Work: On the Wings of Song (Auf Flügeln des Gesanges)
About This Work
Listeners will immediately recognize Mendelssohn's On Wings of Song whether in its original form for voice and piano or as transcribed for piano by Liszt or for violin and piano by Jascha Heifetz. It is the best known of Mendelssohn's 100 or so
Mendelssohn wrote the piece a couple of months after moving to Leipzig to become director of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Singakademie. He had just spent a frustrating two years in Düsseldorf trying to conduct somewhat amateur musicians and performing for unappreciative audiences. He found that everything in cosmopolitan, cultured Leipzig was to his liking; his contentment is reflected in this song.
Heinrich Heine's text tells of melody's power to transport lovers to the most beautiful night garden, with bright and fragrant flowers, gazelles, a murmuring stream, and a palm tree, under which they can dream. The song begins with a very brief piano introduction, outlining the upward arpeggiated harmony used throughout the piece. The vocal line gently drifts in a 6/8 meter, dotted rhythmic pattern that is typical of Mendelssohn. The melody of the two verses follows a simple AB structure. For a brief moment, at the beginning of the B section, the song slips into the minor to convey the wonder of the things seen in the garden, but quickly moves back into the major. The end of each verse contains a sustained pause, while the piano completes an extended arpeggio. Then, there is a break in the accompaniment, when quiet chords are used to support the final line of the verse before returning to an arpeggiated bridge. A coda reprises the beginning A section of the verse, and then the melody slowly winds down, the piano continuing the arpeggiation until the final two chords, as the lovers drift off to "dream our blessed dream."
-- Patsy Morita
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