By a Lonely Forest Pathway


Charles Griffes set Nikolaus Lenau’s poem "Auf geheimem Waldespfade" as the second of Five German Poems for medium voice and piano. The gentle music belies a darker text, in which the descending evening reminds a lover of his absent love.


The audio recording, provided in the audio player to the right, features Thomas Hampson, baritone, and Craig Rutenberg, piano. This song was recorded for Instant Encore as part of American Public Media's Performance Today series, presented by Classical Minnesota Public Radio. To listen, please click on the track name itself. You can download a recording of this entire recital for free through the Instant Encore website with the download code: THSOA2009.

Toward the turn of the 20th century, composers became more ambitious, turning their creative energies to the more serious art song. This trend sparked many American composers to study in Europe, where they imbibed German Lieder as well as French mélodies--song forms that emphasized the fusion of poetry and music. Charles Griffes was among these European-trained composers, writing skillfully crafted songs, sometimes called “American Lieder,” that integrated European aesthetic values into works with uniquely American qualities.

Griffes set the poem in the original German, but it has been translated several times. One version is given below.

Auf geheimem Waldespfade
by Nikolaus Lenau

Auf geheimem Waldespfade
Schleich' ich gern im Abendschein
An das öde Schilfgestade,
Mädchen, und gedenke dein!

Wenn sich dann der Busch verdüstert,
Rauscht das Rohr geheimnisvoll,
Und es klaget und es flüstert,
Daß ich weinen, weinen soll.

Und ich mein', ich höre wehen
Leise deiner Stimme Klang,
Und im Weiher untergehen
Deinen lieblichen Gesang.

By a Lonely Forest Pathway
translation by Henry Chapman

By a lonely forest pathway
I am fain at eve to flee
To the dreary rushy beaches,
Dearest, there to dream of thee!

And I watch the woods grow darker,
Hear the reeds’ mysterious sighs,
Hear them whisp’ring and complaining,
Till my tears, my tears arise.

And I fancy ‘tis the accents
Of thy voice that round me play,
Till the music of thy singing
On the water dies away.

Audio PLaylist