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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA66954/6
Recording details: June 1994
St Martin's Church, East Woodhay, Berkshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: April 1995
Total duration: 64 minutes 8 seconds

Schwanengesang – Vierzehn Lieder von Franz Schubert, S560
composer
D957 Nos 11, 10, 5, 12, 7, 6, 4, 9, 3, 1, 8, 13, 14 and 2
arranger
1838/9

Die Stadt  [2'46]
Aufenthalt  [3'36]
Am Meer  [4'53]
Abschied  [5'19]
In der Ferne  [8'35]
Ihr Bild  [2'53]
Liebesbotschaft  [3'04]
Der Atlas  [2'56]
Die Taubenpost  [5'31]
Kriegers Ahnung  [7'12]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Schwanengesang—Vierzehn Lieder von Franz Schubert is a triumph of the transcriber’s art, which matches in its way the depth and breadth of this wonderful collection of Schubert’s last songs. The originals, D957—seven songs to poems by Rellstab, six to Heine (all composed in August, 1828) and one to Seidl (composed around the same time as the famous Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (‘The Shepherd on the Rock’) in October 1828 and therefore Schubert’s last song for voice and piano)—were collected and published in 1829. Although Schubert did not intend them to form a cycle, they are usually so performed, in a fairly arbitrary order which neatly separates the poets. But there is something uncomfortable about ending with such an un-valedictory piece as Die Taubenpost, especially hard on the heels of Der Doppelgänger, and although Liszt preserves the juxtaposition of these two, he does not hesitate to return to a minor key to complete his cycle, and to choose a different order for the other songs.

Liszt’s pieces correspond to numbers 11, 10, 5, 12, 7, 6, 4, 9, 3, 1, 8, 13, 14 and 2 of the published order of the songs, giving him another interesting key structure of C minor, A flat major, E minor, C major, E flat major, B minor, D minor, B flat minor, B flat major, G major, G minor. B minor, G major and C minor—all Schubert’s original keys. Every transcription has whole passages given in alternative text, thus forming a possible second version of the whole cycle (see Volume 33), but here the main text is given throughout.

The mysterious arpeggios of Die Stadt (‘The Town’) make an excellent and unsettling beginning to Liszt’s cycle, and his interpretation of the second verse (‘Ein feuchter Windzug kräuselt die graue Wasserbahn’—‘A dank breeze ruffles the grey waterway’), reinforces the song’s reference to the lost loved one. Das Fischermädchen (‘The Fisher-maiden’) is a straightforward transcription with an extra final verse mirroring the ‘Ebb’ und Flut’ (‘ebb and flow’) of the text with its delicate fluttering between major and minor. The grief-stricken poet’s Aufenthalt (‘Resting Place’) can only be rushing river, roaring forest or inflexible rock—and Liszt’s response is full of clever word-painting.

Am Meer tells, by the sea in the twilight, of love lost, and of the poet’s being poisoned by the tears which he has drunk away from the hand of the unhappy woman whom he loves. Liszt’s tremolos correspond exactly to Schubert’s and he conjures the mood perfectly. Abschied (‘Farewell’) is a marvellous piece of enforced jollity at parting, brilliantly set by Schubert and well captured by Liszt, who adds his usual musical commentary upon the text to make a lively set of variations with much jumping about in triplets.

In der Ferne (‘Far Away’) describes the bleak, unblessed state of those who abandon what and whom they love to wander unfulfilled, finally revealing that it is the poet himself telling the lover that broke his heart of his decision to flee. Liszt’s mighty transcription, subtitled ‘Lamentation’, pierces the heart of both words and music. In Ständchen Liszt famously permits himself to set the whole of the third and fourth verses of the melody, and the right hand of the accompaniment, in canon, without doing any damage thereby. Liszt removes the last chord in his otherwise very straightforward transcription of Ihr Bild (‘Her Portrait’)—a dream that a picture of the poet’s lost lover came to life—in order to proceed directly to Frühlingssehnsucht (‘Longing in Spring’) in which Liszt reflects the poet’s impatience for love in the spring with reckless hand-crossing and leaps across the keyboard.

Liebesbotschaft (‘Message of Love’) is one of the happier songs of the cycle. Liszt manages to include Schubert’s constant demisemiquavers, which represent the rushing brooklet carrying greetings to the poet’s loved one. Liszt moves the vocal line from tenor to soprano (in tenths) between the verses. In Der Atlas the poet likens the burden of a lover’s sorrow to the weight of the world borne by Atlas, and blames his heart’s will. Liszt varies Schubert’s tremolo accompaniment at the beginning with patterns of six semiquavers—slightly alarming in its unfamiliarity at first, but more effective in retrospect to save the demisemiquavers for the end.

In Der Doppelgänger (‘The Double’) the poet sees a vision of himself outside the house where his lost love once lived. Schubert’s terrifying song has such a starkly simple texture that Liszt is loth to do much other than to broaden the chords to compensate the lack of the voice. Die Taubenpost (‘The Pigeon-post’) is a joyful contrast to the lonely misery of the previous piece. The poet’s happy conceit likens his longing to a faithful carrier-pigeon which will never misdeliver a message of faithful love, and Liszt decorates the text with the most felicitous coruscation. Kriegers Ahnung (‘Soldier’s Foreboding’) returns us to the fear of love’s separation, with a soldier by the campfire afraid for the future of his life and love. Liszt makes a virtual symphonic poem of the piece by providing textures that express exactly a troubled mind before sleep comes at last with the happier thoughts of the distant beloved.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1995

Other albums featuring this work
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
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