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One of the numerous composition exercises Salieri gave to the teenage composer was to set Metastasio's Quell' Innocente Figlio for various vocal combinations. The first of these exercises (D17 No1) bears a strong resemblance to Der Jüngling am Bache which is in effect Schubert's first song. He had already used Schiller texts to make a couple of highly successful Zumsteeg-like ballads but here the poet provides Schubert with words for a song. It is not strictly strophic in the rigid North German sense because, as Einstein puts it, "drawn irresistibly to find a means of expressing himself", Schubert varies the treatment of the second half of each verse. The whole is like a rondo with interludes; recitative leads back to enchanting arioso. Two and a half years later the composer adjusted the setting (D192 - the tune remains very similar but is transposed to the minor key) and in 1819 there was a third attempt (D638 completely new musically, but still strophic). Schiller's verses thus fascinated and challenged Schubert over a period of seven years. This is typical evidence of his artistic conscience when attempting to find his way into a poem - if he decided on a strophic setting it was no easy option: the challenge was always to find music that encapsulated the whole poem and in which there was not a sense of jarring disappointment in one or other of the verses. This first setting has a lot to commend it - youthful ardour and innocence, a bow in Mozart's direction (the younger composer's idol), but at the same time a definite announcement of the coming Schubert.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1988
|Schubert: The Complete Songs|
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