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Track(s) taken from CDJ33034

Die Geselligkeit 'Lebenslust', D609

First line:
Wer Lebenslust fühlet, der bleibt nicht allein
composer
D609. January 1818; first published in 1872 by Gotthard
author of text

Patricia Rozario (soprano), Catherine Denley (contralto), Ian Bostridge (tenor), Michael George (bass), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: January 1999
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: January 2000
Total duration: 3 minutes 46 seconds
 
1

Reviews

'A feast of finely wrought, intelligent interpretations … the readings make an indelible impression.' (Gramophone)

'This disc is a must for any serious Schubert collector, its pleasures enhanced by Graham Johnson's observant accompaniments and his copious notes, dazzling as ever in their erudition, wit and range of illusion.' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Excellent.' (International Record Review)

'Exciting—some great songs and some wonderful singing.' (Classic CD)

'Treasures indeed' (Hi-Fi News)

'A delightful recital' (BBC CD Review)
This quartet for mixed voices is the first product of the strengthening of Schubert’s friendship with Johann Karl Unger early in 1818. Unger had been a signatory to the composer’s unsuccessful application for a post in Laibach in 1816, so it is clear that the two had known each other since then. In the meantime Schubert had met the great singer Vogl who quickly took to Schubert’s songs. Vogl was later to be the teacher of Unger’s daughter Karoline (1803-1877) who became a famous singer and also a composer, working under her married name of Sabatier. In speaking well of Schubert’s talent, Vogl may have encouraged Unger, a man-about-town who liked to have a finger in every pie, to renew contact with Schubert. In any case, early in 1818, at a time when money was a continuing problem for the composer, Unger used his connections with the Esterházy family to suggest that Schubert might be a suitable music teacher for Count Esterházy’s two young daughters. Thus came about the first (and longer) of two summer sojourns (the other was in 1824) when the composer left Vienna and took up residence in Zseliz, the Landschloss – more mansion than castle – which was the count’s summer residence in Hungary.

Unger was a many-sided man who fancied himself as a poet (his Gedichte were issued in 1797) and composer as well as being a professor at the Theresianische Ritterakademie in Vienna, a type of finishing school for young men of noble birth. It was there that Unger had made his first contact with the Count Esterházy. Unger was also a contributor to almanacs in one of which a version of this poem appeared in 1804. This fact was only discovered by Dietrich Berke as recently as 1969. Until that time the quartet was known by its old title of Lebenslust (as it was published in the old Gesamtausgabe) and the poet was unknown. The Neue Schubert Ausgabe issued the work in Volume 2a of Series III (1996) where the editorial commentary mentions the puzzling differences between the text as printed in the almanac, and the composer’s manuscript. The editors even conjecture that Schubert set the quartet from an anonymous source; but it would surely be too much of a coincidence that he should choose to set such a text at the same time as he was drawing closer to the Unger circle. Further evidence that Unger had become known to the Schubertians is the fact that in 1818, Schubert’s friend Anslem Hüttenbrenner also set an Unger poem as a vocal quartet – Der Abend.

The answer to this puzzle lies in a source which was not available to the editors of the Neue Schubert Ausgabe. This is a slim volume of manuscripts (56 pages) entitled Carl Ungers Lieder, Nachgeahmt oder von ihm selbst gedichtet und in Musick [sic] gesetzt. The book is not dated but it contains numerous simple solo song settings, many apparently by Unger himself, others where his words are made to fit arrangements of Paer, Haydn and Pleyel. In almost all cases, however, it seems that the poems are by Unger himself. The music for Die Geselligkeit, for example, is marked ‘by an unknown’ (a simple F major song in 3/4 without very great merit), but the verses are identical with the text in Schubert’s manuscript. It seems likely that this volume had been assembled much earlier than 1818 (one of the pieces refers to the Befreiungskrieg of 1813) and that it was used as Schubert’s source for Die Geselligkeit, as well as Die Nachtigall, and by Hüttenbrenner for his Der Abend.

As for the music itself, there are touches of Schubertian subtlety here and there; but the music has been made to appeal to a jollier, and lower, common denominator than much of Schubert’s work for SATB (compare the magisterial Gebet from 1824). The introduction is obviously authentic because it sounds so much better than the leaden musical tags that Diabelli was wont to place in front of original Schubert songs that he published in the Nachlass. The tricky little semiquaver flourish before the entry of the voices encapsulates the mood of merry high spirits which are at the heart of this poem. This is one of the composer’s Ländler-like waltzes in 6/8, and it is kept deliberately simple. There is a telling change from D major to an ominous D minor to paint the word ‘öde’ (barren) where the cosy and rollicking accompanying semiquavers change to quavers, an octave apart between the hands, which rise and fall within a two-octave range like an icy wind on a forsaken plain. This is an example of Schubert’s not infrequent visual trickery where the music not only sounds emptier and more barren as a result of the harmonies, it also looks mournful on the printed page. At ‘In traulichen Kreise, beim herzlichen Kuss’ we find the same canonic technique between the voices as we have already heard in Das Dörfchen; the composer obviously felt that this was a good way to give the important first tenor (whose music is almost always more demanding than the other three singers) a short moment to be heard on his own. The third time we hear ‘ist Seelengenuss’ it is accompanied by a gleeful ascending scale culminating in a contrary-motion A major arpeggio decorated by acciaccature.

The performance recorded here uses three of the four verses of the poem. There is more biographical information about the Ungers, father and daughter, in the commentary accompanying Die Nachtigall in Volume 28 of this series.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000

Other albums featuring this work

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
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