About this Recording
8.557569 - SCHUBERT, F.: Lied Edition 21 - Poets of Sensibility, Vol. 4
English  German 

DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-EDITION, Vol. 21

Franz Schubert(1797-1828)
Poets of Sensibility, Vol. 4

 

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 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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The Göttinger Hainbund: Settings of poems by Matthias Claudius, Ludwig Hölty, Leopold Graf zu Stolberg and Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter

The revolutionary 'invention' of the romantic song through Schubert is, in the minds of song-lovers, indissolubly linked with the name of Goethe and his poems Gretchen am Spinnrade and Erlkönig. Nevertheless there were, in Schubert's early period of composition up to about 1816, other poets who played a different part in his development as a song-composer, but one of similarly great importance. The first of these is Friedrich Schiller, whose ballads and poems inspired Schubert's earliest excursions in the fantastic realm of formally free song settings. Already the first compositions such as 'Des Mädchens Klage', D. 6 (The Maiden's Lament) (first version) and 'Leichenfantasie', D. 7 (Funereal Fantasy) exemplify his thirst for something new and desire for expression in this field. The then popular epics of Ossian/Macpherson also offered him rich 'material' for experiment. There was in addition, however, a further group of poets, settings of whom by Schubert have remained largely unknown, but that nevertheless exercised a decisive influence on his development as a song composer. These were the poets of the Empfindsamkeit, those poets who, taking their origins in Pietism, in the middle of the eighteenth century created a new prose and poetry, signs of a newly awakened bourgeois self-assurance. Individual feeling, personal emotion beyond dogmatic guidelines stood at the centre of their writing. Understanding and feeling were to be brought into line, united in the true feeling of the heart. Coming from England, the movement also found wide dissemination in German speaking countries with the famous Friedrich Klopstock leading the way.

Schubert set more than a hundred poems by poets of sensibility (Empfindsamkeit). Over forty of these come from members of the Göttinger Hainbund, called after Klopstock's ode 'Der Hügel und der Hain' (The Hill and the Grove), established about 1772 in the university city of Göttingen by Ludwig Hölty, Johann Heinrich Voss, the Stolberg brothers and others, and connected, too, with Matthias Claudius as well as Klopstock. It was above all the simple poems of the group, in folk-style, that Schubert chose. With their individual basic attitude striving for emotional and intellectual truth they were near to his own thinking, and in his 'training' as a composer of strophic or varied strophic songs he developed the technical command that gave him assurance in his decisive steps towards the aforementioned 'revolutionary' song-writing. This also afforded him full freedom in the creative transformation of the most unheard of compositional ideas.

While the intellectual attitude and view of life of Schubert and the poets of sensibility were connected, the courses of their lives were completely different. On the one side was Schubert, who, apart from a few trips and his two periods in Zseliz as music teacher to the daughters of Count Esterházy, remained true to Vienna throughout his life. On the other was a poet such as Matthias Claudius (1740-1815), who, coming from a clergy family, first studied theology, law and political science at Jena, without graduating, and then served in various positions as private secretary in Copenhagen, as a free-lance writer, translator and journalist in Hamburg. He lived for a time in Darmstadt, until he found his physical and literary home in Wandsbeck as editor and writer for the literary publication Der Wandsbecker Bote (The Wandsbeck Messenger). His original mixture of serious and comic, naivety and profundity, his absolute clarity, comprehensibility and his affinity with folk style made him famous and beloved, but also brought him bitter hostility from some fellow poets.

'Zufriedenheit', D. 501 (Contentment) by Claudius (second version) shows us an image, particularly favoured from the Enlightenment to the Biedermeier, of the citizen happy with himself and his modest existence, devoted to the simple life, with everything necessary for a materially frugal existence, humble before God, confident in the face of other men, free in all his opinions of life. What to us today may seem petit bourgeois, then had thoroughly rebellious elements: in each of the corresponding poems the one provided with all worldly goods, but corrupted by gluttony, lust or greed, prince, king or sultan, is pilloried. Schubert composed this portrait of the 'contented man' with audible pleasure: an extended introduction brings a kind of 'entry music' for the protagonist in gentle tones and playful motion. The beginning of the song characterizes him changing theatrically between showing off his selfassurance and mischievous shrewness. Schubert thus in the wider course of the song indulges in a comic musical play between weighty affirmation and witty irony.

'Das Lied vom Reifen', D. 532, (Song of the Frost) by Claudius sings of the beauty of the trees adorned with morning frost. The poem is preceded by a biblical quotation: 'He pours forth frost on the earth like salt' (Ecclesiasticus, ch.43). The cheerfully circling semiquavers of the piano suggest a peasant rounddance. Actually Claudius's fifteen-verse poem places this peasant pleasure in nature above 'many a fine thing' of the city-dweller, who has 'credit and gold and golden ring / and bank and exchange'.

The life of Friedrich Leopold Stolberg (1750-1819) was also marked by a number of changes of occupation and place. With Goethe he travelled through Switzerland, was subsequently active in various political functions, translated Homer's Iliad into German, wrote travel diaries, voluminous religious treatises, two novels and a number of poems.

Stolberg's 'An die Natur', D. 372, (To Nature), a kind of quiet hymn, praises Nature, who, like a mother, offers peace, rest and shelter. Schubert's music is composed in a lilting 6/8, in the style of a baroque siciliano. Stolberg's 'Morgenlied', D. 266, (Morning Song) traces the panorama of sunrise in the mountains. The human spirit, which 'durch des Schlafes Hülle bricht' ('breaks through sleep's veil'), sings in amazement at the wonder of the new beginning of morning. Schubert meets the demands of the imagery with wide-reaching music traversing the heights and depths in great melodic arcs.

Ludwig Hölty (1748-1776) was the son of a clergyman, studied theology in Göttingen, and earned his living as a teacher and translator. He died of consumption at the age of 27. After his death Johann Heinrich Voss published his poems, sometimes making considerable alterations to the texts, rendering them more polished and 'accomplished', while also destroying their originality.

Hölty's 'Blumenlied', D. 431, (Flower Song), a free adaptation of Walther von der Vogelweide's love-song 'Sô die bluomen ûz dem grase dringent' ('When the flowers sprout up through the grass') sings of the 'demi-paradise' of spring - and the whole in the form of a 'noble woman, good in soul and fair in body, in the fresh bloom of youth' ('edlen Weib, von Seele gut und schön von Leib, in frischer Jugendblüte').

Gotter's 'Pflicht und Liebe', D. 467, (Duty and Love) is the only poem by the playwright and poet Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter that Schubert set. Surviving only as a fragment, the whole poem was set by Schubert, and Max Friedländer, the first editor of a comprehensive collection of Schubert songs, added a short interlude and postlude, recorded here. The poem is a monologue of a man inwardly divided in mind. A youthful friendship - 'unbekannt mit Reu' und Leide / wie die Lämmlein auf der Weide / spielten, ich und du' ('unacquainted with remorse and sorrow / like lambs in the meadow / we played, I and you') - has grown over the years into a deep love that, for whatever reason, cannot be realised. The passionate invitation to renunciation has correspondingly dramatic music, which, with its restlessly fluctuating piano figuration, chromatic bass progressions and wide-spanning highmounting arches of melody bears operatic traces.

Hölty's 'Erntelied', D. 434, (Harvest Song) shows the life-affirming, robust energy of which many of the poets of sensibility, notably Hölty and Claudius, were capable. The genre picture of ringing sickles, singing girls, and festive labourers and peasants inspired Schubert to energetic music that graphically holds the balance between the girls' delicate singing and lumbering peasant dancing.

The first version of Claudius's 'Zufriedenheit', D. 362, shows some motivic variations from the later version already discussed. It is formally laid out as a classical strophic song that gives the poem a musical structure without detailed characterization or comment.

That western poetry has for centuries produced poems about spring may today seem to us remarkable, but due regard must be given to the realities of everyday life: the winter was without central heating, cold running water rather than warm, without electricity, without fresh food, without any kind of modern communication and means of entertainment, without modern medical care; it was above all a time of suffering, uncomfortable and bitter for the great number of people, life-threatening for the old, the weak and sick. The one who lived through until May had survived. In Hölty's 'Mailied', D. 503, (May Song) the praise of spring is sung and clearly associated with love, since spring 'makes the flowers many-coloured / and the girl's lips red' ('macht die Blume bunt/rot des Mädchens Mund'), so 'Kiss them, brothers, kiss them, / since they are kissable' ('küsst ihn, Brüder küsst,/ weil er küsslich ist'.

A completely different dark side of spring meets us in Hölty's 'Die Mainacht', D. 194, (The May Night). Beyond cheerful dancing and songs of joy this also brings with it anxieties, differences, depression, all treated here. The poem is famous today through Johannes Brahms' inspired setting, which transports Hölty's fine sensibility into the musical language of high romanticism. Schubert approaches the text in completely different ways with a simple strophic setting that infuses the poem with an unadorned yet musical atmosphere. The feeling of the music, so unlike the quietly powerful melody rising up from the depths of suffering of Brahms' setting, conveys above all disquiet, the inevitable restlessness of one who has not found the love of his life.

In contrast, 'Am ersten Maimorgen', D. 344, (The First Morning of May) by Claudius is a poem of sheer joy of life and uncontrolled delight: 'I will dance and shout for joy' ('… will mich wälzen und für Freude schrein'), the poet says, and the piano performs a playful dance of joy in an extended interlude.

Claudius's 'An die Nachtigall', D. 497, (To the Nightingale) ('Er liegt und schläft' / 'He lies and sleeps') reveals itself surprisingly as an anti-love song. After a gently rising prelude, leading through a wonderfully melodic and harmonic passage, as it were, to a place of rest, the song starts with the words 'Er liegt und schläft an meinem Herzen' ('He lies and sleeps by my heart'), by which the singer leaves us absolutely unclear as to who 'he' is. Now, to the accompaniment of a graceful, cheerful piano motif, she can 'be happy and play' ('fröhlich sein und scherzen'). A surprising pause provides the colon before the solution to the riddle: it is Love which the nightingale must on no account wake with her song. To the opening words of this plea, 'Nachtigall ach' ('Ah Nightingale') the piano uncovers the reason in a melancholy minor motif: he would, so the music clearly says, bring the sorrow and sighs of love. Once again we marvel at Schubert's artistry in this 'little' song which, with the most sparing of musical means, bestows on a poem a psychological and poetic depth that is in no way inherent in it.

Stolberg's 'Daphne am Bach', D. 411, (Daphne at the Brook), with a wonderful melody of folk-style naivety, is a song of lament and yearning for the distant beloved, while Hölty's 'Frühlingslied', D. 398, (Spring Song) sings of pure delight in spring. The poem 'Phidile', D. 500, by Claudius was known to Schubert from childhood, often sung by his mother in an older setting. The comic tale of the unlucky meeting of the simple country-girl with the sentimental young man was set by Schubert in simple strophic form, as was Hölty's witty song in praise of boyhood, 'Die Knabenzeit', D. 400. The cheerful and light-hearted warning of the 'verschimmelten Latein' ('mouldy old Latin') of 'dicken Cicero' ('stout Cicero') that later in school would threaten him, takes direct aim at the antiquated middle-class education of the time.

Hölty's 'An den Mond', D. 468, (To the Moon) ('Was schauest du so hell' / 'Why do you look down so bright') is marked by a strong contrast of major and minor. The memory of a better time starts in the idyllic major and changes with the lament for a 'schwarzes feindliches Geschick' ('black hostile fate') in a darker disconsolate minor colour.

Hölty's An die Nachtigall, D. 196, (To the Nightingale) ('Geuss nicht so laut' / 'Pour not so loudly') surprises with its strangely formal impression yet its extraordinary expressivity: the vocal part starts, without a prelude over arpeggiated chords, a restless, ever more intense song of lament which after seven bars finds only a short point of rest in a fermata. The following five-bar phrase brings a quieter melodic line and painfully dissonant harmony before, in the last five bars, parallel to the vocal part, in the piano accompaniment the nightingale raises her voice in a truly urgent song. Like 'Die Mainacht' this poem was also set by Brahms and here the short but incredibly concentrated Schubert setting is no less inspired than the completely different setting by Brahms.

'Klage um Ali Bey', D. 496A, (Lament for Ali Bey) by Claudius brings dramatic humour. Ali Bey was a Mameluke prince in Egypt and in 1773 he was murdered by his favourite, Abu Dahab. Over the death of the 'cheerful warrior' ('muntren Kriegers'), who hacked everything 'into pieces' ('kurz und klein'), 'man and crocodile' ('Mensch und Krokodil') now mourn throughout the whole of Egypt. Schubert gives the poem a quite sparing setting, with slight oriental suggestions which allow the singer every freedom for comic dramatic effect.

Stolberg's 'Abendlied', D. 276, (Evening Song) and Hölty's 'Winterlied', D. 401, (Winter Song) are simple mood pictures, while Claudius's 'Am Grabe Anselmos', D. 504, (By Anselm's Grave) by contrast seems more ambitious and in the formation of musical ideas highly inspired. The three-part song, in ABA form, shows an incredibly rich range of expression.

Hölty's 'Die Laube', D. 214, (The Arbour) provides an example of the intense pathos of the poetry of sensibility, while the anonymous 'Wiegenlied', D. 498, (Cradle Song) ('Schlafe, süßer holder Knabe' / 'Sleep, sweet, lovely boy') convinces in a completely opposite way, with simple words and music as simple as it is captivating.

Ulrich Eisenlohr
English version by Keith Anderson


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