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On the Wings of Song, Op. 34, No. 2

by Felix Mendelssohn/Franz Liszt

Franz Liszt produced hundreds of transcriptions during his lifetime; many are devoted to the art song literature of Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Schumann. Tasteful and popular, these song transcriptions convert works of poetic and textual significance into literal “songs without words.” Naturally, an understanding of the text is essential for a complete interpretation and understanding or the work. Following is a translation of the beautiful poem of escape, “On the Wings of Song,” written by Heinrich Heine and set to music in 1833-34 by Mendelssohn.

 

On wings of song,
my love, I'll carry you away 
to the fields of the Ganges 
where I know the most beautiful place.

There lies a red-flowering garden,
in the serene moonlight,
the lotus-flowers await
their beloved sister.

The violets giggle and cherish,
and look up at the stars,
the roses tell each other secretly
their fragant fairy-tales.

The gentle, bright gazelles,
pass and listen; 
and in the distance murmurs
the waves of the holy stream.

There we will lay down,
under the palm-tree,
and drink of love and peacefulness
and dream our blessed dream.

 

Mendelssohn modeled the natural structure of the poem when setting it to music, utilizing the AAB formula. The gentle breeze as the lovers soar through utopia – the wind that elevates the wings and stirs the lover’s souls – are all conveyed through florid, upward-moving arpeggios, above which soars the remarkably poignant and memorable melody.