Translation and Interpretation of the Lied : An Annotated Bibliography

by Priscilla Jane Smith


This bibliography is a compilation of sources dealing with the interpretation and translation of German art song, or Lieder. The Lied is a distinctive type of German musical composition, for one voice and piano, which came into being as an outcome of the Romantic movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Both the piano and the vocal parts demand artistic interpretation, and the poetry selected for this type of song is often of a high literary quality. Poets whose work is often used in Lieder include Goethe, Eichendorff, Heine, Hesse, Mayrhofer, Mörike, Rilke, Rückert, and Schiller. I have chosen to include sources on the topic of art song in general and those specifically about Lieder. I also include sources dedicated entirely to the works of the five best-known and most prolific Lieder composers, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Franz Schubert, Richard Strauss, Hugo Wolf, and Gustav Mahler. A general knowledge of musical terminology and of the German language is assumed for most of these sources. Although this topic might be one that would demand more multimedia resources than I have provided, I did not feel many of those available were worthy of inclusion because of their poor quality. Youtube is an excellent source of videos of incredible musicians singing Lieder, but there is so much poor content on the site and the videos can be so hard to find that I felt it best not to include the website in this collection. Additionally, the only other online source for translation of Lieder texts besides the one included in this bibliography is pay-per-use and is full of inaccuracies and incorrect information. I believe that this collection of sources includes a variety of types of sources on the subject, and has the potential to be very useful for performers and historians of Lieder.

All resource citations include links to the UNC-Chapel Hill Library online catalog

Top Choices

Coffin, Berton, Werner Singer, and Pierre Delattre. Word-by-word Translations of Songs and Arias: Part 1 - German and French. New York, NY: The Scarecrow P, Inc., 1966. Print. [This resource at The Scarecrow Press]

This resource is a standard source in the field. Berton Coffin is a well-known authority on vocal pedagogy and vocal music. This resource includes little introduction and lacks a table of contents, but the content is very valuable. The entries are listed alphabetically by composer, and include the name of the composer, the title of the song in the original language and in English translation. The texts are written in the original language and include a literal and a poetic translation, line-by-line. The book also includes an index of song titles and first lines. One draw-back to this source is that it does not include the names of the poets of the song texts.

Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich, George Bird, and Richard Stokes. The Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Book of Lieder: The Original Texts of over Seven Hundred and Fifty Songs. New York, NY: Limelight Editions, 1995. Print. [This resource on Google Books]

Hailed by Choice as "the standard Lieder resource for the English-speaking world," the Fischer-Dieskau Book of Lieder was the very first source I thought to include in this bibliography. A famous baritone, Fischer-Dieskau's name is synonymous with the performance and interpretation of the songs of this genre. The content of the book is simply organized alphabetically by song title. Each entry includes the song title in German and English, the name of the poet, a list of composers who have set the poem to music, and the German text and its English translation, side-by-side. Although the translations are poetic, they expertly capture the essence of the original German texts. The source does not include IPA transcriptions. Another great aspect of this resource is its three excellent indexes. The first is an index of composers, listed alphabetically by last name, with a list of the songs by each composer included in this book. The second is an index of poets, listed alphabetically by last name, with a list of the poems by each author included in this book. The third is an index of song titles and first lines, listed alphabetically.

Kimball, Carol. Song: A Guide to Style and Literature. Redmond, WA: Pst... Inc., 1996. Print. [This resource on Google Books]

This resource is a fantastic introduction to the wide field of art song. Although it is not specifically targeted towards Lieder, includes no song texts, translations, or IPA transcriptions, its content warrants inclusion in this bibliography. The author is a professor of voice at the University of Las Vegas, and is a respected authority on vocal literature, voice, and opera. The first important feature of this book is its table of contents, which could double as an index. Its 'Literature' section is very well organized, first by nationality of composer, then alphabetically by last name. Under each composer's name, a list of the songs mentioned in this book are included. So, within the table of contents, one can find a list of every composer and song mentioned in the book. I find this incredibly helpful and thoughtful on the part of the author. The first section of the book, 'Style,' includes an introduction to the concept of musical style (the coalescence of a song's melody, harmony, rhythm, and text). This section also includes 'style sheets' for each major art song composer. These 'style sheets' are guides to the individual style of each of the composers, including characteristic melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic qualities. This is a unique concept which can be used as a valuable tool for a young singer who has not yet become familiar with the works of a particular composer. The 'Style' section of the book also includes a collection of quotes about style in vocal music from famous musicians. The 'Literature' section includes a chapter on Lieder specifically, which includes short biographies of composers, and thorough information about selected songs by all major composers of the genre. The three indexes in this book are fantastic. The first is an index of composers and their selected works, listed alphabetically by composer's name. The second is an index of the titles of songs, cycles, and works, listed alphabetically, and the third is an index of composers organized by nationality. The book also includes a selected bibliography of references for further study, which is organized by language.

Reed, John, Norma Deane, and Celia Larner. The Schubert Song Companion. New York, NY: Universe Books, 1985. Print. [This resource on Google Books]

John Reed, a distinguished Schubert scholar, wrote The Schubert Song Companion with collaborators Norma Deane and Celia Larner. It is the first book to discuss each of Schubert's more than 600 Lieder, and an incredibly valuable addition to this bibliography. Franz Schubert is widely accepted as the "father" of the German Lied, and this book is, in my opinion, the authoritative source for information about the Lieder of Franz Schubert. The book begins with a foreword from famous English mezzo-soprano Janet Baker, a preface, and an extensive list of abbreviations. The book is divided into two main sections; 'The Songs' and 'The Authors.' The songs each have an entry, and are listed alphabetically. Each entry includes the title of the song in German and in English, the name of the poet, the date of composition, the original key, other source materials in which the song can be found, a musical example of the first line of the song, a poetic translation of the text in English, and a short description of the song and its history.

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The second section of the book, 'The Authors,' includes an alphabetical list of every poet from which Schubert took texts. These entries include a short biography of the poet. The book also includes seven wonderful appendixes. The first appendix, entitled "How Many Schubert Songs?" discusses the much-debated topic of which songs were actually composed by Schubert and which are incorrectly attributed to him. The second appendix discusses the emotional color of the individual keys in which Schubert composed, and includes a list of songs composed in each key. The third appendix discusses the thematic links between Schubert's songs and his instrumental works, and the fourth is a month-by-month mapping of Schubert's compositional output over his lifetime. The fifth appendix is a representation of Schubert's compositional life as a succession of poetic phases (Schubert was known for setting numerous texts by one poet and then abandoning that poet to find a new one). The sixth appendix is a chronology of the publication of Schubert's songs, and the seventh is a guide to the tempo indications and expression marks which Schubert wrote into his music.

Reinhard, Thilo. The Singer's Schumann. New York, NY: Pelion P, Inc., 1989. Print.

Thilo Reinhard is a professional translator and pianist. His book, The Singer's Schumann, is a valuable addition to this bibliography because of its many wonderful features. It includes chapters on Schumann's Lieder, Schumann's relationships with his collaborating poets, a guide to German pronunciation and diction, and essays on the problems associated with transposition of Schumann Lieder and Schumann's key-characters. Also included is an excerpt from Schumann's Musical Rules for Home and Life, a collection of the composer's thoughts on excellent musicality. Each of the songs has an entry, and these are sorted by opus number. Each entry includes detailed information about the song, and the full text in German, English translation, and IPA transcription, as show here:

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Also included are the date of composition and date of publication, if known, the publisher, any dedications made by the composer, the literary source of the poetry and the year in which it was written. Reinhard also includes a poetic translation of every text to go along with the literal one, for further clarity:

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The indeces and appendices of this resource alone make it a strong addition to this bibliography. The book includes two appendices; one which is a chronology of Schumann's life, with major works and artistic and historic events. The second appendix is an index of songs by opus number. Other indexes include a general index, and index of all of the works by Schumann, and an index of titles and first lines, organized alphabetically.

Glass, Beaumont. Brahms' Complete Song Texts: In One Volume. Mt. Morris, NY: Leyerle Publications, 1999. Print. [This resource at Leyerle Publications]

This collection of transcriptions and translations of the complete Lieder works of Johannes Brahms was compiled by Beaumont Glass, well-known opera coach and stage director. I chose to include Glass' five texts because they provide word-for-word and line-by-line translations and IPA transcriptions of the complete Lieder works of Brahms, Wolf, Strauss, Schumann, and Schubert. These are the only resources of their kind targeted towards an English-speaking audience. Beaumont Glass' volume on the songs of Johannes Brahms includes a brief overview of the composer's life, a chapter on the interpretation of Lieder, and an introductory chapter on the format of the book and German phonetics. This chapter includes excellent information on the pronunciation of the German language, and could stand alone as an excellent reference source. Each of Brahms's songs has its own entry, with detailed information about the poet, the origin of the text, and a brief description of the song. These are organized alphabetically. The title is provided in German, in English translation, and in IPA transcription. The opus number and date of composition are also given, if known. The text is laid out as follows: IPA above the original German text and a literal translation below the German text.

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As shown, Glass does an excellent job to make sure that the text is spaced out so that it is clear which German word goes with each English word. He also includes a poetic translation of the text if the literal English translation is unclear or confusing. The appendix is comprised of poetic singing translations of several of Wolf's most famous songs, selected and created by Glass. These translations were designed so they could be sung in English to the original music with as few rhythmic changes as possible. Also included in the book is an index of song titles and first lines. Although this resource has no table of contents, I feel it is an excellent resource and a valuable addition to this bibliography.

Glass, Beaumont. Hugo Wolf's Complete Song Texts: In One Volume. Mt. Morris, NY: Leyerle Publications, 2000. Print. [This resource at Leyerle Publications]

Beaumont Glass' volume on the songs of Hugo Wolf includes an overview of the composer's life, a chapter on the interpretation of Lieder, and an introductory chapter on the format of the book and German phonetics. This chapter includes excellent information on the pronunciation of the German language, and in itself is an excellent reference source. Each of Wolf's songs has its own entry, with detailed information about the poet, the origin of the text, and a brief description of the song. These are organized by songbook. The text is laid out as follows: IPA above the original German text, with a literal translation below the German text. Again, Glass does an excellent job to make sure that the text is spaced out, clarifying which German word goes with each English word. He also includes a poetic translation of the text if the literal English translation is unclear or confusing. The appendix is comprised of poetic singing translations of several of Wolf's most famous songs, selected and created by Glass. These translations were designed so they could be sung in English to the original music with as few rhythmic changes as possible. Also included in the book is an index of song titles and first lines.

Glass, Beaumont. Richard Strauss' Complete Song Texts: In One Volume. Mt. Morris, NY: Leyerle Publications, 2004. Print. [This resource at Leyerle Publications]

Glass' volume on the songs of Richard Strauss includes an overview of the composer's life, the author's acknowledgements, a chapter on the interpretation of Lieder, and an introductory chapter on the format of the book and German phonetics. This chapter includes excellent information on the pronunciation of the German language, and in itself is an excellent reference source. Each of Strauss' songs has its own entry, with detailed information about the poet, the origin of the text, and a brief description of the song. These are organized by opus number and alphabetically by title if no opus number is provided. The text is laid out as follows: IPA above the original German text, with a literal translation below the German text. Glass is careful to make sure that the text is spaced out so that it is clear which German word goes with each English word. Included is a poetic translation of the text if the literal English translation is unclear or confusing. The appendix is comprised of poetic singing translations of several of Strauss' most famous songs, selected and created by Glass. These translations were designed so they could be sung in English to the original music with as few rhythmic changes as possible. Also included in the book is an index of song titles and first lines.

Glass, Beaumont. Schubert's Complete Song Texts: In Two Volumes. Mt. Morris, NY: Leyerle Publications, 1996. Print. [This resource at Leyerle Publications]

Glass' two volumes on the songs of Franz Schubert each include an introductory letter from famous soprano Lotte Lehman, a section about the author, an overview of the composer's life and his songs, and an introductory chapter on the format of the book and German phonetics. This chapter includes excellent information on the pronunciation of the German language, and in itself is an excellent reference source. Each of Schubert's songs has its own entry, with detailed information about the poet, the origin of the text, and a brief description of the song. These are organized by opus number and alphabetically by title if no opus number is provided. The text is laid out as follows: IPA above the original German text, with a literal translation below the German text. Glass does an excellent job to make sure that the text is spaced out so that it is clear which German word goes with each English word. He also includes a poetic translation of the text if the literal English translation is unclear or confusing. Also included in each volume is an index of song titles and first lines. This resource's only major weakness is its lack of a table of contents.

Glass, Beaumont. Schumann's Complete Song Texts: In One Volume. Mt. Morris, NY: Leyerle Publications, 2002. Print. [This resource at Leyerle Publications]

Beaumont Glass' volume on the songs of Robert Schumann includes an overview of the composer's life, the author's acknowledgements, a chapter on the interpretation of Lieder, and an introductory chapter on the format of the book and German phonetics. This chapter includes excellent information on the pronunciation of the German language, and in itself is an excellent reference source. Each of Schumann's songs has its own entry, with detailed information about the poet, the origin of the text, and a brief description of the song. These are organized by opus number. The text is laid out as in Glass' other books, and again he does an excellent job to make sure that the text is spaced out so that it is clear which German word goes with each English word. He also includes a poetic translation of the text if the literal English translation is unclear or confusing. The appendix is comprised of poetic singing translations of several of Schumann's most famous songs, selected and created by Glass. These translations were designed so they could be sung in English to the original music with as few rhythmic changes as possible. Also included in the book is an index of song titles and first lines.

Parsons, James, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Lied. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2004. Print. [This resource on Google Books]

I chose to include this resource because it is a thorough overview of the genre and its history. I wanted to include a source that would put all of the others in context historically and within the wide field of classical singing. A highly authoritative source, this member of the Cambridge Companion series is comprised of contributions by fourteen well-respected historians on the subject of Lieder. I was particularly drawn to this book because of the chapters "Why the Lied?" and "In the beginning was poetry" because no other resources I know of include sections dedicated to the uniqueness of the genre or the history of the poets of Lieder texts. The book also includes entire chapters devoted to the Lieder of Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, and Wolf, and also includes lists of the complete Lieder works of Strauss and Mahler. The book also includes a chronology of the historical context of the Lied (from 1729 to 2002), a thorough guide to suggested further reading and an index of important names and concepts mentioned.

Stokes, Richard. The Book of Lieder: The Original Texts of over 1000 Songs. London, UK: Faber and Faber Ltd., 2005. Print. [This resource at Faber Publications]

Richard Stokes is Professor of Lieder at the London Royal Academy of Music. His other books include The Spanish Song Companion, J.S. Bach - The Complete Cantatas, and A French Song Companion. This book includes the selected texts and translations of songs by many composers of Lieder. The foreword is by well-known tenor Ian Bostridge, and the book also includes an introduction and acknowledgements by the author. The content of the book is organized alphabetically by composer, and within each composer the songs are listed alphabetically as well. A short biography of each composer is included, and each song entry includes information about the poet, the date of composition, the title of the song in German and in its English translation, the opus number or other identifier, the original German text, and an excellent poetic translation into English. The book also includes an index of poets and translators and an index of titles and first lines. The Book of Lieder is an excellent source for information about the poets associated with Lieder texts, and for information about the most well-known Lieder.

Sams, Eric. The Songs of Hugo Wolf. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1992. Print.

Eric Sams, the author of three of the resources in this collection, is one of the world's foremost scholars on the Lied. This resource is one of the best on the Lieder of Hugo Wolf. This second edition of the book includes a thorough overview of Wolf as a song-writer, and the characteristic motifs he used in his songs. The book includes an entry for every one of Wolf's 242 songs, and each chapter deals with one of Wolf's songbooks. Each song entry includes the name of the song in German and translated into English, the composition date, the key of the piece and the range of the vocal line. Although there is no IPA transcription and the translations are poetic, Sams takes great care to "bring out, if possible without inversion or paraphrase, the literal meaning of the original German text."

Sams, Eric. The Songs of Robert Schumann. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1993. Print.

This resource is very similar to the book on Hugo Wolf by the same author. This third edition of the book includes a thorough overview of Schumann as a song-writer, and the characteristic motifs he used in his songs. The book includes an entry for every one of Schumann's 246 songs, and the songs are divided into chapters which cover a certain period in Schumann's compositional life. Each song entry includes the name of the song in German and translated into English, the composition date, the key of the piece and the range of the vocal line. Again, there is no IPA transcription and the excellent translations are poetic. The resource includes three appendices and two indexes. The first appendix includes a list of Schumann's posthumously published early songs. The second chronicles the history of Schumann's health, which affected his compositional output greatly. The third appendix lists the sources from which Schumann took his texts. The first index lists the songs alphabetically by title, and the second is a general index of names, terms, and concepts.

Sams, Eric. The Songs of Johannes Brahms. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 2000. Print. [This resource on Google Books]

The most recent of Eric Sam's Lieder publications, this is the most thorough of the three sources by this author that is included in this bibliography. While the Wolf and Schumann books do not include the German text of each song, this book does. The book begins with overviews of Brahms as a song-writer and the characteristic motifs he used in his songs, and additionally includes a section on the major thematic topics Brahms chose to use in his songs. The entries for each of Brahms' 212 songs are arranged by opus number, and include the name of the song in German and its English translation, the composition date, the key of the piece and the range of the vocal line. There are several very helpful appendices and indexes which make this resource even more valuable. The first appendix lists all of the poets associated with Brahms' works, and includes a short biography for each. There is an extensive select bibliography of sources related to the book. The first index included titles and first lines of all of the songs, and the second index includes a list of general terms, concepts, and names mentioned in the book.

Naxos Music Library. Naxos Digital Services Ltd., 2011. Web. 2011

The Naxos Music Library, maintained by Naxos Digital Services Ltd., is a subscription-based online library of recordings of classical music. It offers streaming access to over 60,000 CDs and includes the complete catalogs of the Naxos and Marco Polo music labels, among others. The contents of the site can be searched by composer, work, genre, label, keyword, or advanced search. Although there are many search options, I find the search function of this site to be poor in quality. When the term "Lieder" is searched, the first result that appears is an orchestral recording: SVENDSEN, J.: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 (Bergen Philharmonic, N. Jarvi). This online source includes numerous fantastic recordings of Lieder, but it can be quite daunting to weed through the many poor recordings and random results. One great feature of the site is that users can create personalized playlists or use Naxos Music Library playlists, and there is also a smartphone application that can be used by subscribers. The site also includes recordings of the correct pronunciation of composer's and artist's names, an overview of important musical terms, and audio book transcriptions about the history of classical music with listening examples. One poor quality of the site is the lack of much information about each individual recording. Typically, one can only find the names of the composer, poet, and main artists for each recording.

Mid-Range Choices

Stark, Lucien. A Guide to the Solo Songs of Johannes Brahms. Bloomington, IN: Indiana UP, 1995. Print. [This resource at Indiana University Press]

This resource was written by Lucien Stark, professor Emeritus at the University of Kentucky and an expert on the music of Brahms. The book includes a very thorough introduction to Brahms' song composition with several enlightening quotes by the composer himself. Each of Brahms' 196 published songs has an entry, and they are organized by opus number. Each song entry includes the title in German and its translation into English, the opus number, the name and dates of the poet, the text in German and a poetic translation into English. Also included are the date of composition, the date of the first performance, if known, and the musical form of the song. Stark also gives a detailed description of each song, its historical context, and its interpretation. The book includes an appendix of poets and translators, listed alphabetically, a list of musical settings of folk song texts, organized by opus number, and a selected bibliography. The index organizes song title and first lines of songs alphabetically.

Dargie, E. Mary. Music and Poetry in the Songs of Gustav Mahler. Bern: Peter Lang, 1981. Print. [This resource at Peter Lang]

Although this book is one of the few sources available on the subject of Lieder by Gustav Mahler, I found it useful enough to include in this bibliography. The book is organized chronologically by song cycle beginning with the early songs and ending with the Kindertötenlieder. Mahler's largest collection of Lieder, Des Knaben Wunderhorn, is separated into five chapters, each dealing with songs on a similar theme. The book contains selected texts only, and the poetic translations are not side-by-side but listed sequentially (German text first, then English translation below). The distance between the texts may be problematic for those unfamiliar with the German language. However, the detailed information provided about the composers and individual songs is very valuable. Although the book contains no index, a very thorough six-part bibliography is included. The resources listed include those about Mahler as a musician, the texts and their poets, the music and the poetry, the Lied and its composers, a general and miscellaneous bibliography, and a list of works referenced in this book.

Ezust, Emily. The Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive. REC Music Foundation, 2011. Web. 2011

This web resource is a collection of "texts used in 104,186 Lieder and other classical art songs." Since the goal of the Archive's author, Emily Ezust, is to translate these texts into as many languages as possible, there are translations into English, French, Italian, Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Chinese, among other languages. Although an online source like this has the potential to be incredibly valuable, this web page leaves much to be desired. The design is very outdated, and the page is relatively difficult to navigate. Another major problem with the page is that translations are done by volunteers, so the content has virtually no authority. Search functions available are by surname, first line, title, year, collection, or "search entire website." There are also several indexes, navigable alphabetically, of composer name, poet name, first line, song title, and language. Song entries may or may not include a text in the original German or a translation into English. The translations are side-by-side with their original German counterparts, but there is no consistency in their quality. A typical song entry will include the title in the original language, the text in the original language, the name and dates of the poet, the name and dates of any associated composers, and a list of available translations. Other features of the page include "random song cycle" and "random text" buttons, which point visitors to random entries on the page.