Schubert’s Psalm 23 – Part III

I hope you have enjoyed learning Schubert’s beautiful motet. There is just so much to talk about and study in this complex piece of music. Let’s delve into the translation, text painting, and pronunciation which will bring your interpretation to the next level.

Gott ist mein Hirt (God is my Shepherd) text is taken form the familiar biblical verse, Psalm 23. Write in your translation, even when it repeats, so you know what you are singing at all times. Below is a translation to copy into your score:
Gott ist mein Hirt, (God is my Shepherd,)
Mir wird nichts mangeln. (I will nothing lack.)
Er lagert mich auf grüne Weide, (He keeps me in a green pasture)
Er leitet mich an stillen Bächen, (And leads me by still waters;)
Er labt mein schmachtendes Gemüte. (He refreshes my languishing soul.)
Er führt mich auf gerechtem Steige (He guides me on the right paths)
zu seines Namens Ruhm. (For his name’s sake.)
Und wall’ ich auch im Todesschatten Thale (Yet I walk in the valley of death’s shadow)
So wall’ ich ohne Furcht,  (Yet I wander without fear,)
Denn du beschützest mich, (For You protect me,)
Dein Stab und deine Stütze (Your rod and your staff)
Sind mir immerdar mein Trost. (Are always my comfort.)
Du richtest mir ein Freudenmahl (You prepare joyous meal for me)
Im Angesicht der Feinde zu, (In sight of my enemies;)
Du salbst mein Haupt mit Öle, (You anoint my head with oil,)
Und schenkst mir volle Becher ein, (And give me an overflowing cup,)
Mir folgest Heil und Seligkeit (Salvation and happiness will follow me)
In diesem Leben nach, (In this life,)
Einst ruh’ ich ew’ge Zeit dort (And one day I will rest forever)
In des Ew’gen Haus. (There in the eternal house.)
Articulation and Text painting
Schubert does much of the work for you by setting the stressed syllable on the longer note value and loudest dynamic of each phrase. Try not to overdo your word stress and instead focus on the natural inflection of the language. You can do this by reading the text through in German without any rhythm to emphasize each long vowel or stressed syllable. (for example: Er LA-gert mich auf GRÜ-ne WEI-de). Note that many final syllables are unstressed in German, so be sure to sing a schwa (“uh”) sound so that unstressed syllables don’t sound more important than they are.
German is a consonant-heavy language containing many consonant clusters. Continue to find the legato line by elongating the vowels and delaying consonants as much as possible, but also look for ways to emphasize certain consonants (based on the translation) to bring out Schubert’s brilliant text painting. For example, you could slightly elongate the ‘sh’ sound on TodesSCHattenThale to bring out the mysterious meaning of “valley of death’s shadow” just as we might emphasize Death’s Dark SHadow in our language.

Pronunciation Recommendations
There is a TON of German in this piece to work into your mouth, which is why this has been the primary exercise in our teaching so far. We do not claim to be the experts in this field, but have learned and studied German singing diction and have studied the German language extensively with native speakers. Below are our corrections we have given to our own students to the German pronunciation track on “Gott ist mein Hirt.”
Word IPA Pronunciation Issue
Gott gɔt Gawt Vowel should be loose and tall
ist ɪst ihst tall vowel, not “ee”
Mangeln mɑŋəln ma[ng]ehln “ng” is one sound together, not a hard “g” as in girl nor “y” as in year
stillen ʃtɪlən Shtihlluhn Over closing the first vowel to “ee” and the final vowel to “eh”
steige ʃtɑegə Shttaheeguh “st” combination is pronounced “sht”
immerdar ɪmmɐdaɐ Ihmuhdahr first “r” is reduced, not pronounced
zu tsu tsooh “z” is pronounced “ts” in German
volle fɔlə fawlluh tall, open “o” instead of closed “o” like Minnesota
Trost tro:st trohst closed “o”
diesen di:zən deezuhn “s” is pronounced Z when between two vowels
Seligkeit ze:liçka:et zaylichhkaheet “gk” combination is like a cat hissing, not “sh”
Please share or leave a comment! We’d love to hear what you have to say about this piece or if you have any particular questions you’d like us to cover!

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