May Muguet Marathon: Maiglockchen and Mendelsohn

As another brief byway in a monthlong discussion of muguet, I have learned something new: not only does Germany celebrate muguet in May similarly to the French, they have their own charming name for lily of the valley: Maiglockchen. Loosely translated, that means “May’s little bells.” Not only that, but some of Germany’s most renowned authors and poets have written about “maiglockchen”, and Felix Mendelsohn set one of those poems to music, as part of a set of six “lieder”, or songs, in the form of duets. It is called “Maiglockchen und die Blumelein” (pardon the absence of umlauts; I haven’t mastered those yet).

Sheet music for "Maiglockchen und die Blumelein" by Felix Mendelsohn.

Sheet music for “Maiglockchen und die Blumelein” by Felix Mendelsohn.

It is a duet for women’s voices, and musicologist John Palmer describes it thus:

The vivacious “Maiglöckchen und die Blümelein” (Lily of the Valley and the Little Flowers), setting a text by von Fallersleben, dates from January 23, 1844. Mendelssohn gives forward motion to the poem, about the coming of spring and the attendant round-dance, through a syncopated repeated note in the piano part. The voice parts and right hand of the piano form a melodic unit through most of the duet.

You can hear it for yourself here:

If you’d like to know more about the symbolism of the “Maiglockchen” in German culture, this blog has a nice summary. I was interested to read that the lily of the valley is associated with Ostara, the pagan goddess of spring and dawn (who also inspired one of my all-time favorite fragrances, Penhaligon’s Ostara). Do any readers know of more lily of the valley celebrations in other countries?

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