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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDJ33020
Recording details: November 1993
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: March 1994
Total duration: 1 minutes 22 seconds

Bergknappenlied, D268
First line:
Hinab, ihr Brüder, in den Schacht!
composer
first published in 1872
author of text

Introduction
The music looks and sounds so like a battle march that the text can all too easily be misread, as if men were going into battle (‘in der Schlacht’) rather than down into the shaft (‘in den Schacht’). A single ‘l’ can make all the difference between hell above ground or below it. There were so many patriotic texts written in this period that one can imagine Austrian coal miners (or salt miners from the Salzburg region perhaps) preparing to make a stand against the enemy during the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon. In actual fact the struggle against the enemy is simply the miserable job of fighting to extract coal or ore of some kind from the ground and the composer makes the miners face the dangers of the depths with a combination of military spirit and religious faith which was absolutely typical of the war songs of the period.

There is nothing exceptional about the music for this four-part song which is in Schubert’s most conventional male-chorus manner. The left hand of the piano doubles the bass line, and there is little attempt to mirror the textual idea of going deep down into the mines apart from the plunging phrase, first for the basses and later for the tenors, on ‘Es ist ein Gott’. The composer seems to have little idea about what miners of the early nineteenth century actually had to go through in terms of terror and danger, and why they had to call on God to protect them. Indeed, the various gravediggers in Schubert’s solo songs burrow deeper under the music’s surface than these miners. Unfortunately we do not know who the author is, or even if the poem was originally German or a translation from another language. We do know however that this quartet shared a manuscript with a song written on the same day, Der Weiberfreund D271. The text for this was a translation of an English poem by Abraham Cowley. It is an idle but tantalizing thought to speculate that both sides of the manuscript paper may contain settings of works of British origin. On that day the composer may have been looking at a book with a group of translations drawn from the English. Certainly this miners’ song is unlike anything else in Schubert’s output which otherwise avoided contact with the stressful occupations of the Industrial Revolution. It would certainly resonate more convincingly in the Welsh valleys than at a Viennese Schubertiad.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994

Other albums featuring this work
'Schubert: The Complete Songs' (CDS44201/40)
Schubert: The Complete Songs
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