About this Recording
8.554739 - SCHUBERT, F.: Lied Edition 12 - Mayrhofer, Vol. 2
English  German 

THE DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-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 2005. 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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Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Mayrhofer Songs Vol. 2

 

After Goethe and Schiller the poems by the relatively little known Johann Mayrhofer, from among Schubert’s contemporaries, hold a dominant position among the composer’s songs. Not only did Schubert set to music, in the course of eleven years, no less than 47 of Mayrhofer’s poems, but also the vocal quartet Gondelfahrer (D809), the operatic fragment Adrast (D137), and the completed two-act Singspiel Die Freunde von Salamanca (D326). Mayrhofer’s wide literary culture also had an influence on Schubert that is not to be underestimated.

Schubert and Mayrhofer met through their common friend Joseph von Spaun, inspiring the setting of Am See (D124) at the beginning of December 1814. From September 1816 there were four years of extensive collaboration that can be described as cultural symbiosis: Schubert was inspired to set Mayrhofer’s poems in songs that served in their turn as inspiration to the latter. When Schubert returned to Vienna in November 1818 after his first summer stay at Zseliz, as teacher of the daughters of Count Esterházy, he finally left his parents’ house and moved to a spare room at Mayrhofer’s: "The house and the room have felt the influence of time: the ceiling somewhat lowered and the light diminished by a large building standing opposite, an over-used piano, a narrow bookcase; that was the room which, with the hours spent there, will never fade from my memory, wrote Mayrhofer in his Memories of Franz Schubert". The period spent together, then not so unusual, lasted nearly two years. Yet while Mayrhofer remained committed to ideas of the Enlightenment, Schubert turned to the newer poetry of romanticism; for him the years about 1820 brought anyway a period of creative crisis and new direction in which hardly a single great work was completed and many remained in a fragmentary state. The increasing estrangement from Mayrhofer became most evident in that at this time Schubert set only eight of his friend’s poems. There is a certain distance peculiar to Abendstern (D806) - face to face with man (characterized in the minor) stands the star (major): "Ich bin der liebe treuer Stern, / sie halten sich von Liebe fern" (I am the loving, true star, / they keep well away from love) - in Auflösung (D807), set in March 1824, he turns the programmatic words as it were against the poet himself: "…flüchte dich, und laß mich allein" (fly away, and leave me to myself). Mayrhofer reports on this growing coolness in his memoirs (February 1829): "The course of circumstances and of society, illness and altered views of life later kept us from each other; but what once was, was now no longer".

Johann Mayrhofer was born on 3 November 1797 in Steyr in Upper Austria and his exceptional gifts and literary interests were apparent even in his schooldays. He was "always the first among his school friends", and distinguished himself "particularly through his very adequate knowledge of Latin and Greek and also of the Classics" (Joseph von Spaun). Without means after the early death of his father, in 1806 Mayrhofer joined the Augustinian foundation of St Florian at Linz, later known for its connection with Anton Bruckner, but left after four years, shortly before taking his final vows. He moved to Vienna to study law, completed under straitened circumstances. Thanks to his knowledge of literature he quickly found a position as censor in the Imperial and Royal Book Censorship Office and soon became feared by authors and booksellers for his severity. Only too well did he know of those strivings for freedom by which the restored state, conservative in structure, felt threatened - Mayrhofer was himself an enthusiastic supporter of growing liberal and democratic ideas. Described in various obituaries as a man of sensitivity, he must have suffered ever more strongly under the stresses of his position. With a strict performance of his duties Mayrhofer evidently sought to confront this inevitable conflict that endangered his own living. Joseph von Spaun, on the contrary, expressed matters almost euphemistically: "My opinions are one thing, my duty quite another". Mayrhofer observed with euphoria the 1830 rising in Poland, but was deeply depressed at its failure, and tried to drown himself in the Danube. His sensitivity and hypochondria six years later led him finally, on 5th February 1836, in a deluded fear of cholera, then raging in again Vienna, to kill himself by throwing himself from the third floor window of his office building.

How Mayrhofer tried more or less to hide his true opinion of the censorship is shown perhaps by those verses based on thoughts and concepts from the ancient world that he issued, at the urging of his friends, in a small edition in 1824, evidence that he himself was aware enough of the possible implications. The little volume appeared most probably in early autumn; Mayrhofer himself on 20 October sent Goethe a copy with a dedication. This may explain why Schubert, unlike the rest of his circle of friends, was not a subscriber; from the end of May he was in Zseliz, and returned to Vienna again on 17 October 1824 (possibly the second copy ordered by Moritz von Schwind was for him). Nevertheless it is surprising that some poems that had already been set to music are missing from the printed volume. Changes elsewhere made by Mayrhofer in many verses for the printed version were not always for the better, and Schubert’s songs, accordingly, are in all probability based on the original versions of the respective texts. Mayrhofer presumably held some texts back that seemed to him too dangerous. Already a few days after his death Ernst Freiherr von Feuchtersleben said he would take care of the unpublished poems, whereas Franz von Schober suspected that some of the remaining poems could "disappear in the hands of the police".

Mayrhofer’s poems, except the sociable drinking-songs and descriptions of nature, are unusual in style and puzzling in wording behind which the meaning is rather hidden than directly expressed. With humanistic ideals and a marked sense of patriotism there are also autobiographical elements that are almost modern in their focus, from which so many biographical and personal details can be drawn. In this respect the harsh judgement of Franz Grillparzer on the printed poems is relevant: "They explain the writer and the writer explains them. His friends may find them interesting in various ways in manuscript, but for others they are puzzles difficult to solve, and often their solution is hardly worth the trouble that it takes".

This is surely also true for a group of songs that refer to Greek mythology. They are evidence of a lively interest in early nineteenth-century Vienna in classical antiquity, behind which romantic ideas of freedom could be concealed. The ballad tone, and above all the occasional dramatic gesture, that mark Schubert’s settings also as character songs, probably go back to corresponding auditory experiences, recalling the operas of Gluck. Similarly it is felt that in many details the poems are not limited by the anyway often contradictory versions of the old legends. Thus Mayrhofer in his Iphigenia (D573) chiefly had in mind Goethe’s play Iphigenia auf Tauris. He assumes a correspondingly well-informed listener and reshapes the lament into a romantically transfigured desire for rescue and deliverance that seems to stem from the feeling of the moment. In his composition Schubert goes still further; on the one hand he sets Mayrhofer’s statement of place "Hellas" and "liebliche Gefilde" (beloved fields) very clearly and speaks of the "teuren Vaterlande" (dear fatherland) and "seligen Gefilden" (blessed fields), on the other in the last bars at least the ideal realisation of Utopia is suggested - from the distance drums and trumpets give news of approaching help (shown through dotted rhythms and concise dominant-tonic cadencing).

With a quotation Schubert describes a lonely place to which Atys (D585), driven to castrate himself in madness through the jealousy of Cybele, looks, filled with the expectation of Heaven - at least he can serve as a eunuch in her temple: the piano prelude quotes the beginning of the vocal quartet Die Einsiedelei (D337) (The Hermitage): Es rieselt klar und wehend ein Quell im Eichenwald (There ripples clear and drifting a spring in the oak forest). The love of the ancient world among Schubert’s friends is supported not only by his fanciful naming of the singer Johann Michael Vogl as "the Greek bird" (letter of 8th September 1818), whose favourite songs he collected together as his Opus 6 (among them Mayrhofer’s Memnon as well as Antigone und Oedip). An example in point is the ballad Uraniens Flucht, (D554) (Urania’s Flight), from which Moritz von Schwind drew partial inspiration during a journey in Italy for his "decoration of a room in which Schubert’s songs were sung". On this matter he says in a letter of 25 July 1835 to Eduard von Bauernfeld: "[Mayrhofer’s canvas] is pretty much in order and can be shown next spring, after Goethe’s; … ‘Urania’ and ‘Einsamkeit’ are in colour as arabesques, but I will still have a look at Pompeii". The title of the song meanwhile gives, with a glance at mythology, a false indication, since it was not Urania, one of the Muses, who escaped from mankind to Olympus but Aphrodite, the goddess of heavenly love. Unexpectedly she enters on a feast celebrated by Zeus (from bar 121 ssq.). He at first does not recognise Urania/Aphrodite - "Du bist es nicht" (You are not she) - and seems so angry at the disgrace suffered through Urania - "Der Mensch verwirrt das Gute mit dem Schlechten, / ihn hält gefangen Sinnlichkeit und Wahn" (Men confound good with evil / held prisoner by sensuality and delusion) - that he would destroy the world with his lightning, when a "liebend Paar" (loving couple) is found who implore the blessing of Urania/Aphrodite.

Classical antiquity, with which freedom of spirit is also associated, was, in the political circumstances, indeed an ideal from the past. Consequently truth, goodness and beauty were looked for in a metaphysical transfiguration at least in the other world, far away from actual political disillusionment. This is the same in the song Sehnsucht (D516; Op.8/2) (Longing), which deals not with longing for a beloved but yearning for an ideal from the past, that Friedrich Schiller had already written of in his Die Ideale (1796) as "erloschen" (extinct) and "zerronen" (vanished). At the end of the wandering stands hope in a "milder Land", indicated musically by Schubert in the postlude by resolution into a clear G major chord; at the same time the conflict between right and left hands in the piano part shows the impossibility of attaining this utopia, at least in this world. The word-painting at the beginning of the composition is only superficially untroubled; the odd break at the beginning of the second part, "Nur du, oh sturmbewegte Seele …" (Only you, storm-tossed soul …) is resolved with a side-glance at August Wilhelm Schlegel’s Vorlesungen über dramatische Kunst und Litteratur (1808) (Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature), which propose longing as both the intellectually historical and also the aesthetic background for poetry: "And when now the soul, resting, as it were, under the weeping willows of exile, breathes out its longing for a homeland from which it is estranged, what else can the keynote of its songs be but melancholy?".

This is also found in the turning to the mystical experience of nature, as can also be recognised as an element in the 1817 song Erlafsee (D586; Op.8/3) (Lake Erlaf). This first appeared as a separate item in Franz Sartori’s Mahlerisches Taschenbuch (1818) (Pictorial Pocket Book) with a copperplate engraving; the song collection first printed as Opus 8 puts Mayrhofer’s lines into a context to which Am Strome (D359; Op.8/4) (By the Stream) also belongs: "mich drängt’s auch in mildre Lande / finde nicht das Glück auf Erden" (I am urged on to milder lands / I find no happiness on earth) are the words there. Between the two different spheres is Abendlied der Fürstin (D495) (Evening Song of the Princess) that is dedicated to the contemplation of the evening star, Hesperus, and at first pastoral in tone, but then fades into a real storm, in which Schubert not only summons up thunder and lightning, but also the first movement of Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata, Op.13. "Die Wolken segeln gold besäumt / am klaren Firmament, / das Herz, es schwelgt, das Herz es träumt, /von Erdenqual getrennt." (The clouds, gold-rimmed, sail by / in the bright firmament, / the heart revels, the heart dreams, / free from earthly troubles.)

Michael Kube
English version by Keith Anderson


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