European Poets, Vol. 2 (Includes An Silvia, D 891)

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European Poets, Vol. 2 (Includes An Silvia, D 891)
Maya Boog (soprano) Ulrich Eisenlohr (piano) with Wolf Matthias Friedrich (bass-baritone)

[ Naxos Schubert Lieder Edition Vol 14 / 2 CD ]

Release Date: Tuesday 24 February 2004

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Schubert as a composer of Italian arias? As a setter of gloomy, bloodthirsty Scottish ballads? He was both

. Even as a schoolboy at the Staatskonvikt he had a voracious literary appetite. To begin with it was friends who supplied him with almanacs and anthologies of poetry, and 'seldom did he refuse a choice' of this kind, as his school-friend Albert Stadler recalled. His later choices of text were individual, specific and deliberate, and not only from literature in German, a fact that one might consider obvious in multicultural Vienna, capital of the Austrian state that included so many different peoples. Oddly enough poetry from the neighbouring Slav and Balkan states played scarcely any part in Schubert's song-writing. The literary scene itself, however, had long since become European. Poets, philologists and readers busied themselves with the poetic art of other countries and languages, and the hunting out of collections and translations of foreign works had become a highly regarded occupation. Famous, for example, was the collection Stimmen der Völker in Liedern (Voices of the Peoples in Songs) by Johann Gottfried Herder, which appeared in 1778-79, in which Goethe, Lessing and Lavater, among others collaborated, and which drew on German, English, Spanish, Danish, French, Gaelic, Greek, Italian, Estonian and Lithuanian folk-songs.

A major point of interest was provided by the literature of the Anglo-Saxon region. In 1759 Lessing in his seventeen literary letters drew attention again to Shakespeare, then forgotten in Germany, and thus prepared the way for the great veneration of Shakespeare in the Sturm und Drang period. In 1760 there followed the Scot James Macpherson's Fragments of Ancient Poetry, eight years later translated for the first time into German. These included free versions of poems from the Irish-Scottish sagas about the hero and bard Fingal and his son Ossian. Macpherson claimed that these were old poems that had been discovered, which he had merely translated and this aroused fascination with the dark world of Nordic mythical heroic sagas and led to an Ossian craze that had far-reaching influence on the whole of European literature until into the nineteenth century, a craze that also affected the young Schubert.

There was a further strong influence from Italian literature, not principally in the lyrical and epic but rather in the dramatic genre of opera with its most important and influential representatives, the theatre poets and librettists Lorenzo Da Ponte and Pietro Metastasio.

Schubert had command of no foreign languages, yet this did not impair his sympathetic understanding of the colouring, for example, of English poetry. The quality of the translations that were at his disposal may have been difficult for him to evaluate and they were not always the best. Nevertheless his instinct for what was useful to him for inspiration and composition was unfailing and sure. These Ossian poems resulted in some of the most exceptional and astonishing compositions of his whole life. While the English texts, however, were altogether a choice of the heart, his engagement with the Italian language began with a set task. His composition teacher Salieri gave him texts by Metastasio, at first as prosaic homework. He later set some Italian texts that he had chosen himself.

With these so fundamentally different poetic worlds of the Anglo-Saxon and the Italian, the stylistic, formal and emotional variety of the music that Schubert wrote in setting them is immense. This also concerns the fact that the songs here included span the period from 1813 to 1827, almost the whole of Schubert's creative life. We hear him here first as a self-taught and gifted young man in Verklärung (D 59) (Transfiguration), when he was at the same time a pupil of Salieri and of the Italian style, as in Son fra l'onde (D 78) (I am amid the waves), Pensa che questo istante (D 76) (Consider that this moment), and Misero pargoletto (D 42) (Unhappy child). Then he developed what he had learnt in his lessons into something more independent and individual, as in Vedi quanto adoro (D 510) (See how much I love you), and La pastorella (D 528) (The shepherdess), but at the same time he remained true to his original unbounded love for experiment, as in Die Nacht (D 534) (The Night). Later we see a search for new possibilities in the combination of poetic expression and musical structure, as in the settings of the Petrarch Sonnets (D 628-630). Finally in the Shakespeare settings, D 888, 889 and 891, and the Songs for bass (D 902), we find a mature musician, a master of the tools of his trade as a composer used to produce an inspired work of art. We can never know, were he not to have died a year later, whether he might not have produced substantially different music in later life. Two weeks before his death he began to study fugue with Simon Sechter and wrote his first exercises. If one considers stylistic diversity, without loss of a personal character or disappearing among superficial successors, as a criterion for the quality of a composer, Schubert might stand at the top of the list in the period between 1700 and 1900, perhaps only surpassed by Johann Sebastian Bach. This then could be the most outstanding feature of the songs here included, the harmonic combination of stylistic adaptability and variety with unmistakably individual musical language.


Disc 1
Edward (Eine altschottische Ballade), D 923
Die Nacht, D 534
Lorma (fragment), D 376
Verklarung, D 59
Der blinde Knabe, D 833
Der Weiberfreund, D 271
An Silvia, D 891
Trinklied, D 888
Standchen, D 889
Der Tod Oscars, D 375

Disc 2
La pastorella, D 528
Son fra l'onde, D 78
Pensa che questo istante, D. 76 (first version)
Pensa che questo istante, D 76 (second version)
Misero pargoletto, D 42
Vedi quanto adoro, D 510
Drei Gesange fur Bassstimme, Op. 83
Vier Canzonen fur eine Singstimme, D 688
Leiden der Trennung (L'onda dal mar divisa), D 509
Drei Lieder nach Sonetten von Petrarca
Abendstandchen, D 265
Die Sternenwelten, D 307
Der 13, Psalm