About this Recording
8.557373 - SCHUBERT, F.: Lied Edition 22 - Poets of Sensibility, Vol. 5
English  German 

THE DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-EDITION 22
Poets of Sensibility, Vol. 5

 

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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Empfindsamkeit: The Expression of Feeling in Late Eighteenth Century German Literature

The literary trend of Empfindsamkeit (the sentimental) made a decisive mark on human emotion and thought in the Enlightenment. The emancipation of the bourgeoisie and its new self-awareness led to an intensive involvement with the individual personality and questions about the essence of self-identity. Answers to these questions, however, were sought not only in intellectual circles. Something surprising happened: in the period when reason and logic were at their highest, interest in the world of emotion began to increase more and more. From Russia to France, from England to Italy, people in the eighteenth century listened to their feelings and explored in soliloquy their own being. Without the Enlightenment Empfindsamkeit, with its deeply grounded reflection of the self, would probably not have developed, and the strong tendency to emotion is in the end to be attributed to the 'cold rationalism' of the Enlightenment, since it at the same time released longing for warmth of feeling.

It is above all in England that the flourishing of the sentimental is clearly to be noticed. In Samuel Richardson's moral and family novels, the idylls of James Thomson, the Night Thoughts of Edward Young, filled with melancholy and sadness, and the Ossian poems of James Macpherson the new literary ideals were brought to life. They released a flood of enthusiasm, quickly developed in Germany. The young Friedrich von Matthisson, for example, involved himself intensively with English literature and was fascinated particularly by Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. One work of English 'sentimentality' won particular importance in the German version of this literary trend. The word empfindsam was first used in 1757 by Victoria Gottsched, who, together with her famous husband Johann Christoph Gottsched, had become one of the most important translators and writers of the time. When in 1768 Johann Joachim Bode translated into German Laurence Sterne's A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy, his friend Gotthold Ephraim Lessing advised him to translate the word 'sentimental' with 'empfindsam'. In this way the conception of Empfindsamkeit came to signify a literary period.

Together with the many plays and novels written in the period, poetry became the most important form of expression. With its concentration on the world of emotion and sentiment it corresponded to central human concerns - it was not the narrative that was in the foreground but feeling, which was released through a narrative. In soliloquy or in addressing a poetic 'thou' the poetic inner identity was revealed. It was drawn from the cult of soul and friendship of Pietism, which, as 'practical Christianity of the heart' (Gero von Wilpert), encouraged men of all sections of the population to practice their faith individually. People freed themselves from orthodox dogma and sought God in the subjective realities of their lives. Nature too was an important source of experience of the divine. In the sunset, the song of a bird or the rushing of the wind - not in church - people traced the omnipresence of God and felt themselves part of this creation. 'Im Lenzhauch webt der Geist des Herrn! / Sieh! Auferstehung nah' und fern, / ' Sieh! Jugendfülle, Schönheitsmeer, / Und Wonnetaumel ringsumher!' ('In the breath of spring weaves the Spirit of God! / See! Resurrection near and far, / See! Filled with youth, sea of beauty, / And rapture of delight all around!), Matthisson writes in his Naturgenuss (Enjoyment of Nature). This euphoria, however, is offset by the central themes of sorrow and melancholy, the loss of a loved one and the approach of death. Answers to these existential questions of life were always sought and found in faith.

Franz Schubert and the Poet Ludwig Theobul Kosegarten

Many poets of the German Empfindsamkeit, who at the time were read with equal enthusiasm in aristocratic salons and in the rooms of the bourgeoisie, are today often only a subject for specialists in literature. Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock is among the better known poets, but names such as those of Friedrich von Matthisson and Ludwig Theobul Kosegarten are much less familiar. These poets were well known to Schubert and even as a schoolboy he felt himself drawn to the poetry of Empfindsamkeit. All their themes, from enlightened pantheism to melancholy reminders of death, were also his, subjects with which he was involved throughout his life. The 'poets of sensibility' play the most important part above all in his early years as a composer, together with the classical poetry of Goethe and Schiller.

Ludwig Theobul Kosegarten (1758-1818) studied theology at Greifswald and in 1785 went as school rector to Wolgast. From 1792 to 1808 he was a pastor on the Baltic island of Rügen. After a time as a private tutor he was appointed Professor of History and subsequently Professor of Theology at Greifswald. Kosegarten wrote poems and novels, contributions by him were published in, among other places, Schiller's Musenalmanach, and he corresponded with Goethe. He died in 1818 and Goethe wrote an epitaph for him: 'Lasst nach viel geprüften Leben / Hier den edlen Pilgrim ruhn! / Ehrt sein Wollen und sein Streben / wie sein Dichten und sein Tun' ('Proved in many ways in life / Here let the pilgrim rest! / Honour his will and his striving / as his writings and his deeds.'

The series of Schubert Kosegarten settings chosen for this recording are grouped according to the themes of the poems. The first group is concerned with love in its many manifestations. Immediately the first song shows that Empfindsamkeit knows not only tender music but also stronger tones. In 'Geist der Liebe', D. 233, (Spirit of Love), tribute is offered to the creator spirit that 'moulds the planets' ('Weltenkugeln ballt'). Schubert reacts to this passionate reverence with a simply structured setting that leaves room for the display of the verbal strength in the writing. Through pregnant series of chords and forward-driving triplets the piano accompaniment underlines the character of the poem. The mood of 'Das Finden', D. 219, (The Find) is quite different. Here a man has found a girl ('ein Mädchen funden') and sings enthusiastically of the beauty of her form and character. Through today's eyes the poem presents an antiquated naively simple ideal of womanhood, that nevertheless was customary at the time. Schubert's 'etwas langsam, unschuldig' ('quite slow, innocent') cantilena, though, can still charm today. Schubert's setting of 'Alles um Liebe', D. 241, (All for Love), shows how finely the composer reacts to verbal structures. Here a typical self-questioning of the Empfindsamkeit is proposed. To the central question 'What is it that the soul feels?' the answer rings out 'Ah it feels love, love!'.

Schubert introduces this question-answer sequence in his piano prelude, in which he starts with diminished, open dominant chords, then modulating directly into the principal key. For the form of the strophic song, from which in Schubert's time the utmost simplicity was still expected, such an opening is remarkable in its harmonic daring. The lover sings to his beloved in dancing rhythm in 'Huldigung', D. 240, (Homage). In 'Die Erscheinung', D. 229, (The Apparition), love takes a transcendental form: a 'maiden clear as day' ('Mägdlein sonnenklar') rises from the grove and enchants a young man with her ethereal appearance: 'Hoch droben, nicht hiernieden, / Hat Lieb' ihr Vaterland!' ('High above, not here below / Has love its home!') The harmony that in spite of their parting overcomes the young man, pervades also Schubert's strophic setting. The mood of 'Die Täuschung', D. 230, (Illusion) is ambiguous. Here too there appears to the poet a 'fair creature of the air' ('holdes Luftgebild'), but the seductive vision awakens doubt: she appears as 'angel-fair' ('engelhold'), 'angel-mild' ('engelmild'), but with pleasure she also brings pain. Is she really a 'messenger from a better world' ('Bote bess'rer Welt')? How far this aspect is to be found in the lovely sound of the strophic setting depends very much on the interpretation. In the present recording the latent ambiguity of the 'holdes Luftgebild' can be heard through nuances in dynamics and tempo. How harmless this apparition must have been for Schubert is shown by a glance at 'Irrlicht'(Will-o'-the-Wisp) and 'Täuschung'(Apparition) in Winterreise (Winter Journey), written over ten years later. In these last the playful element is dispelled, every hope has gone and disillusion and depression have taken their place.

Moods of evening and night mark the atmosphere in the poems 'Der Abend', D. 221, (Evening), 'Die Mondnacht', D. 238, (The Moonlit Night), and 'Nachtgesang', D. 314, (Night Song). The nature scene in 'Der Abend'awakens lively literary and visual ideas: in the first lines Kosegarten says: 'Der Abend blüht, / Arkona glüht / Im Glanz der teifgesunknen Sonne' ('The evening flowers, / Arkona glows / In the gleam of the deep-sunken sun'). Reading these lines recalls the landscape of Rügen as seen by the famous painter Caspar David Friedrich. Schubert now changes the text and introduces a literary element. He sets 'Der Abend blüht, Temora glüht', referring to the castle of Temora that is the seat of the Irish kings in Macpherson's Ossian poem 'The Death of Cuthullin'. The dramatic natural scene is thus associated with a poem so important for the Empfindsamkeit and further increased in effectiveness. Schubert, however, writes no through-composed work but chooses the closed homogeneity of the strophic song. Through solemn melodic gesture and ascending tonic and dominant seventh chords at the very beginning of each verse he provides strong tension. In 'Die Mondnacht'a wide-ranging melodic line, expressive crescendos and nuanced harmonic colours symbolize the greatness and expanse of feelings. In the solemn hymn 'Nachtgesang'the nocturnal 'slumber' ('Schlummer') is represented as the deliverer from care and unfulfilled longing.

Nocturnal moods play an important part also in the following group of songs, dedicated to longing. 'Abends unter der Linde', D. 235, D. 237, (Evening under the Linden) awakens the anguish of a 'nameless longing' ('namenlosen Sehnens'). Memories of the dead one arise, reaching a climax in the cry 'Bleibt Sel'ge, bleibt in eurem Eden!' ('Stay, blessed one, stay in your Eden!). The hardship of this world is contrasted with the delight of Elysium, that, as the goal of life's journey, will bring rest and end longing. Schubert set the poem twice. Both versions were written directly one after the other over two days and are closely related. The melody of both songs, for example, is varied and the final climax at the end of every verse gives both settings a cohesive 'musical dramatic' form. The second version is nevertheless in straightforward metre that harmonizes directly with the iambic verse structure of the poem, and both the rhythmic and harmonic structure are more clearly laid out than in the first version. It could also be that Schubert wanted to enclose the intuitive feeling of the first version in a clearer formal structure. 'Das Sehnen', D. 231, (Longing), is the painful lament of a man who lacks love and security: 'Ist denn, ach, kein Arm, / Der in Freud und Harm / Liebend mich umschlösse?' ('Is there then, ah, no arm / That in joy and harm / May hold me lovingly?). The mood wavers between inner sadness and outbursts of pain. Schubert reacts to these changing emotions in which he combines in his melody expansive gestures with chromatic procedures, and lets the dynamics restlessly shift between forte and piano. Kosegarten wrote 'Luisens Antwort', D. 319, (Luisa's Answer) as an answer to the poem 'Lied der Trennung'(Song of Parting) by Klamer Schmidt, that inspired Mozart to a setting. The lament of the beloved starts with the words 'Die Engel Gottes weinen, wo Liebende sich trennen' ('The Angels of God weep, where lovers part'), 'Luisens Antwort'takes up this verse almost identically. Mozart's love lament brings a remarkable combination of arioso and lieder features; Schubert's Luisa gives expression to her passionate confession of love similarly through a lieder-arioso drama. In the last two lines of each verse, in which Luisa directly addresses her beloved Wilhelm, the limit of the aria is almost overstepped.

Kosegarten addressed four love-poems to Rosa ('An Rosa', D. 315, D. 316), two of which Schubert set. Both songs are inner confessions of love that impress through their simplicity. In the second the correspondence of mood between the voice part and the piano offers above all a particular charm.

The last six songs of this recording can be heard as small but highly expressive dramas. 'An die untergehende Sonne', D. 457, (To the Setting Sun), leads, like an introduction, into the mood of the piece: Kosegarten describes the fascinating natural display of sunset. Here too it is clear that he was inspired by his time at Rügen and the sun sinking into the sea - 'Weit auf tut sich dein Wasserbett' ('Wide spreads your watery bed') - moved him particularly. Schubert's setting is one of his finest Kosegarten songs: in the hymn-like refrain 'Sonne, du sinkst' ('Sun, you sink') the solemn, quiet mood of the scene is shown, and in the through-composed passages nature in the evening displays her peaceful living activities. The song 'Die Sterne', D. 313, (The Stars), leads from sunset to the starry night. Here the two leading figures make their appearance: Ida's lover asks her to contemplate with him the starry sky and in the 'witnesses and messengers of a better world' ('Seugen und Boten bess'rer Welt') to find the strength of faith. The music with its proximity to a chorale underlines the spiritual dimension of this address to the beloved. In 'Idens Nachtgesang', D. 227, (Ida's Song to the Night), she sings of her love under the starry sky - the lyrical melody is associated with a noble seriousness that suggests associations with the world of opera seria. The mood suddenly changes in 'Von Ida', D. 228, (Ida): Ida's beloved flees and she entreats in her pain 'O, kehre um!' (Oh, come back!). The music is a forceful image of the hopeless sadness that torments Ida: in three-part texture the vocal line and piano are combined in archaic simplicity, and chromatic agitations underline the tone of suffering. The drama ends with two swan-songs: 'Idens Schwanenlied', D. 317, is the dying song of the unfortunate girl, the second 'Schwangesang', D. 318, - now given to a male voice - raises her fate to a more than personal level and announces the joyful news of hope: 'Ewig wird die Nacht nicht dauern, / Ewig dieser Schlummer nicht. / Hinter jenen Gräberschauern / Dämmert unauslöschlich Licht' ('Night will not last for ever, / This sleep will not last for ever. / Beyond the grave's horror / Dawns endless light').

Dr Ira Schulze-Ardey
English version by Keith Anderson

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The 'Hammerflügel': The Instrument of Schubert's Time

The series of settings by Schubert of poets of the Empfindsamkeit, in the Naxos Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition uses as an accompanying instrument to the singer the 'hammerflügel', that is the 'correct' instrument for historically accurate performances of the music of Schubert's time. It will quickly be noticed how different the sound spectrum, the colours and the dynamic balance are, compared with the usual modern concert grand piano. The historical instrument is particularly well suited in timbre to the work of the 'poets of sensibility' and music of the period, in contrast to the virtuosity of the later nineteenth and of the twentieth centuries.

 

The sung texts and English translations can be found at http://www.naxos.com/libretti/poetsofsensibility5.htm


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