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Selma und Selmar, D286b

First line:
Weine du nicht, o die ich innig liebe
composer
first published in 1837 as part of volume 28 of the Nachlass
author of text

 
This is a duet where the two singers never conjoin. It is interesting that in terms of inner radiance and beauty of melody the piece outdoes the infinitely more complex and elaborately theatrical Hermann und Thusnelda composed just over a month later. Whether or not Klopstock was influenced by Ossian in the writing of the poem, it seems likely that Schubert, in the midst of his high Ossianic phase, was attracted to it by its indeterminate yet deeply romantic historical background. To this extent he must have classed it as having something to do with Ossian. Even Hermann und Thusnelda is Ossianic to the extent that the race of early German heroes must have seemed somehow related to the noble and valorous race of warriors whose existence was promulgated by the apocryphal Celtic bard. In any case, Selma is a word used by Ossian, albeit as the name for Fingal's castle.

The key is F major and the time signature 3/4. The piece is in the mood of a stately minuet. The mood of the poem where a male lover reassures his troubled paramour is strongly reminiscent of the same poet's Furcht der Geliebten where it is Cidli who is enjoined not to weep. The melody is a touching one, rather in the baroque mood of a song like Bist du bei mir. The music is written in Schubert's antique style which is usually his means of acknowledging that the poem he is setting is not a `modern' one. Selmar sings his strophe first, and Selma's music is an exact repeat. This is different from Christian Neefe's lovely setting of 1776 where the first verse is in the major and the second in the minor.

John Reed finds it puzzling that this version of the song should be marked Etwas geschwind ('rather fast'). In Schubert's first version (identical to the second apart from the brief two-bar introduction in the version recorded here) the tempo marking is Etwas langsam, innig. Reed finds this preferable for a 'solemn hymn-like setting'. Performers of Schubert songs learn, however, that the composer's tempo markings are never to do with a song's mood but rather (in the old-fashioned Italian manner taught by Salieri) to do with pulse. Thus a song may seem fast (as in the case of Liebesbotschaft from Schwanengesang) but have a slow background pulse and marking – Ziemlich langsam. In that case the basic unit of the crotchet is slow within 2/4, despite the demisemiquavers which fill out the beats to depict the glittering water. Selma und Selmar is an example of the converse: the crotchets glide by rather quickly when measured by the metronome – try beating them in three and the tempo will indeed be Etwas geschwind. Because there are no semiquavers, however, the effect is of a slow song. The original marking of Etwas langsam probably encouraged the song's earliest performers to essay too slow a tempo where the four-bar phrases were unsingable in a single breath. The composer's second thoughts are comprehensible when seen in this light.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994

Recordings

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 22
CDJ33022

Details

Track 24 on CDJ33022 [1'41]
Track 7 on CDS44201/40 CD10 [1'41] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

Track-specific metadata for CDJ33022 track 24

Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-94-02224
Duration
1'41
Recording date
18 October 1993
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 22 (CDJ33022)
    Disc 1 Track 24
    Release date: October 1994
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 10 Track 7
    Release date: October 2005
    40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
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