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Ständchen 'Horch, horch! die Lerch'', D889

composer
July 1826; published by Diabelli in 1830 as part of volume 7 of the Nachlass
author of text
Cymbeline II:3
translator of text
published in volume 26 of the Wiener Shakespeare Ausgabe

 
This lyric comes from Cymbeline Act II Scene 3. Against her father's wishes, Cymbeline's daughter, the beautiful Imogen, has married Posthumus Leonatus, a poor but worthy gentleman who has been banished to Italy. The Queen, Cymbeline's second wife, has ambitions for her lumpish son Cloten, and wishes him to marry Imogen and assume the throne. The plot concerns the attempts by various characters to despoil the love between Posthumus and Imogen. An Italian, Giacomo (or Iachimo), in the manner of a Don Alfonso, has wagered that no woman can be faithful. Posthumus, in the manner of a Ferrando or Gugliemo, accepts this challenge. On arriving in Britain, Giacomo soon realizes that the only way to win his wager is to hide in Imogen's bedchamber and take note of convincing details whereby he can lie to the husband that he has been able to lie with the wife; he steals her bracelet, and takes note of a mole on her left breast. Later in the same scene, while Imogen is still asleep, Cloten enters with musicians in a clumsy attempt to woo her with music:

Cloten: I would this music would come. I am advised to give her music o' mornings; they say it will penetrate. Come on, tune. If you penetrate her with your fingering, so; we'll try with tongue too. If none will do, let her remain; but I'll never give o'er. First, a very excellent good-conceited thing; after, a wonderful sweet air with admirable rich words to it; and then let her consider.
Musician: Hark, hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings …

Thus double entendre of the bawdiest kind introduces a song which was very dear to the Victorians (it might have been something composed by Arthur Sullivan for this was the type of Schubert he adored and emulated) and which played its part in early Schubert reception in a more prudish England than Shakespeare's. This is another creation from the summer holiday in Währing (perhaps the relatively well-to-do Schobers had a copy of the Wiener Shakespeare Ausgabe in the house). It was a period which finds Schubert composing not very prolifically, but like a god. How effortless this all seems, this tender serenade with the chirruping of the lark evoked by a delicate semiquaver motif which also brings to mind tiny elfin trumpets announcing the dawning of a new day. These piano figurations seem as delicate as dew drops on an exquisite summer morning, and they have already been prophesied in Die Rose (at the phrase 'Es kam die Morgenröte', also descriptive of dawn and opening flower buds), a Schlegel setting from 1822. The cheekily genial music of An Silvia has given way to something much more ethereal. The song as the composer intended it (without the two extra verses written by Friedrich Reil for the second Diabelli edition of 1835) is over in a trice, as transitory as the best British weather.

The song is in C major, but we hear the tonic chord in root position only rarely. So much of it is written over a dominant pedal that the listener seems suspended in that dream world, half-sleeping and half-waking, in which Imogen finds herself. At the repeat of 'Der Blumenkelche deckt' there is a real modulation to the dominant, but this yields immediately to the dominant of the 'Neapolitan' key of A flat major. At 'Der Ringelblume Knospe schleusst' we are thereby drawn by this distant tonality into the secret world of flowers, the composer revelling in the pathetic fallacy with the same sense of wonder which we hear in some of Schumann's flower songs, above all in Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen from Dichterliebe. As the serenade progresses it gathers momentum and enthusiasm with the heat of the rising sun. Delicate pleas give way to an outburst of energy where the invitation to arise becomes a command. Capell is amusing here: 'Imogen would have been altogether too startled at being bidden arise by the interval of a seventh [at 'Steh auf'] and could only have taken the aubade for a brawl.' This is perhaps saying too much, for each successive 'auf' is underpinned by a different bass harmony, and, in never being grounded on the tonic, the vocal line soars like a lark in the clear air. The return of the prelude as a postlude restores the decorum and the sense of musicians gently tapping on the window to rouse the stay-abed. Like the serenade to Silvia, this is a masterpiece of economy and delight.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996

Recordings

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 26 – Christine Schäfer, John Mark Ainsley & Richard Jackson
CDJ33026Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Schubert: The Songmakers' Almanac Schubertiade
CDD220102CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service

Details

Track 15 on CDD22010 CD1 [1'25] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service
Track 13 on CDJ33026 [1'33] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 10 on CDS44201/40 CD32 [1'33] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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