texture. In contrast, the brief four-voiced ‘Nicht die Träne kann es sagen’ (No 2) by Cornelius after Moore is strophic and homophonic, but the harmony is quite chromatic. No 3 (‘Mitten wir im Leben sind’ by Luther) is also strophic and homophonic, and here he creates musical interest through alternating duple and triple metres in the second half and through the use of a refrain, to the words ‘Kyrie eleison’. Cornelius’s own ‘Grablied’ is the shortest and simplest chorus of Op 9, yet even here he makes it interesting: he adapted the four-voiced texture from Schubert’s song Der Tod und das Mädchen
(‘Death and the Maiden’) as presented in the String Quartet in D minor, D810. In ABA form, the final chorus ‘Von dem Dome, schwer und bang’ (Schiller) reintroduces varied textures, with the first tenor taking a leading role.
from notes by James Deaville © 2000