SCHUBERT: Lied Edition 7 - European Poets, Vol. 1

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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 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 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.

Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)

European Poets, Vol. 1

I have never forced myself to piety

Franz Schubert

The Homer of the North: Ossian/Macpherson

Gloomy and sinister descriptions of battles, of nature, landscapes, stormy seas, howling storms, misty heathland aroused the imagination of audiences, inspiring joy of grief. Barely had the age of enlightenment been defined than people longed to return to the unfathomable truth of myths. Inexplicable stories of the past and fairy-tales that reflect and give meaning to humanity drew and draw interest. The partly true purblind glorification of rationalism of the newer and newest stories needs a counterbalance; ‘Victory and Self-destruction of Progress’, in the subtitle of a book by the lucid philosopher Franz Vonessen, became long ago well enough known and sensitively described. Intuition and imagination are irreplaceable for humanity; already in bards, here Ossian (Oisín, Oisean), lives ‘yet once more the strength of clairvoyance’; ‘what the priests of the Druids could give to humanity lived still in the bards’ (R. Steiner). Ossian’s Fingal’s Cave, ‘a cathedral fashioned by Nature’ (R. Steiner), on a Hebridean island, made famous through Mendelssohn’s Overture of the same name, was washed around by the flowing surge of the sea. Thunderlike music of Nature; alone the continuous dripping of the water on the stalactites gave birth to magic voices.

In 1760 James Macpherson (1736-1796) published his collection Fragments of Ancient Poetry. From his great knowledge of the history, customs and manners of the Scottish Highlands over one and a half centuries came his pleasing adaptations. That the fragments came from his own pen, were imitations, and not, as he claimed, the original work of Ossian, is then of little importance, as philologists, whose historical business is correctness, acknowledged. The value was greater than the material origin and the spreading Ossian mode belonged to the prerequisites of the Romantic in song as in opéra comique (Dahlhaus). Ossianic or Ossian-type songs, cantatas and operas were produced in northern Europe, as in Germany, Italy and France. Ossian, the legendary Homer of the North, inspired Klopstock, Herder, early Goethe, Hölderlin, Tieck, Novalis, Jean Paul, and von Arnim, and resulted in countless musical settings. The Ossian poems are, as described in the old literary history of Hettner, ‘of a freshness of tone, a loftiness of imagery and a depth of natural feeling that often reminds us of the direct boldness of Old Testament poetry’. The ‘genius of Macpherson is only an emotional rather than a purely creative one’. The strongly rhythmical elements of the verses have an effect that is both archaic and something new. Moreover there comes through the legendary blind lonely bard presented, who speaks from the heart, the very creative process itself.

To these fictitious yet very respectable adaptations we owe the early work of Franz Schubert, in a dramatic, harmonic and formal freedom that he never later used. Schubert’s Ossian settings soon became appreciated. ‘Loda’s Ghost, Colma’s Lament and others are happy signs of his inspiration drawn from melancholy heroic poets’ (Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur, Theater und Mode, 1829).

Schubert treated the text associatively and with illustration, writing pictorial music. The eighteen-year-old composer interprets the ghostly and fantastic through romantic harmony, with daring modulations, and through piano figuration, ranging from the profound sadness of the lament in Cronnan and the stranger forms of Shilrik and Vinvela to the aggressive outcry in Loda’s Ghost. Schubert does justice to the ballad form of these three great songs partly through a constant alternation of recitative and arioso, partly through free through-composition, with a conjunction of lyrical pictures and simple manageable forms (Ossian’s Song, The Maid of Inistore and Colma’s Lament).

Ossian’s Song is through-composed, lyrical and simple, with the return of the opening theme at the end.

Similarly through-composed, Shilric and Vinvela alternates recitative and arioso; subtle in its word-painting, the dialogue-song brings noteworthy harmonic changes. The differentiation in tone-colour, as in the following Cronnan, points to Schubert’s intention of a performance by a male and female singer.

In the through-composed ballad Cronnan we find an orchestral type of piano accompaniment, characteristic in the settings by Zumsteeg, which Schubert studied and admired as a schoolboy.

Loda’s Ghost, in recitative and through-composed, resembles a concise improvisation.

The Maid of Inistore is in three-part song-form; nevertheless the varied ending gives the impression of through-composition. The girl’s death lament, which is also well known from the Opus 17 of Brahms, is partly in arioso and partly in recitative. The diatonically filled interval of a minor third is an expression of care and tenderness and appears nevertheless interwoven with the sounds of nature, of the wind and of animals.
Item number 8554795
Barcode 636943479520
Release date 02/01/2002
Category Lieder
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Trekel, Roman
Ziesak, Ruth
Eisenlohr, Ulrich
Trekel, Roman
Ziesak, Ruth
Eisenlohr, Ulrich
Composers Schubert, Franz
Schubert, Franz
Producers Heister, Pauline
Disc: 1
Gesang der Norna, D. 831
1 Ossians Lied nach dem Falle Nathos, D. 278
2 Shilrik und Vinvela, D. 293
3 Cronnan, D. 282
4 Lodas Gespenst, D. 150
5 Kolmas Klage, D. 217
6 Das Madchen von Inistore D. 281
7 Ellens Gesang I, D. 837
8 Ellens Gesang II, D. 838
9 Normans Gesang, D. 846
10 Hymne an die Jungfrau D. 839
11 Lied des gefangenen Jagers, D. 843
12 Lied der Anne Lyle, D. 830
13 Romanze des Richard Lowenherz, D. 907
14 Gesang der Norna, D. 831
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