We often use dawn as a metaphor for beginning. In Howard Miller’s “Morgenlicht” the symbolism represents not only the birth of his love for LIEDER ALIVE! founder Maxine Bernstein, but in a way, the birth of neue lieder itself.
The song, entitled “Dawn”, was originally written in English in 1975 when the composer, in the middle of a whirlwind courtship with Maxine, wrote the music (the tune came to him first) and the poem especially for her. They premiered it together at the Circle Repertory Theater in NYC. Last year, when the idea of neue lied came to the fore, I was working with pianist Peter Grunberg and he offered his translation skills to Maxine, which resulted in this version. The love between Maxine and Howard is incredibly deep and complicated, but the simplicity and beauty of the song reflect the newness of early romance and intimate moments:
“Sleep, my love,sleep as the dawn appears; too soon my dream may be fading; so slumber on, my love. When you wake to see the sun rise, then in the sunlight you’ll see your dreams, as I see mine waking gently, me beside you. Look in my eyes, and in my eyes, know I love you.
Dream my love, and if you dream of love,
let our dream love the sunlight, wake with the dawn,
and join with mine.
Warm and glowing, your eyes,
your eyes will let me know.
Wake my love.
Soon my love.
Our new world is waiting, joyously waiting,
if you love me as I love you.
It must be said that the romance and decades-long friendship that followed between Maxine and Howard inspired the birth of LIEDER ALIVE!: he supported and encouraged her passion for the art form, and was one of the first to mention it as an idea for an arts organization. In a way, we all wouldn’t be here without Howard…
Sadly, with every dawn comes a sunset: a little over a year ago, Howard lost his battle with a long illness. But his music and spirit live on in this song. We all believe he would be so excited to know about this program: it fuses his love for lieder, Maxine, and composers (he would be especially happy to be included among this great company (:). For that reason, it is of the two lieds in the program that go unpaired (the other is Erling Wold’s mentioned in blog #2). It stands alone as a testament to the birth of all neue lied and I am honored to share his legacy.