At the suggestion of my friend Joe Pickle, the Colorado Springs Chorale dedicated its performance of Nänie to Whitney and her family on Friday evening, March 20, 2009, at the Pikes Peak Center for the Performing Arts. It was sung in German, with text by Friedrich Schiller and music by Johannes Brahms (op. 82). The program explains:
A "Nänie," a classical Roman term, was a memorial, funeral ode, or anthem mourning the death of an admired or beloved person. The references here are to Euridice, Adonis, and Achilles, whose stories are examples of the death of beauty, youth, and perfection. The power of love is poignantly presented in the composition's final lines, in the thought that "to be a lament on the lips of a loved one is glorious."
* * *
Even the beautiful must die. That which subdues mortals and gods does not touch the unyielding heart of the Stygian Zeus.
Only once did love soften the ruler of the shades, and yet, at the threshhold, sternly he recalled his gift.
Aphrodite does not soothe the wounds of the beautiful boy whose delicate body the boar cruelly tore.
The immortal mother does not rescue the divine hero, when, at the Scaean gate, falling, he fulfills his destiny.
But she rises out of the sea with all the daughters of Nereus and begins the lament for her glorified son.
Behold, the gods weep, the goddesses weep, because the beautiful perishes, the perfect dies.
Even to be a lament on the lips of a loved one is glorious, for the common ones go down to Orcus unsung.
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To listen to “Nänie,” go here.