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Hoffnung, D295

First line:
Schaff’, das Tagwerk meiner Hände
composer
c1816; first published in this version in 1895 in the Gesamtausgabe
author of text

 
After the tempestuous journey of An Schwager Kronos one is reminded here that Goethe was more than fire and hot air. The secret of his success was what the Germans term 'Fleiss' – hard work and diligence. There is no doubt that the poet had an extraordinary ability to work long and hard, and it was this, allied to his intuition and genius, that made him what he was. The poem dates from Goethe's early Weimar years when he was given an enormous amount of responsibility in the governing of the state. Admittedly Weimar was only a tiny dukedom, but the poet's hands were full in a vigorous programme of reform and modernisation. Among his many tasks was the planting of the new trees mentioned in this poem. Goethe looks forward to being able to say with Thomas Hardy:

Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.
['At Day Close in November']

Schubert finds a remarkably moving tone for this song considering that it is so like a chorale or hymn tune. There is no religious feeling here, however; only the sense that work and responsibility are in themselves sacred and that old-fashioned virtues summon up old-fashioned music. The staccato left-hand accompaniment beautifully conveys the idea of daily tasks accomplished with precision and discipline. The right hand, which doubles the vocal line a great deal of the time, traces a melody which has all the gravity of a pilgrim's chorus. The vocal line climbs high on the stave towards the end of the song, a metaphor for hope and aspiration; the ascent to the forte of the last line signifies a heart swelling with well-deserved pride. Although this is the least known of Schubert's single-paged masterpieces to Goethe texts, this song with the brevity of a motto or epigram has the self-contained perfection which we find in more familiar songs like Erster Verlust or Wandrers Nachtlied. The song exists in two almost identical versions, the first in F, the second in E with a more comfortable and practical tessitura.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995

Recordings

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 24
CDJ33024Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40

Details

Track 22 on CDJ33024 [1'28] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 7 on CDS44201/40 CD12 [1'28] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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