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The works recorded here are curiosities: they are the only music by another composer in this series, and the only songs in French. Although these arrangements were made as late as March 1816, their place in this series is beside the earliest of Schubert’s songs where Gluck’s influence seems to have been strongest. We have no idea why, and for whom, the composer made these arrangements. It is possible that they had something to do with his job application in April of that year to be Kapellmeister in Laibach (now Ljubljana in Slovenia). Presumably the ability to make vocal scores from orchestral scores was one of the skills required of a music director. Schubert may have made these arrangements at the end of May and included them with his application as a sample of his work; they are certainly among the neatest of his manuscripts. But it is equally possible that he prepared these arrangements for a private performance within his own circle. For example, the celebrations of Salieri’s golden jubilee in Vienna took place in June 1816 (see the songs devoted to this occasion in Volume 32), and these arias may have been meant to be performed as a kind of homage to the teaching lineage.
Echo et Narcisse is the last of Gluck’s operas for Paris, and one of the least successful and well-known. The original version of this ‘drame lyrique en trois actes’ was composed in 1779, but the revised version with a prologue (from which the first of these arias comes) dates from 1780. It was something of a flop in Paris, and Gluck returned to Vienna (for the last time, as it happened) intending to mount a Viennese production. This never happened, and again no one knows why. Schubert no doubt had access to the original full score which was almost certainly in Vienna, possibly in Salieri’s safekeeping. The arrangements themselves are kept simple and easily playable – model vocal score reductions for rehearsal purposes with the pianistic textures kept light and bright. These pieces are a reminder that Schubert’s accompaniments were greatly influenced by theatrical works of Gluck and Mozart in pianistic reductions. Hugo Wolf’s piano writing was influenced by the vocal scores of Wagner in the same way.
The first aria, Rien de la nature n’échappe à mes traits, is sung by Cupid, or Amour, in the prologue to the opera. He is determined to make Narcissus fall in love again after his unsuccessful infatuation with Echo whom Apollo means to keep for himself.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999
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