SCHUBERT: Lied Edition 3 - Goethe, Vol. 1 (Stefan Laux/ Ulf Bastlein) (Naxos: 8.554665)
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THE DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-EDITION 3
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Schubert: Goethe Lieder, Vol. 1
About The 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 2008. 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.
Schubert's Settings of Goethe's Poetry: From Folk-Song to Hymn
It would be pleasing to imagine that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has heard Franz Schubert's brilliant settings of his poems and is so impressed that he uses his considerable influence to make Schubert's name known throughout Europe. The composer is finally able to work in comfort and security. Not only that, the two agree to work together on an ambitious project: the opera Faust. The result is stunning.
The reality, of course, was quite different. On two occasions, in 1816 and again in 1821, Schubert dedicated a collection of his settings of Goethe's poems to the author and sent them to him. Goethe's only reaction was either to return them without a word of acknowledgement or to add them to his ever-growing pile of petitions and fan-mail. In his diary he mentions that he has received the settings, but cannot be bothered to spell Schubert's name correctly. Yet today many of his poems, ' Erlkönig' or ' Heidenröslein' for example, owe their popularity entirely to Schubert's musical interpretation. In the early nineteenth century, however, the gap between the famous man of letters, known as the "Prince of Poets" (or the "princes' poet" as Beethoven sarcastically put it) and the struggling freelance musician from a lower-middle-class Viennese suburb was unbridgeable. The result was a sadly one-sided relationship. Yet despite Goethe's lack of interest or appreciation, Schubert was more often inspired by his poetry than by the works of any other writer. Perhaps the reason lay in their very diversity. Either the form or the theme led Schubert to make some of his most daring experiments and innovations.
There has been much speculation as to why these two highly talented artists did not come into closer contact. One simple explanation is that there was no musician on hand helping Goethe to sift through the quantity of petitions that arrived daily; someone who would have immediately spotted the outstanding quality of the music and who could have performed it. It would certainly not be correct to say that Goethe had no ear for music. On the contrary, he was a music-lover, and had a particular interest in Lieder, providing the form and melody did not take precedence over his texts. In his opinion, Zelter and Reichardt, composers of the traditional Berlin School with whom he was on friendly terms, had the balance exactly right. Reichardt, for example, wrote settings for all eight songs which occur in Goethe's novel Wilhelm Meister and these were printed in the first edition in 1795 together with the text, thereby encouraging the reader to sing them. It is no wonder, then, that Schubert, in common with many other composers, including Beethoven, Schumann and Wolf, was prompted to write his own version or versions of these songs. Their attraction for Schubert in particular lay in the characters in the novel that sing them, Mignon and the nameless Harper. All the figures in Wilhelm Meister are upwardly mobile, in Enlightenment terms, striving for self-improvement and self-knowledge, whereas these two travelling players are clearly doomed from the moment they first appear. Outcasts from the modern, progressive world, they can only express themselves and their experience in poetry and song. These were the kind of rôles with which the young composer could identify; they express emotions with which he is familiar: loneliness, alienation and defeat.
It is hardly surprising, then, that Schubert tackled both Mignon's and the Harper's songs several times. In contrast to Mignon's themes, dealing with other-worldly, intensely individual experiences, the Harper sings of the tragedy of the human condition and its wrongs. In 1815 Schubert set two of the latter's songs, ' Wer nie sein Brat mit Tränen aß' (Who ne'er ate his bread with tears), D. 149, in March and, later in the year, ' Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt' (He who gives himself up to solitude), D. 325. The following year he rewrote them both and added a third song ' An die Türen will ich schleichen' (I shall creep up to their gates), D. 479a, to create a miniature song-cycle.
In ' Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt' some elements of the first version are retained, including the initial key and the change of key at the beginning of the second verse, while the 6/8 rhythm re-appears as a triplet accompaniment in 4/4 time. Overall, however, Schubert only really reaches the heart of the poem's paradox in his second attempt. The harmonic alienation in the second verse underlines the difference between being " allein " (alone) and " recht einsam " (truly lonely), the chromatic de