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The Six Thèmes Variées, op. 41, of Raphael Dressler Print E-mail
Written by Tom Moore   

Raphael Dressler (1784-1835) is perhaps slightly better known today than most of his contemporary flutists due to the fact he emigrated to England in 1820, where he made a successful career prior to returning to the Continent, where he died at Mainz, Feb. 12, 1835. He was born in Graz, Austria, in 1784, and moved to Vienna about 1809. He became first flutist in Hannover in 1817, and moved to London in 1820 (his Six Thèmes, the subject of this article, is dedicated to a German nobleman, Count Adolf de Kielmansegge, in the service of the Hanoverian dynasty that had held the throne since the accession of George I, who presumably smoothed the way for Dressler's arrival).

Dressler is credited with having published over 100 collections for flute, including flute duos, sonatas for flute and piano (the third sonata, op. 52, has been published by Falls House Press), quartets for flute and strings, trios for flute, violin and cello, works for flute and orchestra, and more. Unfortunately, there is as yet (as far as I know) no complete works list arranged by opus number with approximate dates of composition and publication, a difficult task given that most printed music from this period has no date of publication included.

His Six Thèmes Variées op. 41 is the earlier of two contributions by Dressler to a popular genre that attracted the talents of the most highly skilled flutists and composers for the flute of this period, including Niels Peter Jensen, Friedrich Kuhlau, A.B. Fürstenau, Saverio Mercadante and numerous others, producing attractive works of considerable virtuosity for unaccompanied flute which are only now being rediscovered. Although I am not aware of a source correlating dates of publication and plate numbers for music issued by Hofmeister, the fact that the title page of the work notes that the composer is principal flute in the royal orchestra in Hannover means that it must have been issued between 1817, when Dressler took this position, and 1820, when he left for London. This range of dates also means that if op. 41, with plate number 545, can be thus dated, his trio op. 39, with plate number 532 from Hofmeister, must be very close to the same time. This date correlates well with the six popular melodies which Dressler chose to vary in op. 41, for which the most recent are very close to this date (within 5 years or less, as will be seen in the discussion below).

At least two libraries hold the second volume of op. 41 (Florida State University, where the copy is held in the Hitchcock Collection, and Yale University). I am not aware of a copy of the first volume in library holdings, but a private copy certainly exists, since Miriam Nastasi includes the variations on Die Feldflasche (op. 41, no. 2) in the collection Die Soloflöte, vol. 2 (Edition Peters, 31605 b). This seems to be the only modern publication of any of the selection in op. 41.

The six tunes chosen by Dressler are as follows (I have assigned letters for ease of reference).

Cah. 1

A: La Sentinelle (der treueTod).

B: Die Feldflasche

C: Man glaubt von den Männern

Cah. 2

D: Ich bin liederlich, du bist, etc.

E: WennichnuralleMädchen

F: An Alexis send ichdich (IdasSendung der Rose v. Himel)

A: La Sentinelle (der treueTod).

Confusingly, these two titles seem to refer to two poems that share the same melody. Le retour de la sentinelle, to give the complete title, is a romance with lyrics by Brault and music by Henry Beno François Darondeau (1779-1865), published in 18091 (though also attributed to Alexandre Choron). The melody seems to have been used to set a separate poem, Der treue Tod, by Theodor Körner (as helpfully noted in the Allegemeine Musikalische Zeitung in 18212 , which says "Theodor Körners Gedicht: der treue Tod, welches der Melodie einer früher vorhandenen französischen Romanze: La Sentinelle, untergelegt ist, hat mit dieser allgemeinen Beyfall gefunden und ist sogar ein Paradestück für öffentliche Sänger geworden[Theodor Körner's poem Der treue Tod, which is set to the melody of an earlier French romance La Sentinelle, has, along with the romance, met with widespread success, and has even become a showpiece for public singers]." When used as the starting point for instrumental settings, either or both titles are frequently found. I have included the French poem and its translation below –the Körner can be found with its translation in my article on Jensens's variations for flute, which includes a set of variations on the tune3.

Retour de la Sentinelle. The Return of the Sentinel

L'aube riante annonçait le matin. The smiling dawn announced the morning.
Sous un vieil orme, auprès de sa chaumière Under an old elm, near his cottage,
Le casque en tête et la lyre à la main, His helmet on his head, and his lyre in his hand
Jeune guerrier chantait à sa bergère: The young warrior sang to his shepherdess:
Ici me voilà de retour Here I am, returned from the
Des nobles champs de la victoire: Noble fields of victory:
J'offre mes loisirs à l'amour, bis. I offer my leisure to love (bis).
Quand j'ai combattu pour la gloire. When I fought for glory,
Dans les périls où l'honneur m'a conduit, Amidst the perils into which honor led me,
Guidé par lui, soutenu par ma flamme, Guided by honor, sustained by my flame,
Aux feux du jour, aux ombres de la nuit, To the fires of day, to the shades of night
Je confiais le secret de mon âme. I confided the secret of my soul.
Mais dans ces lieux, à mon retour But in those places, on my return
Des nobles champs de la victoire. From the noble fields of victory,
J'offre mes lauriers à l'amour, bis. I offered my laurels to love (bis).
Quand j'ai combattu pour la gloire. When I fought for glory,
Avant que j'eusse affronté le trépas, Before I had faced death,
A mes transports tu trouvaismille charmes; In my transports you found a thousand charms;
Pour son amie, aura-t-il moins d'appas, Will the lover bearing the noble weight of arms
L'amant chargé du noble poids des armer? Be less appealing to his young woman?
Non, non, tu dois à mon retour No, no, you must, on my return,
Mêler, pour prix de la victoire, Mix, as the price of victory,
Les myrtes heureux de l'amour bis. The happy myrtles of love (bis)
Aux lauriers brillants de la gloire. With the brilliant laurels of glory.

B: Die Feldflasche.

This is a setting of a poem by Johann Emanuel Veith (1788-1876), with music by Charles Keller, also known for his fine flute music. It commemorates the terrible Battle of Leipzig between Napoleon's forces and the coalition opposing him (Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Sweden), which took place October 16-18, 1813, with 600,000 soldiers involved, and leading to the death or wounding of 90,000. The song was published with accompaniment for piano or guitar in 1816, and was already distributed on broadsides in 1814.

Die Feldflasche The Canteen

Helft Leutchen, mir vom Wagen doch - Help me, folks, down from the wagon –
Seht her. mein Arm ist schwach But take care, my arm is weak –
Ich trag ihn in der Binde noch It is still in a sling.
Drum Leutchen, sein gemach4 So folks, not so fast!
Zerbrecht mir nur die Flasche nicht Just don't break my canteen –
Nehmt sie zuerst heraus Take it out first;
Wenn diese Flasche mir zerbricht If it breaks
Sind alle Freuden aus. All my joys will be over.

„Bekümmert euch die Flasche so? Why are you so worried about your canteen?
Was wird denn viel drum sein? What is the story?
Das schlechte Glas, das bischen Stroh Some poor glass, a little straw,
Und drin kein Tropfen Wein?" And not a drop of wine inside?
Ei, Leutchen, die ihrs nicht versteht Ah, folks, you don't understand;
Nehmt nur die Flasch heraus Just take the canteen out.
Wie ihr sie um und um beseht As you look at each other today –
Mein König trank daraus My King drank from it.

Bei Leipzig draußen, wie ihr wißt There at Leipzig, as you know,
wars just kein Kinderspiel It was not just child's play;
Die Kugel hat mich hart begrüßt The bullet hit me hard;
Da lag ich im Gewühl And I lay there among the crowd;
Man trug mich fort, dem Tode nah They carried me away, while I was at death's door,
Zog mir die Kleider aus Took my clothing off;
Da hielt ich fest die Flasche da As I held my canteen,
Mein König trank daraus My King drank from it.
Der König hielt in unsern Reihn The King was in our ranks;
Wir sahn sein Angesicht We saw his face;
Kartätschen flogen auf uns ein The grapeshot was flying at us;
Er hielt und wankte nicht. He stood fast and did not waver.
Er dürstete. ich sahs ihm an He was thirsty – I could tell by looking at him;
Nahm mir den Mut heraus I gathered my courage,
Und bot ihm meine Flasche an And offered him my canteen;
Und er, er trank daraus And he drank from it.
Er klopft mich auf die Schulter hier He tapped me on the shoulder, here,
Und sprach: „Schön Dank, mein freund! And said "Thanks so much, my friend!
Dein Labetrunk behagte mir. Your refreshing drink pleased me.
Es war recht wohl gemeint!" It was very well meant!"
Das freute mich denn gar zu sehr I was so happy with this, my friends,
Kam´raden, rief ich aus. That I shouted.
Wer zeigt noch so ein Fläschchen her? Who else can show such a canteen?
Mein König trank daraus! My King drank from it!
Die Flasche zwingt mir Niemand ab No one will deprive me of it –
Sie bleibt mein bester Schatz It is my best treasure.
Und sterb ich, stellt mir sie auf´s Grab And should I die, put it on my grave,
Und untenher den Satz: And below, the sentence:
Er focht bei Leipzig, der hier ruht He fought at Leipzig, the one who rests
In diesem stillen Haus Here in this quiet house.
Die Flasche war sein bestes Gut — His canteen was his prize possession –
Sein König trank daraus His King drank from it.

C: Man glaubt von den Männern

This aria is from the singspiel Das Labyrinth , written as a sequel to the Magic Flute by Mozart's librettist for that masterpiece, Emanuel Schikaneder. Peter von Winter composed the music, and the work was premiered in Vienna on June 12, 1798, at the same suburban theater (the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden) where the Magic Flute had premiered less than seven years before. This aria belongs to Papageno (played by the librettist Schikaneder), and appears as no. 7 in Act 15 (the piano-vocal score held at the University of Michigan is available digitally through the HathiTrust.

Man glaubt von den Männern izt nimmer, You can no longer believe that
Dass einer beständig mehr sey, A single man is still faithful –
Ihr Mädchen, ich bessre mich immer, Oh, maidens, I am always improving myself,
Nur bin ich alleine noch treu, nur ich, nur ich. I am the only one who is still true, just me, just me.
Ich bin für die Treue gebohren I am born to be true,
Und käme ein Engel daher, And even if an angel were to appear,
verstopft ich mit Baumwoll die Ohren I would plug my ears with cotton,
und höre, und sehe nichts mehr And would hear and see no more.
Sonst lockten die Mädchen de de, Otherwise, the maidens would entice,
So mach ich's wie Lämmer he he. And I would be a little lamb.

D: Ich bin liederlich, du bist, etc.

Almost nothing is known about this song. It was the source for variation sets for solo guitar (Giuliani, op. 97) and for unaccompanied violin (the XII variazioni per il violino solo supra la canzonetta Ich bin liederlich du bist liederlich published 1798 by Anton Vranitzky), and most notably it is apparently quoted in the Allegro Molto of the piano sonata op. 110 of Beethoven6 .

E: Wenn ich nur alle Mädchen

This is from another opera (1797) by Peter von Winter, Babilons Piramiden, also with libretto by Schikaneder (and one can surmise from the content that it was meant to be sung by Schikaneder). Here the first act is by Johann Gallus Mederitsch, and the second act by Winter. It is the subject of a set of 9 variations for piano by Joseph Wölfl (WoO 13). The opera as a whole was arranged for flute duet by J.F. Pohl.

F: An Alexis send ich dich (Idas Sendung der Rose v. Himmel)

This is from a song cycle (Alexis und Ida: ein Schäferroman) of 46 songs to a poem by Christoph August Tiedge (1752-1841), set to music by Friedrich Heinrich Himmel (1765-1814), both of them figures who are completely forgotten today. The poem was published in 1812, the musical setting in 1813. This individual song was the source for variation sets for piano by Rungenhagen (1816) and Hünten (1827), as well as for flute and guitar (Francesco Bathioli).

An Alexis send' ich dich; To Alexis I send you;
Er wird, Rose, dich nun pflegen; He will, o Rose, now care for you;
Lächle freundlich ihm entgegen, Give him a friendly smile,
Das ihm sey, als säh' er mich! That will be for him, as if he were seeing me!
Frisch, wie du der Knosp' entquollst, Fresh, as you spring from the bud,
Send' ich dich; er wird dich küssen: I send you; he will kiss you:
Dann — jedoch er wird schon wissen, Then – although he will know everything
Was du alles sagen sollst. That you must say to him already –
Sag' ihm leise, wie ein Kuß Say softly to him, like a kiss
Mit halb aufgeschlossnem Munde, With half-closed mouth,
Wo mich, um die heiße Stunde, Where his thoughts, at the midday,
Sein Gedanke suchen muß7 . Must seek me.


1. http://books.google.com/books

2. http://books.google.com/books

3. http://www.flutefocus.com/491-themes-varies.html

4. Gemach!= not so fast 

5. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/002425271

6. http://bf.press.illinois.edu/view.php?vol=14&iss=1&f=drabkin.pdf

7. http://books.google.com/books

Tom MooreTom Moore is a journalist, musician, and translator living in Rio de Janeiro. He has recorded Telemann for Lyrichord (USA) and Boismortier for A Casa Discos (Brazil). He writes about music for BrazilMax, Musica Brasileira, 21st Century Music, Opera Today, Flute Talk, Sonograma, Early Music America, and other venues.