German classical music?
I was wondering if I could learn useful German through classical music - lieds, cantatas, opera, etc. - since I have no love for pop or rock. Another discussion topic gave a radio station, but I was thinking along the lines of actively scouring YouTube for German classical music with lyrics (and English translations, if possible) rather than sticking to regular instrumental classical music with random German commercials and narratives in between.
However, I do know that the English in classical English music is terribly out-dated... is it the same with German?
If you are into classical music, then you would probably enjoy Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Wolff, Brahms, and many others (if you haven't heard them already). They are just the right length for language learners (about the length of a pop song), and you can easily find the texts with English translations from a quick google search. The German is sometimes outdated, or rather, poetic—more flowery than you would ever use in everyday conversation, and the word order is sometimes a bit unusual. I personally find these texts beautiful! You might not use such phrases in conversation, but it is still good listening practice. You can check out this video, which has two of my favorite Schubert Lieder, with sheet music and text in German: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuWffLJK0tk
There is also plenty of German opera, if you are into longer things (think 3-7 hours!) Wagner and Strauss are the first that come to mind; each wrote many, many operas in German. Others that come to mind are Mozart "Die Zauberflöte," Weber "Der Freischütz," Berg "Wozzeck," Korngold "Die Tote Stadt," and Weill "Die Dreigroschenoper" ("The Threepenny Opera"). And there are of course many more. You can usually find videos on YouTube with either German or English subtitles, but probably not both at the same time.
I have heard of the Lieders, but up until this point, I've only ever listened to the instrumental versions. German is still trickily similar to English that it can distract me from studying. Now that I'm on school break, though, I'm thinking of expanding my listening list. Thank you for these recommendations!
The classical song I like the most. Also the only song I know the lyrics of is "Die Gedanken sind frei." = "The thoughts are free." Here the text plus translation (by myself so errors are included, ask if something is not clear):
Die Gedanken sind frei, wer kann sie erraten. = Thoughts are free, who can guess them.
Sie fliehen vorbei wie nächtliche Schatten. = They pass by like nightly shadows
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen, kein Jäger erschießen = No person can know them, no hunter shoot them
Mit Pulver und Blei. Die Gedanken sind frei. = With powder and lead. The thoughts are free.
Ich denke, was ich will, und was mich beglücket. = I think what I want and what makes me happy.
Doch alles in der Still' und wie es sich schicket. = But all in silent and how it is appropriate.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren kann keiner verwehren. = My wish and desire, nobody can deny.
Es bleibet dabei, die Gedanken sind frei. = It stays as said, the thoughts are free.
Und sperrt man mich ein, in finsteren Kerker. = And lock me away in dark/sinister dungeon.
Das alles sind rein vergebliche Werker. = That are all completely futile acts.
Denn meine Gedanken zerreißen die Schranken = Because my thoughts break barriers apart
Und Mauern entzwei. Die Gedanken sind frei. = And walls in two. The thoughts are free.
Drum will ich auf immer den Sorgen entsagen = So (for that reason) I want to abjure sorrows for ever
Und mich auch auf nimmer mit Grillen mehr plagen. = And never plague myself with worries anymore
Man kann ja im Herzen stets lachen und scherzen = In your heart one can always laugh and joke
Und denken dabei: "Die Gedanken sind frei." = And think: "The thoughts are free."
I hope I could be of help.
PS: For the up-to-date-ness of this song. Some of the words are not used like they are here anymore. "Grillen" are only animals today, the annoying crickets. In the times this song was written it was also a way to say worries (what is on your mind singing like crickets). "Werker" is unusal. Today it would be "Werke" or "Taten", but maybe that is just to make it rhyme. "wie es sich schicket" is also old school. "Wie es sich gebührt" or "gehört" would be more normal nowadays.
Dude, thank you so much for this! I especially appreciate the post-script you added. I'll look this song up soon and hopefully have the same love you feel for it. :)
I have found "Tristan und Isolde" of Wagner https://youtu.be/L44Ml8K_mDg Here you find the text http://www.rwagner.net/libretti/tristan/g-t-tristan.html Or https://archive.org/details/tristanisoldeope00wagnuoft
I don't know if you like it. :-)
I offer an alternative to you!ahahah :)
Mozart Die Zauberflote Salzburg - With subtitles https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9zwQNib-h4
I signal you also this site for the libretti
If it comes to classical cantatas by Schütz, Bach or even Mendelsohn you will find some archaisms. Texts from the 19th century are often very poetic and will not really help with modern spoken German. Why not try modern classic Liedermacher neither pop nor rock like Reinhard Mey.
Here an example lyrics https://www.duolingo.com/translation/c69eebfa78ac188a06475f64c713cbbc
I have always loved classical music (at least, instrumental classical music), so I thought maybe this passion could be useful in sustaining my curiosity in the German language. Thank you for the words of warning (re: archaisms) - I was suspecting as much. But I will run a Liedermacher search on YouTube, just like you suggested. :)
However, I do know that the English in classical English music is terribly out-dated
Really? I don't know what you mean by this. Can you give some examples?
For German-languge classical music, you could look at classic operetta - Johann Strauss II, Franz Lehar, Emmerich Kalman, Carl Zeller and others. It's a lot lighter and a lot more fun than typical German opera. Or there's always Mozart of course, whose operas can be fun as well.
I suppose it depends on whether one listens to Purcell and Handel or Britten and Tavener.
The things that come immediately to mind are word construction (all the unnecessary -eth's), as well as archaic words like thy, thine, thou. However, it might also be as someone else pointed out, it's probably not as archaic as poetic.
To be fair, those works are usually settings or adaptations of Biblical or Shakespearean texts. But they are indeed archaisms, though some of them do linger in northern dialects. Having said that those word forms are not difficult to understand, especially for anyone who is familiar with other Germanic languages.
Thank you! I was actually bemoaning the lack of new titles in my playlist when the idea popped into my head. Everyone's asking for Jan Böhmermann (sp?) or Rammstein-like songs, but my mind unfortunately closes off when I hear... well, overly loud pop or rock. I'm very happy so many people responded to this topic: I have a looooooong list of things to listen to soon! I hope this topic helped you in some way as well. :)
Well, I find opera lyrics are often hard to unterstand (in any language, including my own). And the singers are often non-native speakers. And yes, the German in Wagner operas is outdated. In general, language learning through music is fun, but not very effective.
I would recommend you to listen to HR2 or BR-Klassik because they often talk a lot between the pieces.
Yes, I have seen these recommendations on the other thread I mentioned above, and I thank you for posting them here again! :) At my level, however, I still have problems with following straight German conversations, which is why I'd rather explore audio options with both German and English translations. Doubtless, I'll move on to these when my listening skills have improved. Thank you! :)
There are some videos on youtube which offer both German and English subtitles, e.g. Der Hölle Rache von Mozart https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLlux8ICOfI
oder das Weihnachtsoratorium vom Bach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rv_N2ONpGk
I also own some CDs which offer both in the booklet. But since the copyright of all classical music is long gone, you can just look up the text somewhere on the internet.
Edit: Habe die Ode an die Freude vergessen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4pbMUEHvoAo
Maybe you also like the songs of the 1920ies, e.g. sung by Comedian Harmonists, modern interpretations by Max Rabe & das Palastorchester. "Mein kleiner, grüner Kaktus", "Veronika, der Lenz ist da", "Dein ist mein ganzes Herz", "Bei mir bist du schön" etc.
I haven't tried any of these yet, but I shall check them out soon! Thank you for this suggested alternative. :)
Technically, it's sung with an American accent.
It's probably not possible to find a native German singer who would be willing to perform this piece, considering the long history of German efforts to suppress the works of P.D.Q. Bach.
There are even people who claim he never actually existed!
Even his own family joined in the conspiracy.
Although P.D.Q. Bach was born on April 1, 1742 and died on May 5, 1807, the dates on his first tombstone (before he was moved to an unmarked pauper’s grave) were inscribed “1807-1742” in a transparent attempt to make it appear that he could not have been the son of J.S., who died in 1750.
Nice try, Bach family—close, but no cigar: some of us, or at least one of us, are not fooled, or at least, is not fooled.
I've never heard of him until now, and a quick google search indicated that he's a fictitious character made by a satirist! :o What a messed up story!
He was the last and the least of the great Johann Sebastian Bach’s twenty-odd children, and he was certainly the oddest. His father ignored him completely, setting an example for the rest of the family (and indeed for posterity), with the result that P.D.Q. was virtually unknown during his own lifetime; in fact, the more he wrote, the more unknown he became. He finally attained total obscurity at the time of his death.