Lied 5: Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz

The tenth song in this collection, “Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz” (At Strasbourg on the battlement), starts with a very colorful piano entrance marked “as a folk tune” and “imitating the shawm.” 

As Donald Mitchell points out, this is of a type very characteristic of Mahler in his vocal as well as symphonic output: the slow farewell song or funeral march…We have a relatively simple example of the kind, remarkable chiefly for the piano’s imitation of the “Schalmei,” the chalumeau or herdsman’s pipe, which lures the homesick soldier into swimming the Rhine by night. There is also the imitation, in the left hand, of the military drums that accompany his capture, his conviction as a deserter, and the march to his execution. Mahler explicitly instructs the right hand to play “like a chalumeau,” and notes for the left: “In all those low trills the sound of muted drums is to be imitated by means of the pedal,” a clear indication that he was moving towards a song form with orchestra.

There is also the curious turn to the major towards the end when, as in the much later “Revelge,” the man addresses his comrades as “Brothers” who “pass by unheeding” or, as in the present case, “see me today for the last time,” the major mode, combined with the inexorable marching rhythms, standing for the doomed man’s touching recognition of the mute sympathy and powerlessness of his brothers-in-arms.

Like all the songs of this genre, “Zu Strassburg” asks for a high baritone with a technique solid and flexible enough not to buckle under the extreme and varying demands made by Mahler’s copious annotations of the voice part, not least of which is the pp head voice needed for the ghostly final section.

“On the ramparts of Strassburg”.

Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz

Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz,

Da ging mein Trauern an;

Das Alphorn hört’ ich drüben wohl anstimmen,

Ins Vaterland mußt ich hinüberschwimmen,

Das ging ja nicht an.

Ein Stunde in der Nacht

Sie haben mich gebracht;

Sie führten mich gleich vor des Hauptmanns Haus,

Ach Gott, sie fischten mich im StRom auf,

Mit mir ist’s aus.

Frühmorgens um zehn Uhr

Stellt man mich vor das Regiment;

Ich soll da bitten um Pardon,

Und ich bekomm doch meinen Lohn,

Das weiß ich schon.

Ihr Brüder allzumal,

Heut’ seht ihr mich zum letztenmal;

Der Hirtenbub ist nur schuld daran,

Das Alphorn hat mir’s angetan,

Das klag ich an.

Ihr Brüder alle drei,

Was ich euch bitt, erschießt mich gleich;

Verschont mein junges Leben nicht,

Schießt zu, daß das Blut rausspritzt,

Das bitt ich euch.

O Himmelskönig, Herr!

Nimm du meine arme Seele dahin,

Nimm sie zu dir in den Himmel ein,

Laß sie ewig bei dir sein

Und vergiß nicht mein!

Listening Guide

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