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.
O combats, o désordre extrême is the aria of Narcissus in the opera’s second act. Apollo has put him under a spell: the reflection by which he is enraptured is not his own, but what appears to be, by magic, that of a beautiful water-goddess. This aria tells of his confusion and passion and is sung just before Narcisse is restored to his senses by a clap of Apollo’s thunder.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999