SCHUBERT: Lied Edition 12 - Mayrhofer, Vol. 2 (Burkhard Kehring/ Christiane Iven/ Pauline Heister) (Naxos: 8.554739)
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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)
Mayrhofer Songs Vol. 2
After Goethe and Schiller the poems by the relatively little known Johann Mayrhofer, from among Schuberts contemporaries, hold a dominant position among the composers songs. Not only did Schubert set to music, in the course of eleven years, no less than 47 of Mayrhofers poems, but also the vocal quartet Gondelfahrer (D809), the operatic fragment Adrast (D137), and the completed two-act Singspiel Die Freunde von Salamanca (D326). Mayrhofers wide literary culture also had an influence on Schubert that is not to be underestimated.
Schubert and Mayrhofer met through their common friend Joseph von Spaun, inspiring the setting of Am See (D124) at the beginning of December 1814. From September 1816 there were four years of extensive collaboration that can be described as cultural symbiosis: Schubert was inspired to set Mayrhofers poems in songs that served in their turn as inspiration to the latter. When Schubert returned to Vienna in November 1818 after his first summer stay at Zseliz, as teacher of the daughters of Count Esterházy, he finally left his parents house and moved to a spare room at Mayrhofers: "The house and the room have felt the influence of time: the ceiling somewhat lowered and the light diminished by a large building standing opposite, an over-used piano, a narrow bookcase; that was the room which, with the hours spent there, will never fade from my memory, wrote Mayrhofer in his Memories of Franz Schubert". The period spent together, then not so unusual, lasted nearly two years. Yet while Mayrhofer remained committed to ideas of the Enlightenment, Schubert turned to the newer poetry of romanticism; for him the years about 1820 brought anyway a period of creative crisis and new direction in which hardly a single great work was completed and many remained in a fragmentary state. The increasing estrangement from Mayrhofer became most evident in that at this time Schubert set only eight of his friends poems. There is a certain distance peculiar to Abendstern (D806) - face to face with man (characterized in the minor) stands the star (major): "Ich bin der liebe treuer Stern, / sie halten sich von Liebe fern" (I am the loving, true star, / they keep well away from love) - in Auflösung (D807), set in March 1824, he turns the programmatic words as it were against the poet himself: "
flüchte dich, und laß mich allein" (fly away, and leave me to myself). Mayrhofer reports on this growing coolness in his memoirs (February 1829): "The course of circumstances and of society, illness and altered views of life later kept us from each other; but what once was, was now no longer".
Johann Mayrhofer was born on 3rd November 1797 in Steyr in Upper Austria and his exceptional gifts and literary interests were apparent even in his schooldays. He was "always the first among his school friends", and distinguished himself "particularly through his very adequate knowledge of Latin and Greek and also of the Classics" (Joseph von Spaun). Without means after the early death of his father, in 1806 Mayrhofer joined the Augustinian foundation of St Florian at Linz, later known for its connection with Anton Bruckner, but left after four years, shortly before taking his final vows. He moved to Vienna to study law, completed under straitened circumstances. Thanks to his knowledge of literature he quickly found a position as censor in the Imperial and Royal Book Censorship Office and soon became feared by authors and booksellers for his severity. Only too well did he know of those strivings for freedom by which the restored state, conservative in structure, felt threatened - Mayrhofer was himself an enthusiastic supporter of growing liberal and democratic ideas. Described in various obituaries as a man of sensitivity, he must have suffered ever more strongly under the stresses of his position. With a strict performance of his duties Mayrhofer evidently sought to confront this inevitable conflict that endangered his own living. Joseph von Spaun, on the contrary, expressed matters almost euphemistically: "My opinions are one thing, my duty quite another". Mayrhofer observed with euphoria the 1830 rising in Poland, but was deeply depressed at its failure, and tried to drown himself in the Danube. His sensitivity and hypochondria six years later led him finally, on 5th February 1836, in a deluded fear of cholera, then raging in again Vienna, to kill himself by throwing himself from the third floor window of his office building.
How Mayrhofer tried more or less to hide his true opinion of the censorship is shown perhaps by those verses based on thoughts and concepts from the ancient world that he issued, at the urging of his friends, in a small edition in 1824, evidence that he himself was aware enough of the possible implications. The little volume appeared most probably in early autumn; Mayrhofer himself on 20th October sent Goethe a copy with a dedication. This may explain why Schubert, unlike the rest of his circle of friends, was not a subscriber; from the end of May he was in Zseliz, and returned to Vienna again on 17th October 1824 (possibly the second copy ordered by