February 6, 2010

La Montanara (The Song of The Mountains)

Coro Sasslong (Val Gardena, Bz, Italy)

With this I complete my trilogy of non-political posts of middle winter—it’s a good thing to every now and then get political toxins out of your life…

This time I am pleased to pay tribute to a traditional choir song from the Alpine valleys of Northern Italy: La Montanara (The Song of the Mountains), which celebrates the mountains and the “sweet little dwelling-place / Of Soreghina, the daughter of the Sun,” a character in an ancient Dolomite legend. The song—very famous and often considered as the hymn of the Alps—is almost certainly far older than its official date of birth, about 80 years ago, when alpinist Luca Ortelli had heard it sung for the first time in a tavern and eventually by a young shepherd in a high valley of Piedmont. Ortelli transcribed the melody and lyrics and a musician from Trento, Luigi Pigarelli, added vocal harmonies to make it a choral piece.

La Montanara, which has been translated into 148 languages, was first recorded by the SAT Choir, founded in 1926 by the brothers Enrico, Mario, Silvio and Aldo Pedrotti, all members of the Trento Mountaineering Association (SAT) and all enthusiastic about performing, preserving, and promoting the alpine folk songs they grew up singing.

Here is an excellent rendering of the song by the Coro Sasslong, based in St Cristina, Val Gardena (Bz).

Many thanks to my good Facebook friend Holger Schimmelpfennig for letting me know about such a wonderful video clip.


La Montanara
Lassù per le montagne
tra boschi e valli d’or
fra l’aspre rupi echeggia
un cantico d’amor.
“La montanara, ohé!”
si sente cantare,
“cantiam la montanara,
e chi non la sa?”
Lassù sui monti dai rivi d’argento
una capanna cosparsa di fior
era la piccola, dolce dimora
di Soreghina, la figlia del sol

English version

The Song of the Mountains
Up there in the mountains
Among woods and valleys of gold
Among the rugged cliffs there echoes
A canticle of love.

La Montanara, ohe'!
You can hear sing,
We sing the Montanara
And who does not know it?

Up there in the mountains among banks of silver
A hut covered with flowers
It was the sweet little dwelling-place
Of Soreghina, the daughter of the Sun.