So it turns out, most of the heart-wrenching pieces of Classical music about mothers were written in response to mothers’ deaths. Depressing for Mother’s Day, I know. But, beautiful and inspired music, nonetheless.
Below, we present a list of Classical Music, some happy, most sad, inspired by composers and librettists’ appreciation of and love for mothers.
Songs My Mother Taught Me — Zigeuner Lieder —Antonin Dvorak
Composed by Antonin Dvorak in 1880, “Songs My Mother Taught Me” alternates between major and minor with lilting, melancholy motifs. The text sings of tears at the loss of a mother, but hope in that now the child can teach their own children the songs their mother taught them. Oft-performed by singers as well as violinists and cellists, Anna Netrebko sings it particularly poignantly.
Senza Mamma — Suor Angelica — Giacomo Puccini
Towards the conclusion of Puccini’s brilliant, one-act opera Suor Angelica, Angelica, who has been waiting in a convent for news from her noble family for seven years, learns that the baby who she had longed hear about has died. In this aria, Angelica sings of sadness that the baby could not survive without his mother, though her music modulates to hopefulness in a major key when she realizes that now that the baby is an angel in heaven, he can finally see his mother. Sure to produce waterworks, and few sing this piece more beautifully than the up and coming Canadian soprano, Joyce El-Khoury.
Tiny’s Song — Paul Bunyan — Benjamin Britten
One of the few moments of pathos in Benjamin Britten’s oft-forgotten opera (aside from recent performances at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music). In this song, Tiny, sings of her sorrow at her mother’s death as lumberjack men try to court her.
Muttertandelei — Strauss
“Muttertandelei”, meaning “Mother-chatter” is full of delicate, playful speech-like motifs, as if a mother is speaking to their child. Finally, a playful piece singing of mother-child relationships.
Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit — Ein Deutsches Requiem — J. Brahms
When Johannes Brahms’ mother died in 1865, the composer was so devastated he did what all great composers do – composed a great work. His “Deutsches Requiem” for choir, baritone and soprano is full of pathos. The beautiful soprano solo, “Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit” speaks of sorrow, which will be consoled “as one is consoled by their mother.”
Mother and Child Reunion — Paul Simon
And now for some much-need relief. Paul Simon wrote “Mother and Child Reunion,” in 1972 after the death of a pet, imagining how he would feel if the same thing happened to his wife. Still a bit depressing, but Paul Simon’s upbeat spin is impossible not to dance to. Happy Mother’s Day, Musical Toronto!