In the Preface to Volume I of my edition (similar to this) of the vocal works of J. S. Bach, I explained at some length my reasons for having become convinced of the advisability, both for singers and for listeners, of having suitable English words for vocal works which were originally composed to foreign texts, and also my philosophy, developed over the past ten years, for making them. In the Preface to my similar editions of all the vocal works of Brahms and the solo songs of Robert Schumann I have summarized these ideas as applied particularly to Brahms and Schumann. These volumes may be obtained from The Association of American Colleges, 19 West 44th Street, New York City, by whom they were distributed, as is the present volume, and as was also the pamphlet containing my translations of the 103 solo songs of Nicholas Medtner. All these volumes may also be obtained from the Drinker Choral Library, c/o Westminster Choir College, Princeton, N. J.
The present Preface is largely a repetition of what I said in prior Prefaces, as applied to and illustrated by Hugo Wolf's solo songs.
The reasons for my conviction as to the advantage of English texts for German songs are these:
I agree that the singer's objective is to produce, as nearly as may be, the emotional and artistic reaction which the composer intended. To accomplish this with a song in German requires, however, both an audience which understand German thoroughly, and a singer who not only speaks German perfectly, but who can also think and feel in German. Unless we make the obviously false assumption that the sound of Wolf's words is all that matters and that their meaning is of no great importance, we can never expect an American audience really to feel and understand a song in German, since we will never find here an audience, half of whom understand German passably; nor can a translation in the program notes give at all the same impression as words which the hearer can grasp instantly at first hand. It is difficult enough to hear words sung in one's own language, and doubly difficult to understand those in a foreign tongue.
Naturally, one who has labored for years to master pronunciation and diction in a foreign language is reluctant not to make use of this accomplishment. Very properly, also, anyone should prefer the original, however badly pronounced and though scarcely understood, to English words as awkward, banal or unsingable as those frequently found in English editions, -- apparently by poets who knew not music . . .