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Geist der Liebe, D233

First line:
Wer bist du, Geist der Liebe
composer
first published in 1829 as Op 118 No 1
author of text

 
At first glance this song, in the common Klopstock key of E major, seems like a number of others from the same period, but this would be to reckon without its poem which aims at a philosophical breadth of expression. Kosegarten was a professor of theology and the tenor of these words reminds us of that fact. The love apostrophized here treads a fine line between heaven and earth, and in consequence the song is something of a hybrid. Geist der Liebe is a religious poem in a way, but unlike the rigorously devout works of Klopstock it leaves open the possibility that the love between man and maid is as valid as that between Man and his Creator. The spirit of Love impregnates Mother Earth the poet tells us, but we cannot help being reminded that everyday man, though somewhat less ambitious in his choice of partner, has his own means of doing the same thing on a smaller scale. The Kosegarten settings are at their best when they depict intimate moments of rapt communication between amatory mortals. Here mention of universe and atom, elements and spheres, seems overpowering in comparison to the slender musical language which characterises the composer’s Kosegarten style. The same problem is evident in 1816 in the Schiller setting Laura am Klavier – the unsolved difficulty there was how tender devotion to a young lady playing the piano in the drawing room (and the delicate music this inspired) might be squared with references to ‘the giant arm of Chaos’ and so on. In Geist der Liebe the direction ‘Mit Kraft’ is insufficient to avert the same problem of a slender musical style over-parted by the grandeur of the words. Schubert was successfully to find his epic voice two months later for Klopstock’s Dem Unendlichen; indeed, in the second half of Geist der Liebe (from ‘Die Elemente bindet’) dotted rhythms in the left hand provide pre-echoes of the fanfare motifs of that masterpiece, as if played by celestial brass. It is interesting too that we see here an early manifestation of the right hand triplets to be found in so many religious songs: Der gute Hirt, Die Allmacht and the choral Psalm XXIII.

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. 20
CDJ33020Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40

Details

Track 10 on CDJ33020 [1'41] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 7 on CDS44201/40 CD8 [1'41] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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