On 10 October 1916 Diepenbrock wrote in a letter to the Rome-based journalist Marie van Maanen (1864-1937), with whom he had a friendly relationship:
If only my Italian was good enough, then I would also like to write a popular Italian song. (BD IX:171) For some time he did not get round to it. Half a year later Anke Schierbeek (1878-1960) drew his attention to the text of Come raggio di sol (Like a Ray of Sun) by Antonio Caldara (1670-1736). In those days this aria from the collection Arie antiche (Ancient Arias) belonged to the staple repertory of altos and mezzo-sopranos. On 27 May 1917 Diepenbrock notated a first outline of four measures in sketchbook C-31, in the key of a minor. On 6 July the melody took shape and a day later the entire song was sketched. He completed the neat copy on 8 July.
The anonymous poet (in the past the text has been attributed to Metastasio) makes the following comparison: Like a mild ray of sun can rest peacefully on calm waves while in the depths of the sea a storm is brewing, a smile of joy and contentment can cover the face while deep down the wounded heart suffers fear and pain.
Right from the outset Diepenbrock intended Come raggio di sol for Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius (1868-1949). The song – orchestrated for soprano and wind quintet (RC 139) – was meant to be performed during her upcoming tour with the Concertgebouw Sextet. (BD IX:261) Diepenbrock also made two transcriptions. The one in g minor was a present for Anke Schierbeek, who had been the inspiration for his composition. He produced the other transcription at the beginning of 1920 especially for the young soprano Frieda Mooy (1892-1964).
This canzonetta is a good example of Diepenbrock’s vocal refinement. The virtuoso vocal part – with a compass of almost two octaves – is characterised by many large intervals, ranging from a sixth to a ninth, four graceful melismas and a varied rhythm. All of this contrasts with the eighteenth-century aria, which, for example, has only one octave leap. Diepenbrock’s lively piano part, which already evokes a slight feeling of threat from the very beginning, is very different from Caldara’s purely chordal accompaniment. The heartbreak that Diepenbrock manages to express in the last vocal line, is no doubt connected with the agony he felt about the affair his wife Elisabeth was having with Matthijs Vermeulen (1888-1967) that year. However, this pain was not supposed to show on the outside.
Robert Spannenberg & Ton Braas