SCHUBERT: Lied Edition 10 - Austrian Contemporaries, Vol. 1 (Christoph Genz/ Teije van Geest/ Wolfram Rieger) (Naxos: 8.554796)
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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 Schuberts) 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 composers original concept. All Schuberts 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 Schuberts textual alterations and can appreciate the importance the written word had for the composer.
The projects Artistic Advisor is the pianist Ulrich Eisenlohr, who has chosen those German-speaking singers who represent the élite of todays young German Lieder singers, performers whose artistic contribution, he believes, will stand the test of time.
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Settings of poems by Austrian contemporaries, Vol.1
Taking a general view of Schuberts composition of songs in their chronological order, it may be observed that from about 1822 classical and pre-classical poets moved into the background, as Schubert more and more turned to poets of his own generation. These were, apart from the late discoveries Ernst Schulze (1789-1817), Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), and Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860), in the first place poets from his own circle of friends and other Austrian contemporaries, of which Leitner and Seidl are here included. It is true that this group of poets was present in his earlier song compositions, above all in the person of his friend Johann Mayrhofer, who, with 47 settings, is one of the three poets most often set (with Goethe and Schiller). This preponderance in quantity came about, if we leave Mayrhofer out of consideration, first in the 1820s. Thus, with one exception, Drang in die Ferne, all the songs included in the present recording were written during the last three years of Schuberts life.
Most of the members of this group were only amateur poets, whose work in artistic quality cannot come near that of the classical poets or that of the exponents of German romanticism. Interestingly this is in no way detrimental to the musical quality of Schuberts settings. Schubert appears here much more, in his absolute mastery of the compositional skills he had acquired, to have reached a new level in a personal, mature voice. The basic condition for his choice of poems to set was for him not a works absolute formal polished quality, but rather its genuineness, clarity, the plasticity of its poetic imagery and its message. In short, as with all second-class literary works, these poets spoke their own language, put into words the mood of their time and milieu. From the beginning Schubert had happily worked with the poems of Goethe, with Schillers poems of ideas, so difficult to set, he struggled for a long time, in the Ossian songs he developed his dramatic means of expression into an incredibly modern musical language, in the simple strophic songs on works by poets of the Empfindsamkeit (Matthisson, Kosegarten, Claudius, and Hölty) he refined his melodic technique; here he brings the poems to completion, adding, through his music, a depth that can hardly be discerned in the written words.
Karl Gottfried Ritter von Leitner was born in Graz in 1800 and died there in 1890. He studied in his native city and taught in schools in Cilli (Celje) and Graz, later becoming first secretary in the Styrian regional administration and living for a time in Italy. He was known as the Austrian Uhland. His poems, like Seidls, are based on the description and reflection of the everyday things of life, abjuring the flights of intellect of the romantics, their Utopia, eccentricity and mysticism, but part of the Biedermeier period.
Drang in die Ferne (The Urge to Roam) expresses a state of uncertainty between a mood of readiness to depart and the pain of leaving; the departing son is torn between his urge for the wider world and the desire to dispel the sorrow of his parents, and his own. Musically this is expressed in a melodic pattern that in nearly every phrase is at first strongly drawn upwards, but at once falls again, in a piano accompaniment in which the right hand accompanies the vocal part in parallel for one or two bars. In both the last verses of the poem, the mood brightens from A minor to A major, but this is not sustained, as the postlude closes in gloomy pessimism. Before the end, Ach! Und wenn nimmermehr ich zu Euch wiederkehr (Oh, and should I never again return to you), however, we seem to hear the death bell, yet not as in Zügenglöcklein comforting, but uneasy, as though threatening.
Des Fischers Liebesglück (The Fishermans Happy Love) seems in some of the piano figuration and the vocal part to be related to Irrlicht (Will-othe-Wisp) of Winterreise, written just a few months before and recalled in this song. Here too there prevails, beyond mere flirtation, a strangely unreal mood, changing between melancholy and rapture.
In Die Sterne (The Stars) the moving impulse of the whole composition develops from a single, elementary metrical formula in the piano accompaniment, which continues without interruption through the whole song. This is typical of many of Schuberts late vocal and instrumental compositions, and has often been critically cited in this connection as a tendency to monotony. This criticism is only to be understood if one starts from the conscious, deliberate and controlled development principle of the classical period of music. Schubert embarked here on a completely new path; his music follows increasingly a principle of inherent dynamism that seems no longer subject to the controlling will of its creator, but grows and develops by itself, like a plant that once it has taken root now grows out in all directions. In this way the expansion of the prelude is heard and the harmonic and melodic turns give a clear impression of the vegetative compositional style of late Schubert.