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8.554741 - SCHUBERT, F.: Lied Edition 8 - Schiller, Vol. 2
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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)
Settings of poems by Schiller, Vol. 2

 

When in 1787 Friedrich Schiller first visited Weimar, the residence of Duke Karl August and a place so important in German cultural history, it was because of the 'three Weimar giants', Christoph Martin Wieland, the elegant poet of the rococo, the court preacher Johann Gottfried Herder, and, naturally, the youngest and most charismatic of these 'giants', Goethe, who was then on his famous Italian journey. Today Goethe and Schiller are the embodiment of the Weimar classical period.

Schiller was the son of an officer and was born in 1759 at Marbach-am-Neckar, not far from the magnificent capital of Württemberg at Ludwigsburg. From 1773 to 1780 he attended the strongly disciplined military Pflanzschule, later the Hohe Karlsschule, an elite academy established by Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg, who showed no compunction in recruiting talented boys from his dukedom. Schiller next turned to the study of law and then of medicine. Poetry in this academy so cut off from the outer world was for him, with his love of freedom, a means of expressing his hatred of tyranny and an important outlet. Here his first dramatic work took shape. With the sensational first performance of Die Räuber (‘The Robbers’) in Mannheim at the beginning of 1782, a work that soon became a symbol of Sturm und Drang theatre, Schiller won fame overnight, although he was for a long time unable t0 secure his material position through his work as a poet.

Schiller had been forbidden by the Duke to write and was obliged to escape by night to Mannheim in the Palatinate. There followed years in the circle of Christian Gottfried Körner in Leipzig and Dresden. Meanwhile Schiller had devoted himself to historical studies and in these he became absorbed during his first period in Weimar. As a result in May 1789, when he was not yet thirty, he became, surely unusually, professor of history at Jena. From 1794 he was in closer friendly communication with Goethe, and in 1799 he returned to Weimar, not least, as he himself said, to have 'experience of the theatre', since these last years were important, above all, in the continuation of his dramatic work. Schiller died on 9 May 1805.

Our second volume of Schiller songs offers the possibility in two cases of comparing two Schubert settings of the same text.

Sehnsucht (‘Longing’) is the earliest work in the present recording, composed by the sixteen-year-old Schubert in April 1813. In spite of the characteristic strongly rhythmical pattern of the four eight-line strophes of Schiller's late poem Schubert avoids a strophic lay-out. Certain special features of the text may have proved 100 great a temptation for the young composer to provide correspondingly specific music, as with the threat of the stream (dotted fortissimo chords) or the rocking of the boat (agitated semiquaver figuration). The first verse is formally interrupted in the middle, Dort erblick ich schöne Hügel (‘There I glimpse fair hills’) by the insertion of recitative. A much longer passage of recitative is found with the heartfelt sigh at the beginning of the third verse, and the passage that includes the last six lines of the poem is contained in the form of an (aria-) stretta - an accelerated special coda. The whole composition offers a noteworthy mixture of youthful genius, a free grasp of the textual material and, in part, an unmistakable technical awkwardness, a characteristic of many of Schubert's early songs.

When Schubert tackled the poem again in 1821, he created what was certainly no true strophic song, but a rather more song-like setting: it now avoids completely passages of recitative and yet the first half of the third verse uses again the corresponding music from the second verse (Schubert essentially look the rapid final passage from the earlier version). Naturally here 100 the powerful images of the threatening stream and the rocking boat are given corresponding music, yet they are, a very characteristic tendency of the second setting, so far interwoven that the pattern of figuration of the right hand in the keyboard part continues, including both places. Masterly too are the prelude and interlude in the piano, which stand almost as musical headings over the respective following poetic and musical passages and not unimportant in their contribution to the expression of tension between the dreary present situation and the desired ideal.

The three-strophe Hoffnung (‘Hope’) is arranged by Schubert in both versions as a strophic song. Here too there is a handling of nuances that reveals the later setting (c.1819) as a maturer work. The dark-sounding piano prelude and interlude is important on this account (the simple first setting starts immediately with the song). It is above all the confident, jaunty 6/8 metre that makes the special character of the second version; in this way the basic tone of the poem is exactly achieved. While in the first version (1815) the closing lines are repeated as a whole, the second version divides those lines, repeating respectively the two parts, which, with this double statement, is far more eloquent.

Die Bürgschaft (‘The Bond’) (1798), set in ancient Sicily, a heroic song of unconditional male fidelity, with its twenty seven-line verses, is one of the best known ballads in literature. Less well known is Schubert's musical setting of 1815 The great range of the vocal treatment can be seen as characteristic of such great ballad settings. Thus, after the mood-painting opening bars of the piano, the first lines are set as strict recitative The second verse, in contrast, that brings the suppliant entreaties for a delay of three days, is in singing style, deployed over a steady and uniform accompaniment. The gentle piano interlude, which separates the fifth from the sixth verse, providing an example of how in a composed ballad music can point a particular passage, suggests the wedding celebration of the beloved sister, a moment that is not consciously represented in the poem, but is only related after the celebration, since it serves only as an accompanying circumstance for the central theme of the proof of true friendship. Time and again it appears as a means of providing structure in the musical course of the long ballad. When, with the end of the sixth verse, the turbulent semiquaver patterns begin together their crescendi and many the urgency of the return of Moerus, hampered by many untoward obstacles, is emphatically expressed in dramatic music that has not previously been heard. Quite briefly the continuing tremolo stream is interrupted, when, at the end of the sixth verse, he meets the first disaster to be overcome: the rising power of the waters has destroyed the way across the bridge. For a long while our hero wanders along the bank (and with him the piano tremolo grows lighter) before he finally, at the beginning of the eighth verse, sinks down, exhausted, 'weeps and begs'. At this point the tremolo completely ebbs away. Other outstanding details may be mentioned: almost like a noëma in old vocal polyphony, the prominence of the word 'God' in the last line of the ninth verse through the extended high note and the fortissimo chord of the piano, as well as the staccato octave ending before the twelfth verse, in which one sees the robbers, who presented the second catastrophic threat, escape. A new atmosphere is engendered through the comparatively moderate style of the gently rippling semiquavers of the thirteenth verse Schubert here enters into the bright silver waters of the living source, which obviates the third disaster, as the man is nearly dying of thirst. Worthy of remark is also the musical treatment of the course of the sun in the ballad: unmeasured in the eighth verse, in unrhythmic tremolo in the twelfth, slowly in the fourteenth, and in free recitative in the eighteenth, imperceptibly and even, in consequence, threateningly, symbolizing the inexorable passing of time.

A shorter ballad is found in Ritter Toggenburg (‘The Knight of Toggenburg’), a poem of 1797 which tells of the immutable nature of unfulfilled love. In the musical arrangement of the ten verses it can be easily understood that Schubert, as a pupil of the Vienna Stadtkonvikt in 1811 had said (according to Joseph von Spaun), that he 'could all day long revel' in the compositions of Zumsteeg. The Swabian ballad and song composer Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg (1760-1802), a contemporary of Schiller and a friend of his at the Karlsschule, also set this medieval story. In the same place as his model, after the fifth verse, Schubert, who set the text in 1816, goes from a free, through-composed set ting to a strophic lay­out, in a slow triple metre, exactly at the turning-point in the life of the knight. The little crusaders' march before the third verse and the recitative break (forming a caesura) in the fifth verse, with other details, also follow the example of Zumsteeg. Schubert, however, goes beyond his model inasmuch as he provides a special setting of the final verse, thereby linking up with the preceding minor-key verses (6-9) in an effective major ­key brightening of tone, thus directly stressing the transfiguration of the lover, unswerving until death (in Zumsteeg the six th to the tenth verses are set in the same major key).

In a setting of 1823 Schubert provides the late Schiller poem Der Pilgrim (1803) with a perhaps still more ingenious musical arrangement of the nine simple four-line verses. The life's journey of the still naïve young pilgrim starts with a strong, regular crotchet beat; the chordal piano part and the variety of vocal quaver pairs on many syllables suggest a cheerful 'Wanderchoral'. The first and second verses make up a single longer musical verse, which is then repeated for the third and fourth verses of the text. With the fifth verse the style of the music changes slightly (but the phrasing and rhetorical structure are still unaltered). Particularly striking is the repetition of one note in the lower register in the vocal part, a repetition not found in the preceding verses, here marking the first sign of weariness in the pilgrim, 'Abend war's' (‘It was evening’). At the same time, in the first bars of the fifth verse, the stepping bass-line abandons its frequent leaps, replaced now with smaller intervals, sometimes chromatic. Here too for the first time there is a serious change from the opening key. The purposeful energy of the wanderer is gone, as the 'golden gate' of paradise, promised in the fourth verse, so easily disappears, 'Aber immer blieb's verborgen, / Was ich suche, was ich will' (But ever hidden lies / What I seek, what I will). In the sixth verse the pace becomes noticeably heavier, achieved through the complex harmony (and the firmer right-hand chords in the piano part). As the pilgrim builds his bridge 'über Schlünde' (over the abyss), Schubert extends his harmonic range, by means of a more adventurous modulation bridge. The situation is eased, seemingly, with the seventh verse, as the pilgrim, 'froh vertrauend' (happily trusting), stops at a broadly eastward-flowing stream. Schubert takes up again the (confident) vocal line of the first (and third) verse (with the piano accompaniment now broken entirely into running quavers), but in such a way that this melody, now in a remoter mediant key, indicates the loss of the right way. This is explicit in the following verse. Here everything comes to a halt: with the third line, 'vor mir liegt's in weiter Leere' (“before me it lies in a wider void”), the right-hand in the piano part changes its crotchet motion (to move into slower, wearier minims), and now for the first time a line of the text is repeated. In the fourth line finally, for the first time in this song, there is a break in the rhetorical flow, in which the decisive denial, 'näher bin ich nicht dem Ziel' (“nearer am I not to my goal”), takes up the space of two crotchets (and thus the whole verse, up to this point consistent, is broken into duple metre). From the gradual build-down of the passage, as it continues, the consequence is reached for the final verse (of resignation)" the measured march rhythm comes to an end, to be followed by an entirely new rhythmic pattern. In the 'very slow' triple-time section that follows the pilgrim, exhausted, sums up his situation. The end is doubly broken: the conciliatory major-key brightening of tone in the last repetition of the last half line is immediately brought to nothing by the final piano chords.

In Gruppe aus dem Tartarus (‘Group from Tartarus’), published in the 'Anthology from the Year 1782', the young Schiller devised a description of the Underworld, taken directly from a passage in Vergil's Aeneid, the great epic of Latin antiquity. The suffering of the damned, by the river of tears, the Cocytus, provides the central point of reference of that description (Tartarus is, in distinction to Elysium, cf. Schiller-Lieder Vol. 1 [Naxos 8.554740], the place of punishment in the mythical kingdom of the dead). In his forceful, really through-composed, setting of 1817 Schubert devised music that was correspondingly dark. A long tremolo in the lower register comes before the entry of the singer. Gradually rising to a height, the musical character of the song is established further in multiple waves of crescendo 'wie Murmeln des emporten Meeres' (like the murmuring of the angry sea). When the concentrated energy of the tremolo is finally released into that 'Ach', that marks the climax of the first verse, Schubert creates an impressive musical analogy to Schiller's dramatic construction - the poet first introduces the subject of his long sentence in the final word of the verse. Time and again in the vocal part of this Schubertian view of the Underworld are chromatically rising melodic lines that respectively encompass a whole series of bars. Only in the closing part, the beginning of which is marked by an arching, brilliant C major fortissimo chord, is the chromatic melodic line not in evidence. It becomes an objective answer, so to speak, to the preceding question­ the scythe of the god of time, Saturn, the Greek Chronos, can accomplish nothing here in the timeless eternity of the suffering of hell. For the closing section, however, chromaticism plays a leading rôle at the structural level. Yet the last line of the text cadences first, in a strong evasive movement, after the minor harmony a semitone above the final key, before, twice, the final tonality is thus established (a escape from 'eternity' is not really possible).

Des Mädchens Klage (‘The Maiden's Complaint’), a poem of 1798, appears as a finely nuanced strophic song by the young Schubert in 1815. The sad feeling of the vocal line is largely supported by an accompaniment with passing appoggiaturas; only in the penultimate line of the poem, where the vocal part moves into the highest register, is the phrase thickened with the continuing repetition of solid chords. (A much earlier through­ composed and dramatically wild set ting of this text, made in 1811 or 1812, D6, will be included in the third volume of Schiller songs.)

In contrast the concise 1815 setting of Das Mädchen aus der Fremde (‘The Maiden from a Foreign Land’) is in folk-style. Noteworthy is the use of triplets in the first half bar of the fourth line of the music of the strophic pattern; the closing line consequently has a half bar less than the preceding lines. In content Schiller's poem of 1796 gives expression to the contemporary riddle of conscience. According to the now generally established interpretation, the mysterious maiden, who every year at the start of spring seeks out a valley peopled by poor shepherds, is a personification of poetry itself, the noble art of the poet.

The strophic setting of Die vier Weltalter (‘The Four Ages’), a poem of 1802, is regular in form. Going through the whole song (1816), the running semiquavers of the right hand of the piano part must be inspired by the opening line of the twelve-verse poem, of which we hear only the first, third and fifth verse.

In An Emma (‘To Emma’), written in 1796, Schubert, in 1814, treats the three-verse pattern relatively freely. Over widely spaced chords the lover starts in rhapsodic, meditative style, so to speak; first at the end of the second line a true piano accompaniment gets under way. The graphic idea is brought out in the second verse, which brings the forsaken lover only a certain comfort though the beloved no longer lingered on earth, he would carry her in his heart; here and only here the vocal line develops over accompanying chordal writing. To have her alive but lost would give greater pain. Strangely aimless, as if empty-handed, the piano postlude comes to an end.

Amalia, a four-verse song for the beginning of the third act of Die Räuber (‘The Robbers’) is handled formally but freely Amalia, the principal female figure of the drama, here mourns Karl Moor, whom she believes dead. In spite of the functional purpose of the text Schubert, in May 1815, gave his setting rather the character of a small dramatic (operatic) scene than that of a true song. He therefore composed the first verse as a formal hymn of love, then interrupted the pattern to give emotional expression to the suffering of the middle verse, in a manner typical of the 'Storm and Stress' phase of the young Schubert (with sections of recitative). Here the composer would be free and capture the 'Flammen' (flames) through unexpected series of chords, the 'Haifentone' (sounds of the harp) through mysterious tremolo. The last verse appears as a slow elegy.

Hektors Abschied (‘Hector's Farewell’) belongs in the dramatic context of Die Räuber. In the second scene of the second act Amalia starts singing the poem to the piano, after the first verse referring to the old Moor, that she has of ten sung with Karl, 'together to the lute'. This suggests the dialogue structure of the text, which has as its subject a - perhaps the - classical farewell scene of a loving couple; with each verse the 'I' of the song changes. The scene is from the Iliad, the great ancient epic of Homer on the Trojan war. Hector, the noblest son of the old King of Troy, Priam, and the greatest hero on the Trojan side, must part from his wife, to join battle again. Andromache foresees her husband's fate: in fact Achilles, the most feared hero with the Greeks, will later take revenge for the death of his friend Patroclus. The Trojan, convinced of the necessity of serving his country and defending his own city of Pergamum, finally tries to comfort his wife with the idea that his love will not die in Lethe, the river of the Underworld that should bring oblivion to the dead, and cannot be conquered by death. In his setting of 1815 Schubert makes a clear distinction in the various changes of speaker in the poem. Andromache's plaintive opening verse is marked by a slowly trembling pattern of accompaniment; the entry of Hector in the dialogue is indicated by a short section of recitative, before rapid, fiery music underlining the hero's unbroken will for battle. Particularly expressive is the transition from the third to the fourth verse: after the extremely rhythmical slowing down (an extension of the text) together with the diminution into pianissimo, through which Andromache's fear that her husband's 'Lieb' im Lethe stirbt' (love may die in Lethe), keeps the musical symbolism (while here the music dies, as it were), the metrical strengthening at the beginning of the fourth verse, which is offered with the continual application of a (relatively peaceful) half-bar accompanying figure, offers relief and, through the newly established key of D major, a degree of optimism. On this music is based Hector's assurance of his 'undying' love.

Wolfgang Gersthofer
English version by Keith Anderson


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