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About Paul Heyse

One of the leading representatives of the Munich circle of writers devoted to preserving classical form and content, Paul Heyse (Paul Johann Ludwig von Heyse) is best known outside Germany as the translator of the Spanish and Italian poems so compellingly set by Hugo Wolf. For Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch, Heyse shared credit with Emanuel Geibel (1815 - 1884), but for Wolf's consummate late-period Italienisches Liederbuch, the translations were by Heyse alone. Heyse studied classical and Romance languages and became familiar with Italy when a grant enabled him to travel there. Following his schooling, he was summoned to Munich by Bavaria's Maximilian II to share leadership of the Munich circle with Geibel while pursuing on his own the art of the short story, as well as translations of Italian verse. His novels met with some approval, though his stage works were much less successful. His antagonism toward the emerging Naturalist school led to a diminution of his reputation. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for literature in 1911, but found he was largely out of favor by that time. Still, his translations live on in the songs of Wolf and some of his short stories may still be found in modern anthologies. Of the 44 songs set by Wolf in his Spanisches Liederbuch, 26 are to Heyse's translations. While many of the 17 original poems are by unknown authors, others are by such as Cervantes, Rodrigo Cota, Camoens, and Lope de Vega. From Heyse's translations, Wolf drew poems for both the Geistliche and Weltliche Lieder that were spiritually tormented, calming, or supplicating in the former, and sly, sagacious, and often sexually charged in the latter. The Italian poems are even finer, as are Wolf's settings. Of the 44 texts, 38 have their origin in the Tuscan rispetto, a kind of ironic love verse that prompted Wolf's most free-ranging expression. While Joseph Marx set some of these same texts, it was to lesser effect. Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari set an Italienisches Liederbuch to another's translations

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