Recital “Journeys of the Soul“

Sunday, 26. March 2023 06:00 p.m.

Frieder W. Anders, baritone
Mariam Dikhaminjia, piano


Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904)

Three biblical songs from op 99

Around the Lord are clouds and darkness (Psalm 97)
By the waters of Babylon (Psalm 137)
Turn to me (Psalm 25)

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Four serious songs op 121

For man is like cattle (Ecclesiastes).
I turned and looked (Ecclesiastes)
O death, how bitter you are (Jesus Sirach)
When I speak with the tongues of men and of angels (Corinthians)


Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

Songs of Travel

(R. L Stevenson)

The Vagabond/Let Beauty Awake/The Roadside Fire/Youth and Love/ In Dreams/The Infinite Shining Heavens/Whither Must I Wander/ Bright Is the Ring of Words/I Have Trod the Upward and the Downward Slope

Sonntag, 26.03.23, 18.00
Taiji Akademie
Homburger Landstr. 120 A
60435 Frankfurt

Wir freuen uns über eine kleine Spende!


The song recital presents three song cycles (or a selection from one cycle). They are “journeys of the soul,” albeit with different spiritual orientations:

The songs of Dvorak and Brahms set biblical texts to music. In Dvorak’s case, they are laments and pleas for “deliverance from the evil” that torments the human soul; in Brahms’, reflections on human life and death, and on love. In both, the occasion of their composition was grief and pain over the death of loved ones.

“The period in which Brahms wrote his Vier ernsten Gesänge was one of pain and loss for him. These were the years between 1892 and 1896; Brahms had to cope with the death of especially many people (…) When Clara Schumann died in 1896 after a prolonged illness, the songs were already finished. Brahms said: “It was not exactly on the occasion of her death that I composed them, but all this time I had been thinking quite a lot about death, which I often have the opportunity to commemorate”. (

In Dvorak‘s case, it was the death of the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow, to whom Dvorak had dedicated his 5th Symphony, and the death of his father that both inspired Dvorak to write this cycle in 1894, which was composed in the United States.

The ten Biblical Songs op. 99, based on psalm texts from the Czech Kralice Bible, are the culmination of Antonín Dvorák’s extensive song oeuvre. They are human addresses to God. In Brahms’ case, they are prophetic words, mostly taken from the Old Testament; only the text of Brahms’ last song is post-Christian (from Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians). In this respect the songs, received from the opposite of man and God, are religious songs.

It is different with R.L. Stevenson (1850-1894), the author of Treasure Island. He left a collection of 44 poems entitled Songs of Travel at his death in 1894 on Samoa in the South Pacific. Ralph Vaughan Williams set nine of these travel songs to music between 1901 and 1904. They are not religious because a personal God does not appear. Instead, they could be called “mystical” because RVW, as he is called in England, saw himself as a mystic for whom music was a “divine voice”; his mysticism “is found in that of music through which alone he could perceive ultimate realities” (Michael Kennedy). He saw himself as a “cheerful agnostic” at a certain distance from religion. Agnostics consider the existence of a higher power like God possible, but not provable.

This cycle has also been compared to Schubert’s cycle Winterreise, but at 24 songs it is more than twice as long. Both deal with the themes of wandering, separation, loneliness and experiencing nature, but with very different emotions: Anger, despair and furious mockery in Schubert – pride, melancholy, tenderness, even mischievousness in RVW. In terms of content, a course from love to farewell to dying is hinted at, but without telling a story. If Winterreise shows the journey of an individual into despair, the Songs of Travel are rather a mystical “journey of the soul” – meditations on what has been experienced.

The Songs of Travel were not composed as a cycle from the outset, but appeared as a loose collection in two successive booklets. Only later did RVW decide to publish them as a cycle with the addition of Whither must I wander. The final song, I have trod, was discovered only after the composer’s death in his estate and added by the publisher.

Frieder W. Anders