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8.554797 - SCHUBERT, F.: Lied Edition 24 - Romantic Poets, Vol. 1
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THE DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-EDITION • 24

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
Settings of Poems by Romantic Poets, 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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On 20 March 1825 a strange event took place in the Vienna house of Schubert's friend, the painter Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld: in a telepathic séance Friedrich Schlegel, leading pioneer of literary German romanticism and Franz Schubert, the first 'romantic' German-language composer and creator of an incomparable world of song met. Schlegel was the initiator of these regular sessions, Schubert probably more a curious observer, who contributed his own music to the accompaniment of the spiritualistic event. Unfortunately there is no fuller report on the course of this séance; we know neither what music Schubert played nor whether this was the only meeting of the two men. It is clear, however, that each of them at this point had already made a decisive contribution to the development of the 'romantic' cultural period, and that Friedrich Schlegel's poems had some years before inspired Schubert as a song-composer to set out for new territory. They provided the impulse for his 'romantic song' phase (Walther Dürr) in the years from 1818 to 1823.

Before this it was above all the poets of the Empfindsamkeit (Matthisson, Klopstock, Hölty and others), as well as the classical Schiller and Goethe as established great men of literature, who had satisfied Schubert's hunger for composition; after that his friends appeared in the list of 'poem-purveyors', first Mayrhofer, then Schober and others. The intensive period of involvement with the 'romantic' poets took off in the years 1819/1820, resulting in the composition of more than 350 songs.

Friedrich Schlegel, born in 1772 in Hanover, the son of a Lutheran pastor, studied jurisprudence, mathematics, philosophy, medicine and classical philology in Göttingen and Leipzig. In 1796 he joined the romantic circle in Jena formed around his brother August Wilhelm, to which Friedrich von Hardenberg (Novalis), Ludwig Tieck and Friedrich Schleiermacher belonged. They are regarded as the founders of what Heinrich Heine called the romantic school. In 1797 in Berlin, Schlegel met Dorothea Veit, ten years his senior and the wife of a banker. He lived with her from 1798 and was first able to marry her in 1804, after her divorce. His novel Lucinde, which, based on this situation, had the theme of the free 'romantic' love of two equally matched people, provoked a literary scandal that brought the novel a striking success. From 1802 to 1804 Schlegel was busy in Paris studying the language and culture of the Persians and Indians. From 1802 to 1804 he lived in Vienna and gave important and widely noted lectures. Probably Schubert's poet friends heard his views on history, literature and aesthetics, and discussed these between themselves. It is also to be assumed that Schlegel's poem cycle Abendröte (Sunset) was read in the circle of his friends and that Schubert thus came to know the poems which stand at the centre of his period of 'romantic song'.

From the whole 22 poems of the cycle Schubert set eleven. Since he did this at several different times between 1819 and 1823 it is not to be supposed that these were planned as a musical cycle. Nevertheless the songs are unified in their style of composition. The folk-style simplicity of the texts is met by a musically clear, almost classically graceful tendency to stylization in the composition: clarity of form, harmonic simplicity and catchy melodic writing suggest an unspoiled naturalness that nevertheless is based on a hidden, never obtrusive perfection in composition. This is one aspect, among others, of the 'romantic tone' in poetry and music.

Schubert sets Schlegel's opening poem 'Abendröte' (Sunset), D. 690 [Track 5], as a quietly flowing mood picture, without dramatic enhancement, a harmonic scenario of peace. The last verse expresses the romantic view of the world: 'Alles scheint dem Dichter redend, / Denn er hat den Sinn gefunden; / Und das All ein einzig Chor, / Manches Lied aus einem Munde' (All seems to speak to the poet, / Since he has found their meaning; / And all become one chorus, / That sings many a song from one mouth'). …

'Der Schmetterling' (The Butterfly), D. 633 [6], is a loosely dashed off little song of a tripping character; the piano prelude, interlude and postlude with their changes between short, rapid movement and sudden pauses portray exactly the fluttering of the butterfly from one flower to the next, or the changes of the fickle young man from one girl to another.

'Das Mädchen' (The Girl), D. 652 [7], shows strikingly Schubert's mastery of artistic naturalness: after a wonderful, gently gliding down prelude with an air of resignation and the heartfelt opening phrase of the song, the harmony changes at the line 'Um zu lindern meine Klagen' ('to still my complaints') to the minor, to return immediately after to the major ('daß er nicht so innig liebt' / 'that he does not love me passionately'); the music thus suggests that there is no really serious basis for the girl's complaint and that her wish, at the moment that she expresses it, is already fulfilled.

'Der Knabe' (The Boy), D. 692 [8], who wants to fly like a bird to nibble at 'the highest cherries' ('die höchsten Kirschen') is a companion piece to 'Der Schmetterling', yet with a surprising and fascinating outcome: after a rapid, saucily chattering beginning we see/hear the bird/boy at the end of the song in a kind of musical time-loop (halving of the initial tempo) flying away 'beyond those hills' ('über jene Hügel'). Here the symbolism of the hills is always ambiguous: they can stand for the distant and far away, but also for the grave. This could be an explanation for the atmosphere of this closing section, hovering between weightlessness and melancholy.

'Die Rose' (The Rose), D. 745 [9] tells the old moralising story of the girl who 'opened [her] bud' ('offnete die Knospe') too early and now must pay dearly for it. Schubert avoids the sentimentality of the text with simple but strongly expressive melodic writing and tone colours, while the constant change between major and minor symbolizes the bitter-sweetness of the tragic story.

'Der Wanderer' (The Wanderer), D. 649 [10], has nothing of the gloominess of its famous counterpart ('Der Wanderer', D. 489, Winterreise). His homelessness is freely chosen and desired, his nocturnal wandering is accompanied by a friendly moon, 'And the world seems good to me' ('Und die Welt erscheint mir gut'). Schubert's purist setting adds two small but striking contrapuntal elements to the mild air of the poem: at the quoted word 'gut' the harmony changes unexpectedly to the minor, as if warning that 'seeming' is quite different from 'being'. At the end, on the closing words 'doch alleine' ('yet alone'), there is a distinct clouding over in the harmony, lending the piece a gently melancholy conclusion.

The poem 'Die Berge' (The Mountains), D. 634 [11], has the theme of human activity in the area of tension between unshakeable idealism and the ties of nature. Schubert sets the philosophical text to vivid music that paints, with upward pressing melodic turns and ascending piano figuration, a mountain panorama in the beginning and concluding parts, while in the middle part solid earth is suggested with lower notes, heavy chords and slower tempo.

'Der Fluß' (The River), D. 693 [12], is perhaps the most perfect, most romantic song of the group: an almost endlessly undulating melodic line accompanied by extended, surging broken chords in the bass of the piano symbolizes the meandering, ever-flowing river.

'Die Vögel' (The Birds), D. 691 [13], sings of the freedom and independence of those who can fly and mock men in their vale of tears.

'Die Sterne' (The Stars), D. 684 [14], also observes men from a heavenly perspective, and they have a message to bring: if men 'followed only the heavenly signs, … how earthly torments would pass away!' ('nur den himmlischen Mächten, … Wie wären verschwunden die irdischen Qualen!'). Schubert's music, at the beginning in solemnly emotive style, then turns into an irresistible, soft yet powerful flow that lends wonderful musical expression to Schlegel's beautiful imagery, 'Dann flösse die Liebe aus ewigen Schalen,' ('Then love would flow from eternal vessels'). With its quasi-religious emphasis and nocturnal imagery Schlegel's poem is akin to the religious songs of Novalis.

'Die Gebüsche' (The Bushes), D. 646 [15], brings a similar romantic thinking to that of 'Abendröte'. Robert Schumann put the last lines of the poem as a motto above his Fantasie in C major, Op. 17 : 'Durch alle Töne tönet / Im bunten Erdentraume / Ein, nur ein leiser Ton gezogen, / Für den, der heimlich lauschet' ('Through all sounds there is heard / In the varied colours of earth's dreams / One, only one faint sound, / For the one who listens in secret'). Schlegel's sixteen-line poem is written without separate stanzas and in the same way Schubert sets it without division, with unobtrusive cadences that make up the sections of the work without interrupting the flow of the music. The early appearance of the 'one sound' in the second bar of the prelude is inspired: the bass takes a completely unexpected turn that is unspectacularly and gently balanced in the next bar, yet echoes in the ear of 'the one who listens in secret'. In this way the literary statement is meaningfully translated into a musical 'texture', far removed from all musical 'illustration' and tone-painting.

As the Schlegel settings seem so simply stressed, so completely different are the songs conceived after Craigher, Platen and Rückert. They sound the extreme depths of subjective feeling and expression and show in this way the other, dark and chaotic side of romanticism.

'Die junge Nonne' (The Young Nun), D. 828 [1], is a perfect example of romantic 'overheating': its nocturnal monologue revolves around rebellion and peace, darkness and light, earthly and heavenly love. In the first part of the song Schubert's grandiose music brings dramatic harmonic reversals, chaotic displacements and groaning intensity under the one roof of continuous piano tremolos. These are carried by a menacing ascending chain of octaves in the bass of the piano, 'crowned' by a two-note, muffled, disaster-proclaiming fanfare. In the middle of the song the sound and colour of the music varies: the harmony changes to the major, the signal of death is silenced, the tone changes from cold gloom to emphatic enthusiasm. Only once, however ('Erlöse die Seele von irdischer Haft!' / 'Free my soul from its earthly prison!') does the music fall back into its initial tormenting F sharp minor and hover for this moment between heaven and hell. After that, in an equally simple and brilliant turn, the two-note motif appears again, changed into the peaceful tolling of the 'bell from the tower' ('Glöcklein vom Turm') that calls the nun in religious rapture 'Powerfully to heavenly heights' ('allmächtig zu ewigen Höh'n').

August Graf von Platen-Hallermünde was a master of elaborate and challenging poetic forms such as the sonnet and the Persian ghazel. He was accused by his contemporary Heinrich Heine, in a publicly conducted quarrel, of coldness of feeling and reserve in his poems. Platen had attacked Heine because of his Jewish origins, whereupon Heine exposed Platen's homosexual tendencies. Astonishingly the two Schubert settings of Platen poems are counted among the most radical and intensely felt that he wrote.

In 'Die Liebe hat gelogen' (Love has deceived me), D. 751 [2], Schubert's usual dactylic rhythm (an accented note followed by two unaccented) expresses the inexorable truth that the lover is betrayed and remains deeply hurt. The sighs that appear in the middle of the song, unwilling to end, bring no relief, let alone release; at best they bring a hint of mourning gentleness in the otherwise almost manic severity of the music.

In contrast 'Du liebst mich nicht' (You love me not), D. 756 [16], after a particularly quiet beginning, builds to a restless despair inexorably obsessed with the same fatal statement: literally all major and most minor keys are run through in a self-tormenting feat of concentrated effort.

'Daß sie hier gewesen' (She has been here), D. 775 [17], after Friedrich Rückert, is certainly the most unusual and boldest of the songs of Op. 59. At first chords anticipating the harmony of Wagner's Tristan float down as if shimmering tremulously in infinite tranquillity, to be joined midway by the vocal part merging into the piano melody. The latter is dominant again at the beginning of the second period ('…Dadurch tut er kund ' / '… Thereby lets me know'), only for the voice to break free on the word 'kund' and take over the melodic lead. It is in the fourteenth bar of the song that the basic key is first 'revealed' clearly at the certainty of the words ' Daß sie hier gewesen ' ('that she was here').

In ' Du bist die Ruh' (You are rest), D. 776 [18], by Rückert, the piano prelude unfolds, within seven bars, from a simple broken triad, a whole world of music that opens the door to the quietly hymnal song of praise of the vocal part. In contrast with the preceding song, the strictly diatonic setting of this song lends it a religious, chorale-like character.

'Lachen und Weinen' (Laughing and Crying), D. 777 [19], by Rückert, ends the group of four songs published as Op. 59. The unexpected light-heartedness of the song after the previous outbursts and depths suggests the question as to whether Schubert wanted to recapture with Viennese charm the lighter aspect of existence, or whether the grouping of this set of songs (and others) was not intended for performance as a cycle, but directed towards the interest of publishers.

The famous song ' Frühlingsglaube' (Spring Faith), D. 686, [3], by Uhland, in spite of its almost completely unspoilt musicality, retains depth and latent drama, as it does not deny the 'other side' of spring: what must all change (' alles wenden ') to the good, must first have been depressing and tormenting. In fact, Schubert composed ' Frühlingsglaube', 'Spring Faith', and not 'Spring Certainty'.

'Morgenlied' (Morning Song), D. 685 [ 4], with a poem by the most important dramatist of German romanticism, Zacharias Werner, introduces a dialogue of overwhelmingly light-hearted character between man and birds. The change between the introductory passages to the start of the stanza, the following 'Wanderer rhythm', lively fluttering motifs and the final ritornello-like piano interlude is musically attractive and aims for wide variety.

In the autumn of 1823 Schubert wrote entr'actes, choruses, ballet music and a solo romance for the performance of the 'Romantic Play' Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus. Helmina von Chézy's play turned out a fiasco at its first performance in December 1823 in Vienna, but the Romanze, D. 797, No. 3b [20] (Romance), had such a success that Schubert published it with piano accompaniment under the title 'Ariette'. This resulted in one of the finest melodic inspirations of Schubert's entire song repertoire.

Ulrich Eisenlohr
English version by Keith Anderson

 

The sung text and English translations can be found at www.naxos.com/libretti/554797.htm

 


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