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Kuhnau 4th Biblical Sonata


MAB

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I have recently discovered, with great pleasure, the Kuhnau Bibilical Sonatas and am enjoying learning the Fourth.

 

I am broadly aware of the programme of the piece, but as my Medieval German is not all that it might be, can anyone let me have translations for the exact texts as they appear in each movement ?

 

I would be very grateful for any assistance as, I am sure, would my future audiences.

 

Kind regards,

M

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Just for the fun of it -- I make my living with this kind of thing, you know, only usually the other way round (from your beautiful language to mine).

 

This is rather a word-by-word translation. I could not venture to capture the spirit of baroque, ornamental writing in English, so please do make corrections. In case you were to print the translation, it would be kind, however, if you put my name under it.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

The fatally ill, and again healthy, Hiskias

 

To piety, great promises are made. A life both earthly and eternal is called for her recompensation. She has hand and seal on it: Godliness serves well in everything and carries the promise of this life and the coming one. However, counting the years of God's pious children, I sometimes find that an ungodly one is much in the advantage, as in other earthly goods, so in health and longevity. Who does not know King Hiskias? Was he not, among the anointed, a rare example of godliness? The spirit of God gave him testimony by which his glory became immortal. It testifies that this potentate made the will of God his only aim in all his concerns, that he suppressed the service of the false gods, trusted in God and led a life as was not equaled by another king in Juda. However, I mostly have to count him among those to whom the star of earthly happyness rises but rarely. He indeed did not suffer from lack of wealth and honor, but lived to see some storm of ill fate. How many rioting enemies did not disturb his quiet soul time and again! Then, considering his old age, I find a poisonous worm of illness stinging him all too soon, so that even in the noon of his life, he was told that his days were to end before long, and that he was not to rise before the day of judgement. Isaias was God's messenger to deliver this message in the name of his high commander: Have your house prepared, for you will die, and not live. I do not notice, now, in this patient a movement as strong as in Belshazzar, who grew pale and could not keep still his limbs from horror when seeing the Finger writing his sentence on the whitewashed wall. However, I see that Hiskias is in no little excitement over this, as is proven by the tears flowing from his eyes, and by his other saddened gestures. But he does not yield to despair, as he knows well the way to the foremost medico. To Him, he laments his ailment and asks for help eagerly. He pleads his leading a faultless life, and his heart having always been true to God. By this, he easily wins the heart of the, as ever loving, heavenly physician. As the Prophet, having hardly left the patient's threshold, is ordered to turn around and tell the king in the kindest way that he was God's dearest child and the prince of his people: His prayer and plead having penetrated the clouds, and he shall be in good health again, and visit the House of the Lord on the third day, and his capital will be spared from the Assyrian king. This wondrous help God confirms by an uncommon miracle of nature. He gives him a number to remember, which the number of his days will surpass in proportione sesquialtera; as the shadow on Aha's sundial will walk backwards by ten hours, and by this advises him that the hour of his death will lie 15 years ahead. What joy this prolongation of his life must have inspired in him, only those will understand who have learned from sickness about the preciousness of health an life.

 

(1) The heart of king Hiskias saddened over the news of his imminent death, and the eager prayer for his health, in a lamento on the verse: Heil du mich lieber Herre (Cure me, o dear Lord), from the hymn: Ach Herr mich armen Sünder (O Lord, help thy poor sinner).

 

(2) His trust that GOD will have received his prayer and surely shall return him to good health, as well as give him rest from his enemies, in the verse: Weicht all ihr Übeltäter, mir ist geholfen schon (Away, you evildoers, I was helped already), from the same hymn.

 

(3) The joy about his recovery, during which he sometimes remembers the evil bygone, but soon forgets it again.

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Just for the fun of it -- I make my living with this kind of thing, you know, only usually the other way round (from your beautiful language to mine).

 

This is rather a word-by-word translation. I could not venture to capture the spirit of baroque, ornamental writing in English, so please do make corrections. In case you were to print the translation, it would be kind, however, if you put my name under it.

 

Best,

Friedrich

 

===========================

 

 

I am impressed! :P

 

 

 

MM

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Just out of interest, which edition of the Biblical Sonatas have you got? I have the old Denkmäler volume of the (at the time) complete Kuhnau, and the prefaces to all of his published volumes (written and reproduced in Gothic text) do take some unravelling! The sonatas are also fine music worth reviving.

 

I translate from German, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian and am happy to translate small texts for people on this forum before charging- it's something I do for various colleges and conservatoires! More and more publishers do not include an ENglish tranlsation of the preface, which frequently deprives the non-linguist of essential information on performance practice. Alas, most European publishers I have approached are claiming extreme poverty (there IS a recession despite what governments may say!!).

 

All best wishes,

 

John Collins

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Just out of interest, which edition of the Biblical Sonatas have you got?

I did use the Denkmäler-Ausgabe as well, as it is available from IMSLP and, by some lucky coincidence, even from my bookcase.

 

Yes, translating generally earns bad pay and does not suffice to make one's living. As for me, I do it occasionally to earn a little extra, and mainly stick to writing introducory notes for concerts and recordings. My favourite is introducing audiences to programmes – it's really fun, and if you love the music, you rarely fail to induce love, or at least pleasure and interest, in the listeners.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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