, July 2006
Disc 15 in this excellent Naxos collection of Schubert’s songs is volume two of the group whose words were written by his friends – what a talented group they were! There are poems here by seven of them.
The fulsome and informative liner notes by pianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, accompanist on this record and overall artistic advisor on the entire Schubert Lieder project (due for completion in 2005), explains how many of these songs hold coded messages within them on the state of current affairs at the time. The historical period during which these poems were written encompasses the euphoria which ensued following the defeat of Napoleon in the battle of the nations at Leipzig, in 1813, by the allied forces of Russia, Prussia and Austria, and the subsequent disillusionment which was felt after the Congress of Vienna (1814/15). The dashing of hopes for the creation of democratic nation states and instead of the German League, which included Austria, led to the Carlsbad Decrees of 1819, that resulted in an atmosphere of repression and a police state in which political and intellectual freedom was curtailed. This climate must, indeed, have deeply affected Schubert and his friends, and who better to put these feelings of hope and disappointment into works that became part of a legacy of over 700 songs by the greatest writer for the voice in music.
These feelings are wonderfully expressed in both poetic and musical terms in Nacht und Traume (Night and dreams), D827. The dreams one enjoys whilst asleep evaporate on awakening despite the longing for them to remain – are we to be left with nothing but daydreams or are our dreams ever realisable? This song is very well known and was penned by Matthaus von Collin (1779-1824), and whose painting is reproduced on the liner cover, and whose brother, Heinrich Joseph Edler von Collin (1772-1811), is also represented here with his poem Lieder der Trennung. Viola (violets), by one of Schubert’s closet friends, Franz von Schober (1796-1882), and one of the two flower ballads on this disc (the other by him too), also encapsulates these feelings in the longest song recorded here. The violet that ventured out too early in spring and quickly died, is an allegory for the freedom that blossomed all too briefly after Napoleon’s defeat, and that was crushed so soon afterwards.
Ulrich Eisenlohr, as artistic advisor for the whole series is responsible for the selection of both singers and accompanists, and just as with Christiane Iven, the mezzo-soprano he chose for volume 2 of the Mayrhofer Lieder (disc 12 of the series and highly recommended), he has selected a soprano in Brigitte Geller, whose beautiful voice and superlatively clear diction make this disc a purchase to be extremely happy with at any price, but at Naxos’ famously super budget price, impossible to resist. Eisenlohr himself is the accompanist here and he serves his singer well, resulting in a partnership that illuminates all the feelings of yearning, utopia and despair so cleverly highlit by these poets, and so brilliantly set by the incomparable Schubert.
A truly enjoyable disc.