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Fröhliches Scheiden, D896

First line:
Gar fröhlich kann ich scheiden
Autumn 1827 – early 1828; first published in volume 14b of the Neue Schubert Ausgabe
author of text

This is the only song of the three D896 settings which has a Leitner poem attached to the vocal line in Schubert’s hand. In Hoorickx’s realisation the tempo is ‘Etwas bewegt’ and the accompaniment in amiably flowing quavers is reminiscent of another 1827 song, Das Lied im Grünen. (In bars 73-75 of the sketch, the composer has suddenly chosen to fill in the empty piano staves with just these sort of quavers: Hoorickx’s choice of accompanying figure is not as quixotic as it might at first seem.) The lie of the vocal line suggests a high tenor even more than the less decisive Wolke und Quelle. Where else in the songs of this period do we find high A flats held as semibreves, and high B flats touched in passing as well? The tenor is asked to sing that exposed and demanding note on the unimportant word ‘in’, and on a dotted crotchet to boot! It seems very unlikely that this awkward corner would have survived a further revisionary stage on Schubert’s part. If the composer himself had not written this vocal line the Neue Ausgabe editors would have been sure to question its authenticity. Other details are more convincingly Schubertian: at the change of key at the beginning of the second verse the long semibreves for ‘trag’ suggest an unbearable eternity (‘how can I bear this rapture’) in an effective, and novel, manner.

In this autograph we have the opportunity to see one of the composer’s very early reactions to a text; manuscripts of this type were mostly destroyed when the song reached a later form. It seems certain that Schubert tidied up such details as vocal practicalities and refinements of prosody at a later stage of revision – what was important was to put down on paper his initial response to a poem – warts and all. For example, there are rather too many plodding crotchets in this sketch to have survived in a later Fassung; Schubert would probably have varied the declamation to make it more subtle, at the same time as keeping the best aspects of the felicitously shaped melody.

That this unquestionably authentic link between Schubert and Leitner should have its awkward, even intractable, corners adds weight to Hoorickx’s other suggestions concerning the texts of the Wolke und Quelle and Sie in jedem Liede. It would seem that Schubert was far from the sort of composer who was able as a matter of course to jot down a work in a perfectly finished state. It is more than likely that he did much more revision and polishing than his reputation for easy spontaneity would suggest. The only certainty is that he alone had the ability to move the music into its next stage of sophistication and perfection; the hands of anybody attempting a completion or realisation are tied. They have to stick scrupulously to the very imperfections which the composer himself would have brushed aside at the next stage of revision. This is probably the most enlightening aspect of having songs such as this left to us in such a rough-and-ready condition. The chances are that we would be appalled (fascinated? delighted?) to see the very earliest sketches of numbers from Winterreise, songs which we might have imagined were written in a single and infallible coup de foudre, but which probably started life in a similarly embryonic state.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 36 - Juliane Banse, Lynne Dawson, Michael Schade & Gerald Finley
CDJ33036Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 9 on CDJ33036 [3'08] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 2 on CDS44201/40 CD35 [3'08] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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