Jonathan Santore, composer
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Eight Gypsy Songs after Brahms

Listen to excerpts from the new Navona CD There Are Many Other Legends, tracks 6–13

  • Score: $3 (for reproduction rights; additional charge for hard copies)
  • For SATB chorus (a cappella)
  • Secular text (settings of English translations from Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder, op. 103)
  • 9:00
  • Difficulty rating (1-5): 5
  • Hear a performance of the work (New Hampshire Master Chorale, Dan Perkins, conductor)
  • View a PDF score excerpt
  • Purchase, request full review copy or more information, etc.

Commissioned and premiered by the New Hampshire Master Chorale, Dan Perkins, Music Director.

Eight Gypsy Songs after Brahms was commissioned by the New Hampshire Master Chorale for a concert featuring Brahms’ Zigeunerlieder, op. 103. I decided to set English translations of some of the texts from this work. Once I selected the texts (from songs 1, 5, 10, 7, 8, 4, and 2 in the original work), they began to form a coherent story in my mind—a story of passionate love, deep sorrow, and tragic misunderstanding. It seems to me that this is also an apt metaphor for the experience of the Roma people throughout history.

My thanks to Dr. Antony Green of Berlin for his assistance with the translations.

I. (and VIII.)
Hey, Gypsy, strike the strings!
Play the song of the unfaithful maiden!
Let the strings weep, wail, woeful, anxious,
till hot tears wet this cheek!

The bronzed boy leads his beautiful blue-eyed maiden to the dance,
strikes his spurs together (a czardas melody starts),
kisses, embraces his sweet little dove, spins her, leads her, cheers and leaps –
throws three silver coins on the cimbalom, and it rings!

The moon shrouds its face –
sweet love, I’m not angry with you!
If I wanted to make you sad,
then how could I love you?
My heart is hot, aflame for you,
though no tongue confess it –
soon, senseless in love’s drunkenness;
soon, like a little dove, gently, deeply …

Does it sometimes come to mind, sweet love,
what you once vowed to me with a holy oath?
Don’t deceive me, don’t leave me –
you don’t know how dear I hold you –
love me, as I love you,
and God’s grace streams down onto you!

Hark, the wind wails in the branches sadly, gently;
sweet love, we must part: good night.
Ah, how I would like to rest in your arms,
but the hour of parting nears – may God protect you!
Dark is the night, no little star gives light;
sweet love, trust in God and weep not.
Should the dear Lord once lead me back to you,
we’ll stay together forever in love’s happiness.

Dear God, you know how often I’ve regretted
that I once gave my beloved a little kiss.
The heart commanded, “I must kiss him!”
I’ll think of that first kiss as long as I live.
Dear God, in the quiet night, you know how often
I’ve thought, in delight and sorrow, of my darling.
Love is sweet, though remorse is bitter –
my poor heart stays true to him forever, forever.

High-towering Rima tide, how bleak you are;
on the shore I wail aloud for you, my love!
Waves flee, surge, roar onto the shore, over to me –
on Rima’s shore let me weep for her forever!

—Hugo Conrat (translated from Hungarian)
English translations by JS

choral music, no accompaniment, no piano, a cappella, a capella, full chorus, romany, gypsies, poem, poetry, love, sorrow, heartbreak, music, modern, contemporary, classical, composition


Jonathan Santore
Plymouth, NH


Constantly Learning Composition

Thoughts about creating new works of music


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