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 (andSchubert's) luck in a letter to the then unquestioned Master of the Germanlanguage, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:
A selection of German songs will constitute the beginning ofthis edition; it will consist of eight volumes. The first two (the first ofwhich, as an example, you will find in our letter) contains poems written byyour Excellency, the third, poetry by Schiller, the fourth and fifth, works byKlopstock, the sixth by Mathison, Holty, Salis etc., the seventh and eighthcontain songs by Ossian, whose works are quite exceptional.
The Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition follows the composer'soriginal concept. All Schubert's Lieder, over 700 songs, will be groupedaccording to the poets who inspired him, or according to the circle of writers,contemporaries, members of certain literary movements and so on, whose worksSchubert chose to set to music. Fragments and alternative settings, providingtheir length and quality make them worth recording, and works for two or morevoices with piano accompaniment will also make up a part of the edition.
Schubert set the poetry of over 115 writers to music. Heselected poems from classical Greece, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, fromeighteenth-century German authors, early Romantics, Biedermeier poets, hiscontemporaries, and, of course, finally, poems by Heinrich Heine, althoughsadly the two never met.
The entire edition is scheduled for completion by 2005.Thanks to the Neue Schubert Ausgabe (New Schubert Edition), published byBarenreiter, which uses primary sources - autograph copies wherever possible -the performers have been able to benefit from the most recent research of theeditorial team. For the first time, the listener and the interested reader canfollow Schubert's textual alterations and can appreciate the importance thewritten word had for the composer.
The project's Artistic Advisor is the pianist UlrichEisenlohr, who has chosen those German-speaking singers who represent the eliteof today's 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 Schubert's friends, Vol. 2
The short period of Schubert's life was marked byrevolutionary political and social events of fundamental importance. The idealsof the French Revolution, liberty, equality and fraternity, had establishedthemselves in people's minds. Neither the radicalisation and perversion of theevents in France itself (the bloodthirsty Terror of Robespierre, and later thecoronation of Napoleon as Emperor), nor the war that followed until Napoleon'sRussian campaign, could alter that. Rather it seemed to pave the way for a turnfor the better. Thousands enthusiastically volunteered to take part in the warsof liberation against the French occupation, among them many artists. Thedefeat of Napoleon in the battle of the nations at Leipzig in 1813 and theentry of the allied forces of Russia, Prussia and Austria into Paris werecelebrated as liberation from tyranny and foreign domination. The realisationof democratic ideals seemed possible.
The Congress of Vienna (1814/15) soon brought these hopes tonothing. The creation of a real democratic nation state was prevented in thenewly formed German League to which Austria belonged; conservative politicalpowers had firm control and put in place the structures of an authoritarianstate. The Carlsbad Decrees of 1819 against political and intellectual freedombrought about a climate of repression and a police state.
It was in this period of tension between hope anddisillusionment that German lyric poetry developed between 1800 and 1830, andknowledge of its historical background reveals it, naturally not exclusively,as also a reaction to current events and an expression of the mood of the time.This is also reflected in the poems by Schubert's friends. For the reader todaythe coded meanings are not easily recognised, yet they include deliberatecommentary on the real conditions of life. In nature pictures and mythologicalmaterial these express literally 'through flowers' what dare not be saidopenly. This poetry did not spring from dilettante enthusiasm, and we do welltoday, if we read of wilting flowers or rushing streams, not to suspect thewriter of harmless sentimentality, but rather to ask ourselves what othermeaning there could be. The poem Die Krahe (The Crow), for example, fromWinterreise (Winter Journey) has a hidden meaning if we know that Krahe inAustrian is a generally known synonym for a police informer.
Naturally it is a matter of one among many meanings. Poetrydistils individual and social experiences of life and contains a multitude ofpossible meanings. With different individual biographies too, however, we areaware of the mood of Schubert's friends, to be gleaned directly from theircorrespondence. Probably there was in their heart of hearts an inner turmoil,polarities that seemed to be elevated by earlier generations into a higherharmony were now experienced as incompatible opposites, and this experience hasa definite contemporary historical background.
The settings included here, therefore, revolve around thethemes of hope and disappointment, Utopia and disillusionment, engagement andwithdrawal, religiousness and loss of faith. In all their diversity theirsubjects have this in common.
The two flower ballads Viola, D786, (Violet) andVergissmeinnicht, D792, (Forget-me-not) by Franz von Schober, one of Schubert'sclosest friends, treat the motif of the loyal but disappointed (flower-)bride,who finds peace only in death or in resignation and withdrawal. The naturesymbolism involved reveals a fundamental spiritual loss: nature is no longer aharmonic cycle but a series of tragic events, the God-given 'good' world orderno longer exists. At the same time the flower-ballads hold contemporarymetaphors: the violet that has ventured out too early in spring and died iseasily identifiable as an allegory of freedom. The forget-me-not that grew toolate, ending in inwardness and day-dreams may symbolize people of theBiedermeier period, retreating in disappointment from their great hopes into alimited private idyll. That these texts were much more than sentimentalmelodrama for Schubert is shown by his music, from the very start. In Viola asimple almost urgent bell motif serves as a refrain for the whole extendedcomposition, rich in colour and variety. The constantly returning, always newlyhighlighted and finally dying theme tells of departure and failure.Vergissmeinnicht is musically and thematically less concise, harmonically moredaring, more extreme in the contrast between lyrically lingering anddramatically forward-pressing passages. A long, painfully and deeply feltpassage, Strophe 13: Tranen sprechen ihren Schmerz nur aus (Tears express onlytheir own pain) shows in key, pedal-point procedure and basic rhythmic patternthe chronological and emotional closeness of the ballad to the famous UnfinishedSymphony. The often almost too long, insistent repetitions and variations ofthe central musical motif are signs of Schubert's strong inner engagement withthe text. Thus, for example, the long description of the sleepingforget-me-not, Da im weichen Samt des Mooses (There in the gentle velvet of themoss) is expressed in won