An die Harmonie, D394

First line:
Schöpferin beseelter Töne!
composer
March 1816; first published in 1895
author of text

 
Most Schubert songs with 'An' as a prefix are intimate dedications like An die Nachtigall, An den Mond (all five of them), An die Musik or An die Laute. A more stentorian note tries to establish itself in An die Leier, but fails because the bard can sing only of love with any efficacy, the area of expression where Schubert too was perhaps most at home. There are two superb 'An' songs to the distant beloved and to the tortured poet's heart, internal dialogues both. And then there is the type of 'An' song, like Schiller's An die Freude, which seems meant for a more formal occasion, where the Lied seems indistinguishable from a piece for male chorus. In short, this is Schubert in public mood, and perhaps where the true Schubertian likes to find him least.

In actual fact An die Harmonie is a more interesting and subtle song than An die Freude, although there is a touch of stiffness and old-fashioned formality in the way the song opens. The voice is made to trumpet the opening words in what seems an uninventive arpeggio; later we realise that Schubert has constructed a tune where the tonic chord is deliberately explored and celebrated—a salute to harmony in fact, rather than to melody. At 'Die das Herz der Erdensöhne' the music moves into A minor, as if the natural state of poor mankind is to be in the minor key. As soon as the comforting power of harmony is mentioned, the music softens into C major with an ingratiating bar of piano interlude. The chromatic progress back to A major via the words 'labt mit stillender Magie' is suitably magical and 'Himmelstochter' inhabits the stratosphere as is only appropriate. All in all there are a number of good Schubertian ideas in this setting, and whilst it will never be as popular as the other Salis-Seewis settings from this period (the mesmeric Ins stille Land in particular) it has more to recommend it than a superficial reading (or listening) might imply.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993

Recordings

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 18 – Peter Schreier
CDJ33018Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40

Details

Track 7 on CDJ33018 [3'34] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 13 on CDS44201/40 CD13 [3'34] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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