Fünf Gesänge

Year of Composition: 
Opus Number: 
Elisabeth von Metzdorff
Original Publisher: 
Simmel. July 1865

Currently, David Popper’s Opus 1 has to be considered lost, which makes his Fünf Gesänge Op. 2 his earliest surviving published work. Its dedicatee is Elisabeth Metzdorff, opera singer at the Prussian Royal Court Opera. From the looks of Popper’s handwriting on the title, the dedication was not made at the time of the composition. It is quite likely that Popper first met Metzdorff when he, then still principal cellist at the court in Löwenberg, appeared as a soloist at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig on 13 October 1863. Records show that Miss Metzdorff also sang in Leipzig around the same time, although today we can only speculate about the exact circumstances and nature of Popper’s and her acquaintance.

Three of the poems that Popper set to music had also been used by Schumann: Heine’s Im wunderschönen Monat Mai as well as Und wüssten’s die Blumen, die kleinen and Ich will meine Seele tauchen appear in Dichterliebe. Eichendorff’s In einem kühlen Grunde had been used by Gluck before. Leipzig-born Adolf Böttger (1815–1870), author of Wie Schmetterlinge, translated Byron and many others to German, and the fact that his complete poems were published in Leipzig between 1864 and 1866 add weight to the theory that Popper composed these songs during or after his visit there.