O du mein holder Abendstern

(transposed and adapted for contralto)
From: Tannhäuser, 1845
By: Richard Wagner (1813-1883)


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Arrangement: contralto solo with piano accompaniment

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This was inspired when a certain mezzo in the newsgroup mentioned a fondness for this baritone aria. The comment evoked in me a vision of the piece sung by a mezzo, in a low key so that the entire song (save for the one crescendo) stays in a rich, pianissimo contralto. I chose E as the most likely key for such an effect, but I later added a version in E flat, which may be better for some voices.

The piano reduction is based on the one in the Schirmer vocal score, but I've adapted it quite a bit. I think my piano accompaniment is an improvement upon Schirmer's (which follows the harp part too closely, ignoring the strings and bassoons), but of course neither of them can do justice to the orchestra version.

Where my dynamic markings do not match those in the vocal score, it is not due to a creative reinterpretation of the piece, but rather a desire to better match the sound of the orchestra. Opera vocal scores typically include dynamic markings copied directly from the orchestra score, which can be misleading. For example, flutes and oboes in their high-middle range playing "pp" will still sound louder than a harp playing "p", and the entrance of three trombones constitutes a dynamic increase, not a decrease, even if they are marked "ppp" against the previous "pp".

I haven't treated this piece as comprehensively as I do most arias; I have omitted the preceding recitative, and I offer neither the usual translation nor plot summary. Given that the baritone (original) version of the aria is readily available in anthologies, I see no reason to republish the aria in the original key.

This piece would work very well with an accompaniment of string quartet plus harp. If anyone has any use for such an arrangement (for either contralto or baritone) please contact me and I may be able to prepare it for you.

Released: July 19, 1999
Latest update: June 22, 2009
Update history:
06/22/09: New address; no other changes.
10/20/06: New address; no other changes.
03/05/06: New address; no other changes.
10/16/05: New address; no other changes.
06/10/05. New address; no other changes.
10/20/03. New address; no other changes.
08/22/01. Address correction (change made in file June 18, 2000, but not uploaded until now).

Editorial notes: Transposed up a sixth from the original key (G). Piano accompaniment based on vocal score, but with significant modifications. (See also general editorial notes.)

Source materials: Vocal score, Schirmer. No date listed, but library stamp confirms it dates from before October 1907. Oakland Public Library, main branch, 782 W125t. Full score, miniature, Fürstner. Oakland Public Library, main branch, 785 W125ta, vol. 3

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June 22, 2009