Vienna, 26 April, 1828. The booklet of songs by friend Schubert which he dedicates to you – and which Fräulein Irene Kiesewetter, your deputy, has accepted in your name – has already been passed for engraving. It contains the following songs: 1. Heimliches Lieben 2. Das Weinen 3. Vor meiner Wiege (the last two by Leitner). 4. Altschottische Ballade. The first and last composed in your house. When Schubert and I come to you – which will doubtless be at the end of August – we shall bring some copies with us for you …
From this it appears that Das Weinen was not written in Graz itself, but only sometime later – any time between October 1827 and early 1828. It also shows us that Schubert had plans to recapture the mood of the happy summer of 1827 by returning to Styria in 1828. (In the event these plans had to be abandoned for financial reasons. The rather bloodthirsty Eine altschottische Ballade – called Edward in Loewe’s solo and Brahms’s duet settings – was abandoned as part of this printed garland of songs for Marie Pachler; it had certainly been written in her house and at her encouragement, but in the end the more approachable and charming An Silvia was considered to be a more suitable final song for the collection. Schober no doubt played some part in this choice as the book of songs was first issued by the Lithographisches Institut of which he was manager.
Das Weinen is a sharp contrast to the ebullient Sie in jedem Liede. With the exception of Der Wallensteiner Lanzknecht beim Trunk it is also the least ambitious of the Leitner songs; its publication in Volume 2 of Friedländers Peters Edtion shows that at some point at the turn of the century it was popular with singers. This is no longer the case; one now hears this song on the concert platform very rarely, if at all. The ‘pilgrimage’ key of D major has obvious links with the reverential Der Kreuzzug and the innig character of the music with such Leitner masterpieces as Vor meiner Wiege and Der Winterabend. Mention of the curative power of tears brings to mind a number of other songs: Goethe’s Wonne der Wehmut which deals with the tears of unrequited love rather than bereavement, and some of the contemporary songs of Winterreise – particularly the strophic Wasserflut with its powerful image of a river of tears. But Das Weinen is a great deal more soft-edged and sentimental than the Müller song, and were Leitner to be judged on this text alone we would not really understand what Marie Pachler saw in the poet to recommend him to the composer so wholeheartedly.
Only Fischer-Dieskau among the commentators sees Schubert’s choice of text as having some connection with his desperation at the resumption of his syphilitic symptoms in the autumn of 1827. Fischer-Dieskau quotes the song’s first verse to make the point. The work’s dedication to Marie Pachler (as well as the fact that Schubert wrote to her mentioning the return of his ‘usual headaches’) suggests she was the composer’s confidante, perhaps in connection with his worries about his health. Marie Pachler was, after all, a highly sophisticated artist and, despite the fact that she lived in the provinces, a woman of the world. Jenger was well informed on all aspects of Viennese gossip and it is more than likely that he would also have discreetly informed the Pachlers of the background to Schubert’s illness.
The somewhat pious mood of Das Weinen is familiar from such pieces as Vom Mitleiden Mariä and Pax Vobiscum. The music adopts the style of a chorale without actually being one – it is less rigid and more flowing as befits the water-imagery of the poem. The gentle introduction begins as a descent in a single strand of crotchets in the right hand’s treble register; this piano line is almost immediately irrigated into two, three and then finally four parts, an analogue for a well-spring of tears that is heard flowing from both hands and thus seen flowing from both eyes. The entry of the vocal line at the end of the fourth full bar initiates a melody, gently yearning and exploratory, sensual without being erotic, which is doubled throughout by the piano. With most other composers this is a rather dull ploy, but Schubert sometimes uses it effectively when he wants to suggest containment and, in this case, a mood of chastened sobriety.
The music for the first four lines of each verse (the song is utterly strophic) leads from D major to B minor. Then the lines ‘Darum du Brust voll Wunden / Voll Gram und stiller Pein’ take us to C sharp minor where the softening addition of a major third confirms its position as the dominant of F sharp minor. This twice progresses to B minor, and thence back to D major. These little journeys into the valley of death and out again are cleverly planned for a strophic song of this kind. The composer must have scanned each of the four verses and found the key words ‘wounds’, ‘suffering’, ‘frenzy’ and ‘weeping’ at the end of the fifth line of each of them; these variations on a single mood are a veritable invitation to a strophic song and in each case these lines lie at the heart of the song’s darker middle section. The vocal line at the end of each verse (including the melismas at both appearances of ‘so tauche da hinein’ in the first strophe) is curiously reminiscent of the piano writing in gently wafting quavers which closes each verse of Der Kreuzzug. This figuration in another form is also to be found in both the vocal and piano writing of Des Fischers Liebesglück. The four-bar postlude is suitably heartfelt but also more resolute as if the singer has already glimpsed the morning radiance described at the end of the poem. This once again recalls the choral-like aspects of Der Kreuzzug.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000