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The text is taken from another part of the same Metastasio oratorio text from 1740, Isacco, which had been used for D17. This is the so-called ‘Aria de Abramo’ which is the reason why the solo version is cast for tenor voice on this recording. As usual, Schubert seems almost uninterested with the subtleties of word-painting in this music, a marked contrast to his passionate concern when he sets his own language. But the purpose of these studies was an important one: to encourage the young composer to think in long lines of coherent melody. He had such a developed feeling for drama and the excitement of recitative-like passages that it would have been easy for Schubert to be satisfied with making music in fits and starts – these flashes of inspiration (which fail to satisfy any craving for bel canto continuity) are what we get, by and large, in the Zumsteeg ballads. But Salieri, limited no doubt by being less than convinced by German music, was more interested in ingratiating melody that flowed as easily, and inevitably, as a river destined to reach the sea. In slaving away at exercises referring to a ‘sea of pain’, Schubert seems to have been making himself ship-shape, preparing his own sailing vessel bound for distant shores undreamed of by the Italian primo maestro di capella.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999
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