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Die Macht der Liebe, D308

First line:
Überall wohin mein Auge blicket
composer
first published in 1895 in the Gesamtausgabe
author of text

 
Of all the wonderful songs written on 15 October, this one is perhaps the least successful. It is not as if it lacks charm, elegance and tunefulness, it is just that the composer has failed to find a viable means to transfer Kalchberg’s sonnet into a musical form; indeed it seems that he has not realised that it is a sonnet at all. Schubert made a number of word adaptions in the first verse which turned the iambic metre into trochaic. It is obvious that a second verse with the same music is unworkable without similar tinkering. It may have been, the Schubert enthusiast will rationalise, that the composer simply liked the title and first quatrain and was content to leave it at that. However the autograph has ‘dazu eine Strophe’ (one more verse) in the composer’s hand and this is where the trouble begins: in his haste on that very busy day Schubert seems to have left a note to himself to remind him to ‘fix’ the second quatrain when he had a spare moment. But he never did; or else he saw that it would be too difficult. It was left to Eusebius Mandyczewski who, in imitation of the composer’s editorial example and in deference to his express wish to have ‘one more verse’, published in the Gesamtausgabe the second verse sung here. Mandyczewski had to change a good deal to make this work: in the second line, for example, Kalchberg’s original reads ‘Das All der rastlos wirkenden Natur’ as opposed to ‘Alles Lebende in der Natur’ which we hear in this performance. The closing sestet of the sonnet however is completely unadaptable to Schubert’s music.

All this gives the impression (almost unknown in Schubert) that the tune was thought of before the words, or at the very least the tune took on a life of its own in the process of composition and the rhythm of the words was made to fit it. The end syllable ‘-cket’ falls twice on a downbeat, which is not the best of word setting. There are a few illustrative touches however which would seem to argue that the composer’s musical inspiration was, as ever, ruled by the text: the two phrases which make up ‘Überall wo / hin, mein Auge’ are identical, which gives the impression of repetitive search; the phrase ‘der Flur hat sie tief ihr Siegel eingedrückt’ moves to its lowest point on the word ‘tief’; the piano postlude (repetitions of the same two-beat phrase with the first note accented) is a good musical analogue for the imprinting of a seal, not once but thrice, just to be sure. Nevertheless, simply because of an awkward mismatch of poetic and musical rhythms, Die Macht der Liebe does not rank with the greatest successes of 15 October.

Johann Nepomuk Ritter von Kalchberg was perhaps the most important literary figure from the Steiermark region of Austria (he lived and worked in Graz) between the Enlightenment and the Romantic period. His work was well-known in Vienna through plays like Wülfing von Stubenberg and Die Ritterempörung. These were highly successful at a time when Schubert’s father was probably going to the theatre in the 1790s, and this renown (Schubert could have heard the name at home) may explain why the young composer’s eyes alighted with alacrity on this poem by Kalchberg (in the almanac Selam) which was promptly set despite its unsuitability for musical treatment. Schubert, who found the work of another Styrian poet, Johann Fellinger, in the same almanac and set it on the same day (Die Sternenwelten) was later to have an enthusiastic relationship with the musical and literary life of Graz through the Pachler family. The chief fruit of that friendship was that Schubert took up the poetry of Karl von Leitner and provided us with a number of great songs (Die Sterne, Der Winterabend among others) in his last years. Kalchberg died in Graz only a few months before Schubert’s visits there to the Pachler family, and only eighteen months or so before the composer’s own death.

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 CDS44201/40Download currently discounted

Details

Track 30 on CDJ33020 [1'42] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 24 on CDS44201/40 CD10 [1'42] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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