View Full Version : Language Barrier?

03-01-2001, 07:13 AM
I brought this up elsewhere, but really would like some advice.

How do some of you approach the listening of B. pieces that contain words in German or Latin? The Ruins of Athens, Fidelio, Missa Solemnis, etc, etc.

I certainly FEEL the power of these works, but also want to understand the words AS they are sung. But frankly, my ability to memorize text is not great. (I've managed it with parts of B's Nineth, but only after MUCH effort.) When I was younger I was satisfied with just listening and not understanding every word, but now I want to able to decipher what is being sung AT the moment.

Of course, the obvious solution is to just follow the text while listening, but I find this detracts from the overall "experience." I have to think with my brain, so my heart takes a step back. It can easily become "study-like" instead of emotionally involving, especially when the work is quite long -- ex, Missa Solemnis, which -- being sung in Latin -- is not easy to follow at all.

I guess this also brings up the whole issue of "Technical vs. Emotional" listening. I marvel at people who are able to do both with equal vigor, i.e., pick apart "cells" or "motifs" or whatnot while still being immersed in the FEEL of the piece.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you all have to say about enjoying and understanding a language you don't know or about the Technical vs. Emotional issue.

PS -- I recall reading somewhere that the Master actually had one of his works translated into English to gain a wider audience. Was it the Mass in C? I can't remember. Sounded very, very intriguing. I mean that would imply B. was an advocate for the translation of his works. No?

03-01-2001, 01:42 PM
I think if you just take a little time to learn some of the more common words in a language and a little bit about its stucture, you should do fine. If you do that and sit with the text in front of you while you listen to the piece once or twice, you could probably understand a good bit of it on your next listening and fill in the rest from memory. The German in Fidelio, for example, is really not that complicated.