The ‘Four Songs of Mirza Schaffy’ were published in 1903, with translations from the German of Friedrich Bodenstedt by Walter Creighton. They were re-issued, with the accompaniments somewhat revised, and a new translation by R H Elkin, in 1911. Schaffy (Mirza merely means ‘man of letters’) was a schoolmaster in Tiflis, Georgia, with whom Bodenstedt studied languages. The poems were published in 1851 as Die Lieder des Mirza Schaffy
, but in later years Bodenstedt confessed they were his own work. It seems Quilter was not aware of this, since he later published a song with the words ‘translated from the German of Mirza Schaffy by the composer’. The poems were immensely popular, reaching a twenty-sixth edition by 1869. Incidentally Bodenstedt made the standard German translation of Shakespeare’s works, used by Parry in his settings of four of the Sonnets. With these songs Quilter was still trying to find his own voice. There are naturally traces of romantic German lieder, so soon after his study in Frankfurt, and the third song is an excellent example of the drawing-room ballad. The 1903 version of the songs is used here.
from notes by Michael Pilkington © 1996