The Song of the Earth (Das Lied von der Erde), Mahler’s last song collection, was based on Hans Bethge’s German translations of ancient Chinese poems published in 1907 as The Chinese Flute (Die chinesische Flöt). One of the most charmingly oriental atmospheric touches comes in the timbres and melodies at the opening of the third song of the collection, “Of Youth” (Von der Jugend).
The cycle ends with “The Farewell” (Der Abschied), where Mahler’s nature portraits include birdsongs, as the singer moves us into a poignant scene of darkness and longing:
“The birds crouch quietly on their branches
The world falls asleep!
From the shadows of my firs comes a cool rustling.
I stand here and await my friend;
I await his last farewell.”