SCHUBERT: Lied Edition 4 - Mayrhofer, Vol. 1
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THE DEUTSCHE SCHUBERT-LIED-EDITION 4
Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)
Schubert: Mayrhofer-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.
Among the many poets whose work Schubert chose to set to music, three stand out as particular favourites: Goethe, Schiller and Mayrhofer. Two great writers, famous in their and our time, and one little-known poet, whose name has since slipped into oblivion - or rather, it would have done so, were it not for the forty-seven settings of his poems which Schubert composed over a period of eleven years. Apart from these, he also began an opera entitled Adrast, and completed a lyrical drama in two acts, Die Freunde von Salamanca, both based on Mayrhofer's texts.
Schubert never met either Goethe or Schiller; Mayrhofer, on the other hand, was one of his closest friends; a man whose literary knowledge and tastes undoubtedly had a strong influence on the composer. Another close friend, Joseph von Spaun, initiated the friendship and artistic co-operation by showing Schubert one of Mayrhofer's poems and suggesting he set it to music. He did so, and composed ' Am See' (D. 124) at the beginning of December 1814. Two years later the acquaintance began to develop into a much closer relationship, a kind of artistic symbiosis, which lasted for four years. During this time they shared their interests, their ideas and their work. Schubert frequently found in Mayrhofer's poems the musical inspiration he was looking for, add Mayrhofer was encouraged by the transformation of his poetry into song to continue writing.
In November 1818, on his return from Zseliz where he had spent his first summer on Count Esterházy's estate employed as a piano teacher to the Count's daughters, Schubert decided to move out of his parents' home and to join Mayrhofer in his far from luxurious lodgings: "Both the house and the room had felt the influence of time. Time had lowered the ceiling and darkened the room by erecting a large building on the other side of the street, add an old, over-used piano and a narrow book-shelf and you have the room which, together with the hours I spent there, will never fade from my memory." (Thus Mayrhofer in his Memories of Franz Schubert). This ménage à deux - which was quite common in those days - lasted two years; a remarkably long time considering the cramped conditions. Then, cracks began to appear. Whilst Mayrhofer remained true to the ideas of the Enlightenment, Schubert turned more and more toward Romanticism, to the poetry of the younger generation, attracted by its exalted mysticism. These two years were a period in the composer's life in which he went through several artistic crises, searching for a new, individual direction. Much of what he composed during this time remained uncompleted. As the two friends drifted apart, so Schubert set fewer and fewer of Mayrhofer's texts to music, and finally, in 1824, he chose a poem entitled Auflösung (Dissolution) as if to signal the end of their co-operation.
Johann Mayrhofer was born on 3 November 1787 in Steyr in Upper Austria. His remarkable talents became apparent already at school: "He was always the best in his class," and showed "extraordinary ability in Latin and Greek, as well as being well versed in the Classics" (Joseph von Spaun). Mayrhofer's father died at a relatively young age, leaving his family without any financial support. Hence, in 1806, at nineteen, his son had to fend for himself and joined the Augustinian canons at St Florian near Linz (later well-known for its connection with Bruckner). He left again four years later, shortly before taking his final vows. Instead, he went to Vienna, where he studied law, surviving on next to nothing. Nevertheless, he managed to complete his studies, whereupon he joined the civil service. Thanks to his literary knowledge he was given the position of official censor in the "royal, imperial book-inspection office". He soon became known and feared among writers and booksellers for his strict adherence to the laws. Mayrhofer found himself having to censor the expression of the ideals he held dear. A believer in the search for a freer society, he was, in daily life, paid to be an instrument of repression, to strengthen the efforts the Austro-Hungarian empire was making to re-establish its power.
Those who knew Mayrhofer describe him as a sensitive man and thus it is easy to imagine how much he must have suffered under this gaping discrepancy. His attempts to overcome it led to an even stricter observation of the censorship regulations. He was fully aware that if he allowed his real opinions to become known, it would mean the loss of his livelihood, possibly imprisonment. "My opinions are one thing, my duty quite another," was the rather terse explanation he gave to Joseph von Spaun.
When Mayrhofer heard the news of the uprising