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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDJ33006
Recording details: September 1989
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: December 1990
Total duration: 3 minutes 52 seconds

'As exemplary as … other discs in this series, which is proving a many-splendored thing … this new offering seems packed with even more attractive things than its predecessors' (Gramophone)

'Rolfe Johnson's voice has never sounded more beautiful on disc' (The Penguin Guide to Compact Discs)

'An irresisible disc' (Classic CD)

'Volume 6 of the Hyperion Schubert Edition is assured of a grateful reception from all lovers of this inexhaustible treasury of song' (Hi-Fi News)

Zur guten Nacht, D903
First line:
Horcht auf! Es schlägt die Stunde
composer
January 1827; published in 1827 as Op 81 No 3
author of text

Introduction
Although this song does not strictly belong to the canon of Schubert's Lieder, it is a good way to end a disc, and the composer also thought it a good way to conclude his opus 81. Like a good many of Schubert's songs for male voices, the music is simple, heartfelt, and very German in that it is easier to imagine a group of German men sitting around a table singing this song ('Ja, ja; was wir empfunden, was enger uns gebunden') about death and parting with tears pouring into their beer, than it is to imagine it in England. Nonetheless, this is music from 1827, and there is here something memorable and haunting which moves on a D major - B minor axis with noble and solemn tread. What sets it apart from countless other choral pieces in the same vein by other composers is a streak of Schubertian tenderness of a kind of which only he seems capable.

The three songs of Opus 81 were composed early in 1827 and rushed into print by May of the same year with a dedication to the poet from the publisher, Tobias Haslinger. This is some indication of the esteem in which Johann Friedrich Rochlitz was held. He was not only a well-known novelist, poet and playwright but a distinguished critic and founder and editor of the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of Leipzig in which Schubert's music received more favourable reviews than elsewhere. Schubert met the poet in 1822, but we find a complete lack of interest from the composer in currying favour with so powerful an individual, and it is probable that the publisher Haslinger had to push Schubert into writing the Rochlitz set of Op 81. Rochlitz had championed the young Beethoven, and though his credentials as a talent scout are not in question, he was a bit of a musical know-all and busybody. He wrote to Schubert in 1827, asking him to set a poem and providing almost blow-by-blow instructions about how to do so. The composer declined this invitation and the coolness of his reply shows how little he cared for the useful (and traditionally Viennese) arts of flattery and political opportunism.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990

Other albums featuring this work
'Schubert: The Complete Songs' (CDS44201/40)
Schubert: The Complete Songs
MP3 £130.00FLAC £130.00ALAC £130.00Buy by post £150.00 CDS44201/40  40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
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