|About this Recording
8.570962 - SCHUBERT, F.: Lied Edition 33 - Part Songs, Vol. 2
Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828)
 Gott in der Natur (God in Nature), D. 757 (Kleist)
Schubert occupied himself with the genre of the mixedvoice part-song throughout the whole of his compositional life; around 130 individual works, from simple canons to straightforward homophonic movements, from elaborate part-songs with piano accompaniment to cantatas in several parts with soloists, chorus and orchestra all testify to that. The German Schubert Song Edition presents, on three CDs, all the songs with piano accompaniment which are to be performed with soloists (i.e. without chorus). Just as the musical forms, as well as the themes of the songs in this genre, are many and diverse, so too are the circumstances of the writing of individual compositions. After his early studies under the tutelage of Antonio Salieri Schubert produced many part-songs, either as works written to commission or as ‘social music’ for performance among his circle of friends or acquaintances: surprise serenades to celebrate birthdays, songs of thanksgiving for recovery from illness, as theatrical entertainment, as drinking-songs and songs for convivial gatherings. But there are also simple part-songs, written for no particular reason, which merely owe their existence to the inspiration of a poem having been read to the composer.
While Schubert’s numerous works for male-voice ensembles were circulated widely, those for female voices remained to a large extent unknown; yet in this genre Schubert produced ambitious works of the highest order. From them, among others, the first two songs on this recording, Gott in der Natur  (God in Nature), D. 757, and the 23rd Psalm  testify to that. The first is in the form of a substantial cantata, whose contrasting musical sections flow into one another. The piano introduction, in triple time, makes use of a powerful opening in unison, ‘grinding’ upwards dramatically, with mighty trills, followed by a sequence of chords ending with a solemn dotted-note introduction to the entry of the voices in the formulaic repertoire of the ‘elevated’ manner of the Baroque and Classical styles. The singers start their part in chords, while the piano repeats its opening bars in a slightly varied form. After a surprising modulation from the solemn key of C major, the lighter, blazing D flat major (‘Die Himmel ohne Zahl…Sturm und donnerndes Gewölk’ / ‘The countless heavens…storm and thunder clouds’) is underpinned by menacing tremolos of the orchestra-like piano part, and the flashing lightning proceeds with impressive onomatopoeia through individual voice parts. After a repetition of the opening bars of the song a short interlude leads into new expressive regions, for ‘Die Morgenröth’ ist wie ein Widerschein von seines Kleides Saum’/‘The dawn is only a reflection of the hem of his garment’) presents gentler, lyrical, sounds and melodic variations; especially wonderful, following on from the homophonic movement of the underparts, is the rising cantilena of the sopranos which provides the most affecting moments of the work. Again, dramatic and lyrical passages alternate. The last section of the first part, ‘Er schilt, es fähret Feuer vom Felsen auf’/‘At his reproof, fire shoots up from the rock’, with its angrily flaring melodic lines, ‘und Himmel und Meer bebt’/‘and sea and sky tremble’ with its cowering downward movements, and the imposing polyphonic closing section (‘Lobt den Gewaltigen’…/‘Praise the Almighty’…) leaves us in no doubt that this is the God of the Old Testament—all-powerful, inaccessible, fearsome.
At the same time the music makes us surmise that this was not Schubert’s view of God for it is written in such an imposing and sovereign manner, at once abstract and impersonal. For clarification one could compare it with the solo song Die Allmacht, D. 852, (Austrian Contemporaries Vol. 2, Naxos 8.557172) with which it is closely related thematically: here, too, the subject is God’s omnipotence, but described in the context of the forces of nature; but Johann Ladislaus Pyrker’s text goes one step further: ‘Doch kündet das pochende Herz dir fühlbarer noch Jehovas Macht’/‘The beating heart tells you yet more clearly of Jehova’s might…’ Here there is a direct connection between God and man, an ‘accessibility’, and this circumstance inspired Schubert, above all in its ample pathos, to write a much more pronouncedly personal and humane music.
Schubert’s setting of the 23rd Psalm, D. 706, was written for the girls in the singing class of Anna Fröhlich at the Vienna Conservatory. Anna was one of the four Fröhlich sisters who were so closely bound up with Schubert’s life and music, whose company he often shared, and by whom his music was performed, treasured and loved. Perhaps it is no exaggeration to describe the work as altogether one of the most beautiful psalm-settings ever written. The music is of a wonderful sweetness and purity, at the same time artless and intense, of pious religiosity, of an impregnable trust in God and hence producing a deep inner peace expressed in perfect musical form. In the process the music, in spite of its outward simplicity, attains great compositional refinement, and the demands made on the girl singers with regard to intonation, togetherness and beauty of sound were considerable: we must assume that Fräulein Fröhlich had some outstanding singing students.
Das Leben  (Life), D. 269, for three women’s parts, to a poem by Johann Christoph Wannovius, deals with thoughts of the inconsequential nature of our temporal life (‘Das Leben ist ein Traum…’/‘Life is a dream’). Over a quasi-Baroque style piano accompaniment, also in three parts, the principal sopranos and the simultaneously ‘fuguing’ underparts convey tender melodic lines, alternating between ascending and descending, thus creating a striking musical impression of volatility and dreamlike unreality.
Schubert set four of the songs on this recording in versions for a single voice and also for several voices. The two versions of La pastorella al prato  (The shepherdess in the meadow) are the first, D. 513, heard on this recording, and the second, for solo voice (D. 528, European Poets Vols. 1 and 2, Naxos 8.557026–27), which were probably written at the same time.The version for multiple voices is in 2/4 time and the vocal part is set homophonically over a guitar-like piano accompaniment; with some refinement the first tenors spice up the straightforward style of the song with occasional melismatas. In comparison with this, the solo version is in a pastoral 6/8 rhythm; the female voice alternates chastely between sensibility and virtuosity. So the multiple-voice version brings to bear, as it were, the prospect of the world of men onto the exceedingly graceful and desirable shepherdess, while the solo character and charm of the girl ‘cantando in libertà’, singing freely, takes centre stage. In both versions, even so, the music leaves no doubt that this freedom is in no way constrained by boundaries.
The second version of Naturgenuß  (Delight in Nature), D. 422, after Matthisson, was written a year after the first (D. 188, Poets of Sensibility Vols. 1 and 2 Naxos 8.557371–72) for solo voice of May 1815. But this is a case of two completely different versions; compared with the strophic simplicity of the first version, the second, many-voiced version, is fundamentally more complex, as well as being throughcomposed. Each verse is provided with new or, at least, varied musical material. The melismatic, virtuosic, upper voice is alternately accompanied and counterpointed by the underneath parts and the last verse of the poem elicits from Schubert the favourite device in his songs for male voices of changing the tempo indication ‘mäßigen’ (moderately) to ‘etwas geschwinden’ (somewhat faster) in triple time.
Klage um Ali Bey  (Lament for Ali Bey), heard here in its first version D. 140 for vocal sextet, is to a great extent identical with the second version for solo voice (D. 496A, Poets of Sensibility Vol. 4 Naxos 8.557569) which was probably written later. The solo version allows the singer much greater freedom to express the vivid telling of the life and death stories of the mameluke prince Ali Bey, who was murdered by his favourite, Abu Dahab, while the ensemble version acquires its comical urgency through the collective lamentations of the three wailing women. Both treatments are very funny, the one on account of Matthias Claudius’s earthy powers of expression, and the other through Schubert’s congenial, apparently simple, yet profoundly calculated setting.
Schubert eventually set Mayrhofer’s poem Der Gondelfahrer  (The Gondolier) in March 1824, first as a solo version (D. 808, Mayrhofer-Lieder Vol. 1 Naxos 8.554738) and then in D. 809, heard here, in a version for four male voices. In their soundworlds both versions are closely related to each other but in respect of their formal layout and musical structure they are completely different; the solo version acts as a preliminary study to the more expansive, fundamentally more powerfully suggestive multi-voiced version.
On 16 June 1816 Schubert noted in his diary: “After he had been in Vienna for fifty years and had spent almost as long in imperial service (apart from many other positions and function, Salieri had been Kapellmeister to the royal court from 1788 to 1824) Herr Salieri celebrated his jubilee; his Majesty awarded him a gold medal, and invited many of his pupils, both boys and girls. The compositions of his composition pupils were produced in the order in which they came in, from the top down…”
Schubert too studied composition with Salieri, from 1812, and early on Salieri had recognized Schubert’s exceptional talent. When he produced his Beitrag zur 50jährigen Jubelfeier des Herrn von Salieri – (Contribution to the 50th jubilee celebrations of Herr Salieri), D. 407, Schubert had long since distanced himself from his great teacher and was following his own compositional path, even though he had not renounced his wished-for and intended desire to have a career as an opera composer, like Salieri. In the meantime, the production of well over 200 songs was right up his street and his complete catalogue of works in the middle of 1816 reveals about 450 compositions. In his birthday music, however, Schubert showed himself to be unpretentious, perhaps smiling a little in a distanced way, as though being back once again in the rôle of a pupil and writing a three-part cantata comprising a trio, an aria and finally a canon—exactly those forms which he had learned with Salieri and which he had perhaps practised and carried out to the point of self-denial.
The obsequious and adulatory tone of the text— Schubert’s own—perhaps expresses a lightly ironic sort of reverence, gratitude and fondness, which the seeming routinely-business-like realization of the composition reflects, insomuch as those kinds of ‘prescribed’ protestation of thanks were not Schubert’s thing. On the other hand the Kantate zum Geburtstag des Sängers Johann Michael Vogl  (Cantata for the Birthday of the Singer Johann Michael Vogl), D. 666, to a text by Schubert’s friend Albert Stadler, sounds altogether more personal and more ambitious. Vogl, a renowned opera-singer, co-discoverer and propagandist of Schubert’s genius as a composer of Lieder, had become a father figure to Schubert over the years and was the most important singing partner to Schubert as piano accompanist to his own songs. The cantata was performed in celebration of Vogl’s 51st birthday in Steyr, the city of his birth, with Schubert both singing and accompanying himself on the fortepiano. At the lines ‘Diese Berge sah’n dich blühen,/hier begann Dein Herz zu glühen…’/‘These mountains saw you blossom; here your heart began to glow…’ Vogl was, according to eyewitness accounts, ‘deeply moved’. In the third verse (‘Hier saht ihr Orestes scheiden…’/‘Here you saw Orestes depart’) several of Vogl’s signature rôles were performed at the Vienna Hofoperntheater, where he was engaged until 1822. Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride is one of the operas associated with him which is still known today, while all the others have fallen into obscurity.
The poem which underpins the duet Licht und Liebe  (Light and Love), D. 352, from a tragic drama by Matthäus von Collin, appeared there under the title Entfernter Gesang (Distant Song). Consequently Schubert begins with two long solos, first for the tenor, then for the soprano, until the two separated lovers find each other at last, as though in each other’s thoughts, through the song: a moving moment of reunion, expressed musically by the coming together of the two voices at the end of the song.
Antigone und Ödip  (Antigone and Oedipus), D. 542, to a text by Mayrhofer, leads us into the sacred grove at Colonus where the pair have fled from Thebes after the catastrophic revelation of Oedipus’s parricide and incest and where they found asylum with Theseus. Antigone’s request to the gods to direct their lust for revenge on to her instead of on to her father remains unanswered. As the blind Oedipus wakes, he recalls past glories and predicts his own death. In keeping with the subject-matter Schubert composes in a ‘high style’; Antigone’s monologue is written in a widely-arching arioso, while the old man’s vision is set as a kind of orchestrally-accompanied recitativo accompagnato.
The beauty of the few extant bars of the fragment Linde Weste wehen  (Gentle west winds blow), D. 725, to a text by an unknown author, gives us cause to regret that, probably for external reasons, Schubert did not finish this duet. Coronach (Totengesang der Frauen)  (Coronach: Dirge of the Women), D. 836, and Bootgesang  (Boat Song), D. 835, are two of seven settings to poems from Walter Scott’s verse epic The Lady of the Lake, which Schubert composed in 1825 and which was published as his Op. 52. In Schubert’s time The Lady of the Lake was much read and was extremely popular. The two quartets (the solo songs are in European Poets Vol. 1 Naxos 8.554795) are compact, expressive and powerful works. Coronach describes a lament over the corpse of a fallen friend and comrade-in-arms in the Scottish Highlands, while Bootgesang is a warlike homage to Sir Roderick, the leader of rebellious Scottish noblemen from the Highland Clan-Alpine in the rising against the Scottish King James V.
Schubert wrote Ständchen  (Serenade), D. 920, to a text by his friend Franz Grillparzer, at the suggestion of Anna Fröhlich to celebrate the birthday of one of her girl pupils. On the day of the performance a piano was placed secretly under the window of the young recipient of the serenade and the song proved to be very popular – albeit that it was not given in Schubert’s presence; he had apparently ‘completely forgotten about it’. Even for the second performance, which took place in the Musikvereinssaal, Schubert had to be fetched from the ale-house to listen to it. All the same, we can assume that Schubert knew that the Serenade was more than just felicitous. Grillparzer’s poem used the ‘trick’ of picking out as its central theme the whole process of the serenade, beginning with ‘zögernd, leise’/‘hesitantly, softly’ of the singer, straightening up at the knock on the door to the room of her sleeping lover, the swelling of the song, the ‘real’ serenade (‘Sucht einer Weiser nah und ferne…’/‘Once a wise man sought near and far…’) up to the ‘creeping away’ at the end. Schubert conjures up from all this a piece of ‘light music’ of delicate airiness, with an ideal balance between catchiness and artistry, with perfect harmony in the ratio between the solo and choral elements, and all this over a piano accompaniment which imitates the plucking of a guitar. Such a composition, even within the context of the works of genius and richness of Schubert’s Lieder output, is unique.
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 2010. 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.
Close the window