Gretchen's Prayer is the second of Parish
Alvars's two Illustrations of German Poetry, published simultaneously
in both Mainz (Schott) and London (Boosey), the latter firm publishing
the piece in its Foreign Musical Library series.
The text on Boosey's title page is in German
and reads: Gretchens Gebilt vor
dem Bilde / der Mater Dolorosa / Lied ohne Wörter/für
die Harfe / Componirt und der Fräulein Rosalie
Mayer / zugeeignet von / Parish Alvars [ Gretchen's
Prayer before the figure / of the Mater Dolorosa (Our
Lady of the Sorrows) / Song without words / for the
Harp / composed for and dedicated to Miss Rosalie Mayer
/ by Parish Alvars]
Gretchen is the tragic heroine of Goethe's
brilliant epic melodrama 'Faust', published in 1808, and widely
considered to be the greatest work of German literature.
The scene is set on the city ramparts, where
Gretchen is at a shrine dedicated to the Mater Dolorosa, set in
a niche in the wall. She places flowers in a vase, and kneels to
Dein Antlitz gnädig meiner Noth
Wohin ich immer gehe
Wie weh, wie weh, wie wehe
Wird mir im Buden hier!
Ich wein, ich wein, ich weine
Das Herz zerbricht in mir
Lady of the Sorrows, look down
With pity on my pain
Wherever I go
What woe, what woe, what woe
Ah, how my bosom aches!
I'm weeping, weeping, weeping
My innermost heart is breaking
Gretchen's Prayer is dedicated to Rosalie Mayer. Both she and her
mother, Leopoldina Mayer, were students of Parish Alvars in the
1840s. Rosalie must have been a favourite pupil, as she was the
dedicatee of two other pieces of his, the Souvenir of Naples,
Il Papagallo (op.85) and the Souvenir de Taglioni (op.88), which
Parish Alvars composed specially for the famous ballerina, Maria
Taglioni, who, accompanied from the pit by Parish Alvars himself,
inserted it into her Viennese performances of Adam's La Fille
du Danube during the 1839 season.