When you think of the Sound of Music, one of the most iconic movie musicals of all time, certain things come to mind. Maybe you think of Julie Andrews and her incredible voice. Or perhaps you recall the catchy tunes and memorable scenes. One thing that might not immediately spring to mind is the meaning behind one of the film’s most famous songs: Edelweiss. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at what the song is about and what it means for the characters in the Sound of Music. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot more than just a pretty flower!
Edelweiss is a popular song in Russian. She appears in the musical The Sound of Music (released back in 1959) by Rodgers and Hammerstein. The captain’s character of Georg Ludwig von Trapp (for the first time the composition was performed by Theodor Bickel together with Mary Martin) and his household are shown before the performance (already by the end of the second act). The composition positions the patriotism of the Austrians in the face of the accomplished accession and the forced von Trapp to serve in the Kriegsmarine, a kind of “farewell” to the Fatherland. His devotion is symbolized by a plant – a wonderful alpine edelweiss.
Oscar Hammerstein II, who left this world in August 1960, wrote this composition before his death.
The story behind the song “The Sound of Music” – Edelweiss
In Boston, the Sound of Music selection tests were carried out. Richard Rogers felt that the character would suit the composition, symbolizing his farewell to his homeland. Rogers, together with Oscar Hammerstein II, were going to create an additional composition that would be performed by von Trapp on the festival stage (closer to his finale). When creating a piece of music, they realized that it fits perfectly with Theodor Bickel, selected for the role of captain. In the original screenplay from Lindsey and Kraus, there is a scene where the baroness pays a visit to the captain’s house. Gretl hands her a bouquet of edelweiss. Here, these flowers symbolize a common field plant, which is an Austrian symbol. The memory of the flowers is heartily kept by both the captain and his household. All this is happening against the backdrop of the occupation of Austria by the Nazis.
Rogers was able to become the creator of an artless, but piercing and touching waltz melody. It is lyrical, created in the Italian style of the ritornello. The narrative talks about the influence of the composition created by Hammerstein. “Edelweiss” performed very well in the musical. The composition was the result of the joint work of two creators of good music. Hammerstein died of cancer (9 months after the debut production of the musical on Broadway).
The meaning of the song “The Sound of Music” – Edelweiss
Edelweiss is a popular plant in Austria. It is even on the Austrian schilling. After the popularization of the euro, coins are produced with its image (larger denominations). The plant itself is protected by the state, it cannot be plucked. The flower appears on the emblems of the headdresses of soldiers (Austrian armed forces) and Bavarian mountain shooters.
The composition’s unheard-of popularity among English-speaking audiences has led listeners to misjudgment that it is the Australian national anthem. But it’s not. The current anthem is “Land of mountains, country of streams.”
Often “Edelweiss” is associated with the song – Ol’ Man River from the music show Boat (also written by Hammerstein). Similar misconceptions about these two songs have been pointed out by some prose writers, who see this as recognition of Hammerstein’s talent. Alison McLamore, in her writing on musical theater, wrote: “The last composition created specifically for the play was ‘Edelweiss’, a subtle homage to the plant from Austrian folk songs. Hammerstein’s biographer Hugh Forden noted that “the authors are gifted, very well, they have worked out a unique folk song with high quality … 30 years later,” Edelweiss “, as many believed, turned out to be a trivial Austrian song, although it was composed for the theater stage.
In his biography, Theodor Bickel wrote that one day, after a concert, a native of Austria turned to him and said: “I love this Edelweiss,” and then quite confidently said: “I know this song for a long time, but only in the German version”
Another factual oversight is the idea that the composition presented and described above was a true Nazi anthem, although it was never positioned as a pro-Nazi creation within the framework of a musical and did not appear during Nazi Germany.
In the production of Edelweiss, someone always performed only during the musical, the film adaptation was based on the script by Ernest Lehman. Due to the writing of another scene, the composition sounds twice. The inspiration was a line from Howard Lindsay’s peculiar screenplay.
Captain von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer, is asked to sing “Edelweiss” in the living room with his family and reopen his heart to love. Lehman brought this composition to the stage of the Salzburg Festival. The characters throughout the musical encouraged the audience to join in and sing along to them in performance. Thus, an atmosphere of confrontation with the occupiers was perfectly created.
When scoring this composition, the voice of Bill Lee was used.
The composition was also sung in Chinese (Josephine Xiao – in the movie “The Lightning Killer” from 1967).
In the television series The Sound of Music Live, the composition was performed by Stephen Moyer, who played the same captain in 2013.
In Philip K.’s film adaptation of Dick’s The Man in the High Castle of the same name, the composition is performed by Jeanette Olsson. it was conceived as a musical intro for the opening credits. But the second line (“Every morning you greet me”) was omitted and did not appear in the credits.