09 Apr 2013

Music from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“German poet, dramatist and novelist. One of the most important literary and cultural figures of his age, he was recognized during his lifetime for his accomplishments of almost universal breadth. However, it is his literary works that have most consistently sustained his reputation, and that also serve to demonstrate most clearly his many-faceted relationship to music. . . .

Goethe's passion for music of all kinds, but particularly his interest in promoting the cause of German poetry, found an important outlet in his early espousal of volkst├╝mlich, ‘folk-style’, or verse and the associated tradition of performance as lieder. . . . [Indeed,] Goethe saw lyric poetry as in some sense incomplete without music, just as written text sought its fulfilment in sound. . . . With hindsight, it can be seen that Goethe's contribution to opera . . . was historically less decisive and less productive than his contribution to the lied. And this was so despite his repeated efforts, his wide experience and his extensive knowledge of opera: he found suitable composers for few if any of his librettos, and several in any case remained as sketches or fragments. His greatest legacy to music drama was undoubtedly Faust, which as far as he was aware was not set operatically during his lifetime. This, he accepted with resignation and a profound realization: ‘it is impossible [that it should now find an effective musical setting]: the horrific, sublime and demonic moments it necessarily has to embrace from time to time go against the taste of the times.” Philip Weller, Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Grove Music Online. Here we will present a selection of music based on his literary works:

  1. GOUNOD: Faust — 1953
  2. GOUNOD: Faust — Vienna 2008
  3. SCHUMANN: Scenen aus Goethes Faust
  4. THOMAS: Mignon — New York 2005
  5. MASSENET: Werther — Vienna 2000


Previous Themes:

Operas based on French literature

Operas based on the works of Friedrich von Schiller

Der Ring des Nibelungen

Historic Performances: Maria Callas

Works of Giacomo Puccini

Works of Richard Strauss

Works of W. A. Mozart

Works of Jules Massenet

Works on the Theme of “Greeks Bearing Gifts”