SCHUBERT: Lied Edition 11 - North German Poets (Dirk Huhner/ Hanno Muller-Brachmann/ Ulrich Eisenlohr) (Naxos: 8.555780)
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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 North German poets
The North German poets represented here are, in various respects, important in the context of Schuberts songs. Some of them inspired him to compositions that are numbered among his most brilliant. Schmidt von Lübecks Der Wanderer (The Wanderer) in Schuberts setting became one of the most frequently performed songs of the nineteenth century. Others provided subjects for compositions that show us an unknown and unusual aspect of Schubert. Finally one of them wrote the poems for nine songs that can be regarded as forerunners of Winterreise (Winter Journey): the poetic work of Ernst Schulze is, however, stylistically as far away from the classical as from the romantic, the earlier Empfindsamkeit or the Biedermeier. The poems resemble Wilhelm Müllers Winterreise texts and Schuberts musical settings underline this close affinity.
Ernst Schulze was born in 1789 in the North German town of Celle and was dead by 1817. He was a private teacher of philology in Göttingen and the author of many poems, among them a Poetisches Tagebuch (Verse Journal). The autobiographical information contained there, in poetic form, came about largely under the influence of his engagement to Cäcilie Tychsen, who was a good pianist and an interpreter of Bach, and of her early death at the age of eighteen. Other poems, for example Lebensmut (Courage), appear in connection with his experience as a volunteer in the war of liberation against France.
The settings of Schulze, written between March 1825 and 1826, provide an unusually compact group of songs, almost a cycle. Their uniformity springs on the one hand from the literary subject and the confessional yet profoundly poetic tone, and, on the musical level, from Schuberts almost continuously monothematic method of composition that develops each song from an initial impulse, a motivic and thematic basic idea. His music is here of stronger forcefulness, persistence and plasticity, rising to aggressive vehemence, as in Über Wildemann (Above Wildemann), or can turn to oppressive sadness, as in Tiefes Leid (Deep Sorrow), or to incredible tenderness, as in Um Mitternacht (At Midnight). This integration of expression was only possible with a strong inner relationship between poet and composer, and Schulzes poetic and real life themes were certainly akin to Schuberts.
Auf der Bruck (At Bruck On the Bridge) is an impetuous riding song, comparable in its dramatic impetus to Erlkönig (Erl King), written ten years before. Ever and again shades of colour appear through the repeated chords (und freundlich wird ein fernes Licht
[and friendly will be a distant light], manch Auge lacht mir traulich zu
(Many an eye laughing catches mine) von Lust und Leiden [of joy and sorrow]) and prevent the monotony that is so menacing.
An mein Herz (To my Heart) depicts the attempt to master unrequited love. The characteristic tone of resignation of the poem (es ist ja des Himmels Wille [It is Heavens will]) with Schuberts nervously throbbing music, never reaching repose, has a dimension of bitterness that develops the idea of latent rebellion. The abrupt changes through the whole song between minor and major generate an impression of inner turmoil between resignation and revolt.
A strong musical contrast marks the song Tiefes Leid (Deep Sorrow). The restless movement of the first part is superseded by the comfortable harmonic serenity of the second. Schuberts strophic setting strengthens the impression of the irreconcilable difference between this and the other world. It is noteworthy too that Schulzes poem carries distinct atheistic traces: Nicht wird der kalte Stein mir sagen /ach, daß auch sie mein Schmerz betrübt (There will be no cold stone to tell me, ah, that my pain grieves her too). Schuberts music represents this fatalistic statement as comforting. That this, through the strophic structure of the composition, comes about as positive is here no mistake, but intentional.
Im Walde (In the Forest) again has the theme of restlessness (as a consequence of unfulfilled love). This time the forward impetus rises to a degree of the obsessive. Brighter idyllic islands remain an unattainable goal and the eyes of the wanderer turn again and again towards them in his own state of despair.
Der liebliche Stern (The Lovely Star) shows an inverted world with its picture of the star reflected in the sea. The music symbolizes, with its descending intervals in the bass of the accompaniment and the downward melodic patterns of the vocal line, the rush of the poet into the deep, to death laßt tief in der wallenden Kühle /dem lieblichen Sterne mich nahen (Let me, deep in the surging cool waters, draw near to the lovely star). Similar motifs of the opposition between above and below, high and deep, are found in Die schöne Müllerin (The Millers Daughter). Probably these were not only individual psychological metaphors but also a reflection of the social upheavals of the time.
The image of the distant beloved, to whom one must in ones though