About this Recording
8.554665 - SCHUBERT, F.: Lied Edition 3 - Goethe, Vol. 1
English 

THE DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-EDITION • 3

Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Schubert: Goethe Lieder, Vol. 1

 

About The Edition

In 1816 Franz Schubert, together with his circle of friends, decided to publish a collection of all the songs which he had so far written. Joseph Spaun, whom Schubert had known since his school days, tried his (and Schubert's) luck in a letter to the then unquestioned Master of the German language, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

A selection of German songs will constitute the beginning of this edition; it will consist of eight volumes. The first two (the first of which, as an example, you will find in our letter) contains poems written by your Excellency, the third, poetry by Schiller, the fourth and fifth, works by Klopstock, the sixth by Mathison, Hölty, Salis etc., the seventh and eighth contain songs by Ossian, whose works are quite exceptional.

The Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition follows the composer's original concept. All Schubert's Lieder, over 700 songs, will be grouped according to the poets who inspired him, or according to the circle of writers, contemporaries, members of certain literary movements and so on, whose works Schubert chose to set to music. Fragments and alternative settings, providing their length and quality make them worth recording, and works for two or more voices with piano accompaniment will also make up a part of the edition.

Schubert set the poetry of over 115 writers to music. He selected poems from classical Greece, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, from eighteenth-century German authors, early Romantics, Biedermeier poets, his contemporaries, and, of course, finally, poems by Heinrich Heine, although sadly the two never met.

The entire edition is scheduled for completion by 2008. Thanks to the Neue Schubert Ausgabe (New Schubert Edition), published by Bärenreiter, which uses primary sources - autograph copies wherever possible - the performers have been able to benefit from the most recent research of the editorial team. For the first time, the listener and the interested reader can follow Schubert's textual alterations and can appreciate the importance the written word had for the composer.

The project's Artistic Advisor is the pianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, who has chosen those German-speaking singers who represent the élite of today's young German Lieder singers, performers whose artistic contribution, he believes, will stand the test of time.

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Schubert's Settings of Goethe's Poetry: From Folk-Song to Hymn

It would be pleasing to imagine that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has heard Franz Schubert's brilliant settings of his poems and is so impressed that he uses his considerable influence to make Schubert's name known throughout Europe. The composer is finally able to work in comfort and security. Not only that, the two agree to work together on an ambitious project: the opera Faust. The result is stunning.

The reality, of course, was quite different. On two occasions, in 1816 and again in 1821, Schubert dedicated a collection of his settings of Goethe's poems to the author and sent them to him. Goethe's only reaction was either to return them without a word of acknowledgement or to add them to his ever-growing pile of petitions and fan-mail. In his diary he mentions that he has received the settings, but cannot be bothered to spell Schubert's name correctly. Yet today many of his poems, ' Erlkönig' or ' Heidenröslein' for example, owe their popularity entirely to Schubert's musical interpretation. In the early nineteenth century, however, the gap between the famous man of letters, known as the "Prince of Poets" (or the "princes' poet" as Beethoven sarcastically put it) and the struggling freelance musician from a lower-middle-class Viennese suburb was unbridgeable. The result was a sadly one-sided relationship. Yet despite Goethe's lack of interest or appreciation, Schubert was more often inspired by his poetry than by the works of any other writer. Perhaps the reason lay in their very diversity. Either the form or the theme led Schubert to make some of his most daring experiments and innovations.

There has been much speculation as to why these two highly talented artists did not come into closer contact. One simple explanation is that there was no musician on hand helping Goethe to sift through the quantity of petitions that arrived daily; someone who would have immediately spotted the outstanding quality of the music and who could have performed it. It would certainly not be correct to say that Goethe had no ear for music. On the contrary, he was a music-lover, and had a particular interest in Lieder, providing the form and melody did not take precedence over his texts. In his opinion, Zelter and Reichardt, composers of the traditional Berlin School with whom he was on friendly terms, had the balance exactly right. Reichardt, for example, wrote settings for all eight songs which occur in Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meister and these were printed in the first edition in 1795 together with the text, thereby encouraging the reader to sing them. It is no wonder, then, that Schubert, in common with many other composers, including Beethoven, Schumann and Wolf, was prompted to write his own version or versions of these songs. Their attraction for Schubert in particular lay in the characters in the novel that sing them, Mignon and the nameless Harper. All the figures in Wilhelm Meister are upwardly mobile, in Enlightenment terms, striving for self-improvement and self-knowledge, whereas these two travelling players are clearly doomed from the moment they first appear. Outcasts from the modern, progressive world, they can only express themselves and their experience in poetry and song. These were the kind of rôles with which the young composer could identify; they express emotions with which he is familiar: loneliness, alienation and defeat.

It is hardly surprising, then, that Schubert tackled both Mignon's and the Harper's songs several times. In contrast to Mignon's themes, dealing with other-worldly, intensely individual experiences, the Harper sings of the tragedy of the human condition and its wrongs. In 1815 Schubert set two of the latter's songs, ' Wer nie sein Brat mit Tränen aß' (Who ne'er ate his bread with tears), D. 149, in March and, later in the year, ' Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt' (He who gives himself up to solitude), D. 325. The following year he rewrote them both and added a third song ' An die Türen will ich schleichen' (I shall creep up to their gates), D. 479a, to create a miniature song-cycle.

In ' Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt' some elements of the first version are retained, including the initial key and the change of key at the beginning of the second verse, while the 6/8 rhythm re-appears as a triplet accompaniment in 4/4 time. Overall, however, Schubert only really reaches the heart of the poem's paradox in his second attempt. The harmonic alienation in the second verse underlines the difference between being " allein " (alone) and " recht einsam " (truly lonely), the chromatic descending bass line at " einsam im Grabe " (alone within my grave), followed by a vehement fortissimo at " da läßt sie mich allein! " (then they will let me alone) suggests that the complete isolation of death, when loneliness and pain have ceased to torment him, is, for the Harper, a state devoutly to be wished.

The second song in the 1816 cycle was ' An die Türen will ich schleichen', following the order in which the poems appear in the anthology of Goethe's poetry which Schubert was using. In the novel this marks the point at which the musician, who is nearing his end, bids farewell. ("The song… offered comfort to an unhappy man who felt madness closing in on him"). Schubert's accompaniment to the Harper's perfect resignation, which seems to render the sympathy of others quite unnecessary - " Und ich weiß nicht, was er weint " (And I'll not know why they should weep) is an endlessly descending bass line marked "at a walking pace", reminiscent of a chorale by Bach. It conveys the monotony of ceaseless roaming which is underlined by the almost identical settings of both verses.

Originally ' Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß' was the last poem in the cycle. Schubert was so dissatisfied with his first attempt, a simple, strophic song, again in 6/8 time ( Siciliano rhythm), that he immediately rewrote it. The second version is marked etwas geschwind (fairly fast), and the first klagend (As a lament). In this setting, the second verse is repeated a minor third lower, then the first and fourth line return, forming the epilogue, with daring harmonization and a dramatic tremolo bridge in the bass. When Schubert was preparing this cycle for publication by Cappi and Diabelli as Opus 12, six years later, he had second thoughts. He reversed the order of the second and third songs, so that the Harper's farewell song in the novel is now the last song in the cycle. The second song, ' Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß', was entirely re-written to follow on from ' Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt'. After a "careful" prelude the text of the first verse is heard twice, once in the minor and once in the major; the second verse is also repeated, but with unexpected arpeggios unrelated to the key (in reverse order, first major, then minor). After the fortissimo climax on the word " Schuld " (guilt) the last three lines are repeated ppp, a direction seldom seen in Schubert's song settings.

The following four songs were all included in the collection which Schubert sent Goethe in 1816 and several of them, bearing in mind that Goethe was 48 years older than Schubert, would have stood a good chance of appealing to his rather conservative musical tastes. The famous ' Heidenröslein ' (Little Wild Rose), D. 257, composed on 19 August 1815, is a simple strophic song with an unpretentious accompaniment, albeit with subtle harmonies, and frequent use of thirds in the postlude and interlude. This is a typical "country air" and the text is said to have inspired 154 settings. The poem, written in Strasburg in 1770 or 1771 when Goethe came across a collection of folk-songs from 1602, is actually a barbarically brutal story of "beauty and defilement" (P. von Matt). Yet Schubert's setting, marked lieblich (sweetly), appears not to take account of this.

'Heidenröslein' was published in 1821 as Opus 3 together with ' Meeres Stille ' (Becalmed), D. 216, composed in June 1815. The complete contrast between the two settings demonstrates the breadth of Schubert's musical empathy. ' Meeres Stille', which was probably written in 1795, was paired in all the anthologies with ' Glückliche Fahrt' (Prosperous Voyage). As a result both Reichardt's and Beethoven's setting, as well as Mendelssohn's instrumental version, interpret this description of a becalmed sea as a prelude to re­awakening life. In Schubert's setting, marked Sehr langsam, ängstlich (very slowly, fearfully), however, the oppressive text is treated in isolation. It is almost more recited than sung, accompanied by "motionless" arpeggios, stripped even of the softening effects of a prelude or postlude. Only the smallest chromatic movements and unusual intervals in the melody indicate in this "ghostly song-like anti-song" (P. Gülke) the inner tumult of someone who is looking death in the face.

'Meeres Stille' is supposed to be based on an experience outside Naples, described in Goethe's Italian Journey. He was similarly inspired during his travels in 1774 by the sight of Castle Lahneck, overlooking the river Lahn, and dictated an impromptu poem in the style of the knights of old to his travelling companion, Lavater, who wrote it straight into his diary. Schubert composed the setting to ' Geistesgruß', D. 142 (A Spirit's Greeting), in 1815 but it was not published until 1828, when it appeared together with two other Goethe settings as Opus 92. The narrator's opening recitative accompanied by tremolo pianissimo chords is suddenly interrupted by a contrasting strongly dotted 3/4 rhythm and unexpected harmonic changes when the ghost pronounces his words of warning and encouragement.

'Wandrers Nachtlied I' (Wayfarer's Night-­Song), D. 224, ' Der du vom Himmel bist' ('You who are from heaven above'), composed on 5 July 1815, was also included in the selection of songs sent to Goethe. It was printed in 1821 as Opus 4 together with the famous ' Der Wanderer' by Schmidt von Lübeck. The poem is once again inspired by a particular landscape and experience: "On the slopes of the Ettersberg, 12 Febr. 76" is the title of the manuscript, originally dedicated to Charlotte von Stein.

Schubert, unlike Hugo Wolf 67 years later, composed a simple melody, a prayer-like chant almost, although Goethe, a "confirmed non-Christian" (as he wrote in a letter to Lavater), is not appealing to God in his poem, but to the "peace" of the penultimate line. The melody ascends longingly only to fall again, worn out, in the fifth line, " Ach ich bin des Treibens müde" (Ah, I am weary of this busy world), the appeal to "sweet rest", to deliverance from the twofold misery of pain and desire, is then sung with hardly any modulation in the re-established original key.

In his volume of poetry printed in 1815, Goethe gives ' Wandrers Nachtlied II', D. 768, ' Über allen Gipfeln ist ruh' (Peace rests upon the peaks), which immediately follows ' Wandrers Nachtlied I', the succinct title ' Ein Gleiches' (The Same). These lines, too, occurred to Goethe on his travels. On 6 September 1780 he wrote them on the wall of a gamekeeper's hut on the top of the Kickelhalm - "the highest mountain in the district" - near Ilmenau. The most famous poem in the German language is, in fact, a graffito. This poem is said to have been set to music 200 times, by Schumann, Loewe and Liszt among others, and was one of Schubert's last Goethe songs. Composed in 1823, it was published as Opus 96 in 1828, the year he died. T. Georgiades has shown very convincingly, using this setting as an example, how "poetry as a musical structure" forms the basis of Schubert's Lied -compositions. His modifications of the text - for example the repetition of the words " warte nur" (only wait) in this song - are justifiable because Schubert works from the "deeper meaning".

'An den Mond' (To the Moon), D. 259, another famous night poem, takes us back to Schubert's Goethe year, 1815. It is to be found in the section headed Lieder in Goethe's anthology. Schubert wrote a second version (D. 296) in the same year and today this one is generally thought to be a more accurate rendering of the lonely, nostalgic mood of the poem. Following his usual custom, he combines two verses of poetry to form one musical strophe, but the second version goes beyond the simple strophic song. This time he includes the expressive, passionate fifth, sixth and seventh verses and creates a fittingly heart-rending musical form. Yet it was the simpler shortened version, with its catchy four-bar melody and its anticipated and repeated prelude, interlude and postlude which Schubert prepared for the so-called "second song book for Goethe", a volume which was probably intended to follow in its predecessor's footsteps, had this been positively received.

'Bundeslied' (Song of Union), D. 258 was also among the twelve songs in the fair copy. It was composed on the same day as ' An den Mond' and ' Heidenröslein'. Goethe wrote it in 1775 for a friend's wedding and later included it in the section he entitled "Convivial Songs". In Dichtung und Wahrheit (Poetry and Truth) he mentions the widespread popularity of this song (there are settings by Reichardt, Zelter and Beethoven, among others) and hopes "that everyone who recites or sings it may enjoy the same inward pleasure and well-being as we did then; without a thought for the world outside, we felt that we in our little circle encompassed an entire world". In Schubert's jolly drinking - song one cannot help noticing the unison upward scale which was already audible as a secondary theme, so to speak, in Geistesgruß.

In the first volume of songs for Goethe comes the well-known ballad ' Der König in Thule ' (The King of Thule), D. 367. It appeared with four other Goethe settings in 1821 as Opus 5, with a dedication to Salieri. The ballad occurs in Goethe's Faust, sung by a frightened and confused Gretchen, as she prepares for bed. The story of the faithful king and the "tragedy of human mortality" was probably written in 1774. Schubert again puts two verses together to form one, thereby avoiding the monotonous repetition of the same melody six times. Zelter's well-known version, well­-loved at least by singing teachers, does not. The archaic and melancholy tone of old folk-songs is superbly recreated in the melodic line, and in the slow-moving crotchets and minims and whole bar harmonic changes of the piano accompaniment.

The ballad ' Der Fischer' ('The Fisherman'), D. 225, was also later included in Opus 5. Schubert's lighthearted setting recognises the playful, ironic tone of many Goethe ballads, which often come closer to "romances" (in 1779 ' Der Fischer' was included in Herder's collection of folk-songs). This recording is based on the setting with alterations by the singer Johann Michael Vogl, a friend of Schubert's, born in 1768. The expressive ornamentation and fermatas and the changes in the final cadence reflect the Schubert/Vogl performance technique, which had many admirers - but also the occasional detractor who found their style too theatrical.

Three other ballads were set on or around the same day in August 1815 but were not published in Schubert's lifetime. Two of them, ' Der Schatzgräber' (The Treasure-Seeker), D. 256, and ' Der Gott und die Bajadere' (The God and the Bayadère), D. 254, were printed in Schiller's Musenalmanach (Almanach of the Muses) of 1798. Schiller described the ballad of the treasure-seeker as "exemplary in its beauty and balanced perfection, so that I truly felt how even a small thing, an idea arising from experience, if it is perfectly expressed, can afford us the greatest pleasure. It is flawless even in its obedience to every detail of metre". Schubert transformed the five verses into two strophes. At the first line of the third verse, when events take a turn for the better, " Und ich sah ein Licht van Weitem" ('And I saw a light far distant') both melody and accompaniment change from minor to major.

'Der Gott und die Bajadere', Goethe's Indian legend of Mahadeh ("the great God", another name for Shiva) and the open-minded temple-dancer was criticized by some of his contemporaries because it mixed religion with the erotic. Schubert is content to use a simple strophic form, whereby the first eight lines of each verse, written in trochees and always divided into two halves, are musically separated from the last three dactylic lines. His instructions on interpretation are typical for strophic songs: at the end of the second verse he writes, "The content of this and the following verses must determine piano and forte ". Perhaps Carl Loewe, an expert in the field of musical ballads, (he wrote settings for all of the ballads so far mentioned) comes closer to interpreting Goethe's central theme – widow-burning as a form of deliverance. He certainly appears to have put more effort into it.

The same may apply to Hugo Wolf's better known setting of the ' Der Rattenfänger' (The Pied Piper). Nevertheless, Schubert's setting, D. 252, of this "song", so classified in the edition he used, written for a children's ballet, possesses its own special charm in the self-­congratulatory tone of the cheerful, rather macho singer: "What's more this man of many talents/Is also sometimes a maiden-catcher". The fermata on the chord before the last refrain which is resolved in the subdominant and repeated in the postlude adds a nice hint of operetta.

Lastly, there are poetically and musically far more demanding works. Schubert put his setting of Goethe's Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress) poem An Schwager Kronos ('To Coachman Chronos'), D. 369, right at the beginning of his first volume of Lieder in 1817. When it was published in 1825 as Opus 19 he sent the author a special, de-luxe copy, with a dedication. There was no reaction. Was this because Goethe no longer wanted to be reminded of the poem he had written fifty years earlier, "in the post coach on 10 October 1774"? Perhaps the elderly gentleman no longer felt in tune with the "arrogant, inconsiderate exuberance" (P. Gülke) with which the young man berates the postillion (coachman) of Time, the Greek Chronos. Perhaps he no longer sympathized with the adolescent demand for a "faster" life and a quick end, before "Toothless jaw-bones chatter/And the rickety frame trembles". Schubert emphasizes the youthful desire for speed (live fast, die young) in what was then the fastest means of transport, with lively, stumbling staccato patterns that only falter when the ascent begins. The various stages of the journey are clearly depicted: the thrill of the young man looking across the mountain ranges of life is hammered out in fortissimo chords; the brief rest for refreshment at the hands of the "maiden" has a more subdued accompaniment; the giddy plunge into death is echoed by descending broken chords in the right hand; their arrival in Orcus ('Hades') is trumpeted in a clear major key, following numerous acts of harmonic daring; and in the postlude the coach slowly rolls away in the bass line…

'Ganymed', D. 544, a pantheistic hymn celebrating man's union with nature, completely different in tone from ' An Schwager Kronos', also belongs to Opus 19. Goethe re-worked a story from Greek mythology in which a beautiful young man is summarily abducted from his happy spring fields to the slopes of Mount Olympus, there to join with the father of the gods, Zeus. In Goethe's interpretation Ganymede's ecstatic experience is expressed as a kind of ascension. Schubert divides the irregular text into strophes by means of imperceptible bridges. The strongly varying forms and figures in the accompaniment do not follow the vocal line. They create the atmosphere of a fragrant summer morning and soft breezes with even the twittering warble of a nightingale. Voice and piano only meet, "embracing, embraced", so to speak, on the words " alliebender Vater" (all-loving father), which are repeated three times. The song dies away, pianissimo, in airy heights. The metamorphosis from ordinary man to a being at one with nature is represented through the change of key: the final key of the song lies a third lower.

In the edition which Schubert used, ' Prometheus', another hymn written in Frankfurt in Goethe's Sturm und Drang period, is placed between ' An Schwager Kronos' and ' Ganymed'. In October 1819 the composer, taking Reichardt's setting as his model, attempted a musical dramatisation (D. 674) of this atheist ode of enlightenment, in which recitative and lyric line alternate. The piano accompaniment represents an entire orchestra, beginning with a brass motif to introduce the bass voice's blasphemous summons. The description of the religious reverence among the feeble-minded masses is accompanied by a chorale parody on the organ; mocking dissonance from the strings - "lch dich ehren? Wofür?" (I honour you? For what?) - pushes the chromatic ascent of an ever-growing sense of strength to dizzy heights, with the whole orchestra playing fortissimo. Then, in elemental C major, comes the great symphonic gesture in the manner of Beethoven, a stubborn declaration: " Hier sitz ich" (Here I sit) ("and cannot do otherwise", one could add, to quote Luther).

The counterpart to this "anti-prayer", Goethe's religious-cum-philosophic hymn 'Grenzen der Mensch­heit' (The Limits of Mankind) was a challenge that the maturer Schubert, eighteen months later in March 1821, could not resist, although it might seem to lend itself even less than the other two to a musical setting. The difference between humanity and God is already suggested by the contrasting sforzato and piano in the prelude. The holy father of fathers ( " der uralte/heilige Vater" ) is introduced in a manner which instills respect and is followed by a humble melody, heard again at the end, for the words " Küss' ich den letzten/Saum seines Kleides" (I kiss the lowest hem of his robe). The loss of a firm basis, a result of man's trying to assume god-like status, is expressed unmistakably through the loss of harmonic certainty and ensuing dissonant helplessness. The waves ( Wellen ) of the never-ending river are audible. One body of opinion argues that these untypical, experimental Schubert songs, with their lack of cantabile and lyrical qualities point forward to Wagner; others believe that when Schubert departs from his specialty he fails: "When he strives for more, he achieves less" ('Georgiades').

A number of unfinished compositions support this theory to some extent. Perhaps they prove that Schubert recognised his own limits. ' Mahomets Gesang' ("Mahomet's Song"), composed in the same month, for bass voice once again and once again a hymn from Goethe's Sturm und Drang period, remained uncompleted at the second attempt. Goethe's poem, originally for two voices, was, in fact, the remnant of a project for a five-act play. In the first version, D. 549, written in March 1817, Schubert breaks off half-way through the poem. In the second, which is included here, D. 721, the long, lyrical description of water, stream, river and sea is accompanied by rapid semiquaver runs, but of the 72 lines only twelve are set. Had it been completed Schubert might have created a musical description of a mystical, world-encompassing water-cycle, from the source to the sea, and thereby a religious counterpart to Smetana's secular Vltava from his symphonic poem cycle Má Vlast.

Perhaps at this point Schubert had to admit that he would not find a new, individual direction beyond the traditional Lied in the larger-than-life landscape of epic dramas. It lay, instead, with the "string of pearls" form, in which a series of songs tells one story - the form, in fact, that enabled him to achieve such masterpieces as the Müller song-cycles. Had he understood by then that the poet, who was following a very different path from the one he had taken in his youth, could no longer be his companion - and that his path led away from Goethe?

Joachim Landkammer
Translation: Michele Lester

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Johann Wolfgang yon Goethe

Goethe must be regarded as the pre-eminent figure in German literature. Born in 1749 into a family for long comfortably established in Frankfurt, he studied first at Leipzig University and then in Strasburg, at the latter meeting Herder, a figure important in the promotion of the new interest in folk-song as poetry. In Frankfurt once more, he was associated with the Sturm und Drang ('Storm and Stress') group of writers and artists, the title of their movement taken from a play by a member of the circle around Goethe, Friedrich Klinger. In 1775 he moved to Weimar, the following year joining the cabinet of the young ruling Duke, combining administrative duties with his continued writing and, with growing maturity, rejecting the earlier mood of Sturm und Drang for a more classical mood of serenity. In 1786 he took leave of absence for a journey to Italy, returning two years later to devote himself to scientific study. In 1791 he took charge of the theatre in Weimar, continuing in this employment until 1817. He died in Weimar in 1832.

It is hardly possible to summarise Goethe's immense and varied achievement in a short space. By the time of his death he had achieved an unassailable position in German cultural life. His many poems reflected the various changes in his own life, corresponding often to his relationships with women to whom he was attracted. His love for Lotte Buff in 1772 in Wetzlar is reflected in his influential romantic novel

Die Leiden des jungen Werthers ('The Sorrows of Young Werther'), the source of Massenet's opera, and his earlier years brought a mastery of lyrical erotic verse. Poems like ' Prometheus' and ' An Schwager Kronos' belong to the Frankfurt period of Sturm und Drang, while the songs for the novel published in 1795 and as Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship) belong to the first period at Weimar. The years from 1786 are above all a period of classicism, with poems influenced by his Italian journey and a certain literary austerity stimulated by his association from 1794 with Schiller. The first part of his verse tragedy Faust, in all its amazing variety, was published in 1808, two years after Schiller's death, and the second part appeared in the last year of Goethe's life.

Playwright, poet, scientist, novelist, Goethe was a man of amazingly diverse interests, all well represented in his multifarious writings. While in one sense he represents German classicism, at least in his middle years, he provides also the root from which new ideas grew, not least through the figure of Faust, taken by a new generation as a symbol of romantic revolt against ancient tyrannies. Regarded by many as the last universal man, he offers in himself the summary of an age in human history and an anticipation of what is to follow.

Keith Anderson

 

The sung text and English translations (in PDF format) can be found here.

 


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