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Im Jänner 1817 'Tiefes Leid', D876

First line:
Ich bin von aller Ruh geschieden
composer
January 1826; first published in 1838 in volume 30 of the Nachlass
author of text
from the Poetisches Tagebuch

 
The title Tiefes Leid is not Schubert's own; it was written in an anonymous hand at the top of the manuscript, and uses a tag found in the third verse of the poem. The date of the poem is also the 'official' title in the Deutsch catalogue: in terms of the chronology of the Poetisches Tagebuch this is the ninety-fifth poem, written a month before Schulze brought the work to a close with the hundredth, written on the birthday of Cäcilie Tychsen who had died just over four years previously. Of all the Schulze poems set by Schubert this gives us the clearest autobiographical picture of the poet's real circumstances at the time of writing it. Adelheid Tychsen had forbidden him her house and in the last months of his life he chooses to revisit in verse (if not in fact) the grave of his first love, Cäcilie Tychsen, who does not know what he has suffered at her sister's hands. There is a feeling here that Schulze is playing one sister off against the other, but he seems to have a real grasp of how desperate his own situation really is; in Capell's words the song is 'pathetic in a kind of humbled way'. The poet whom we have elsewhere seen as utterly determined to follow the twisted logic of his own misconceptions here seems utterly helpless. He freely admits that 'false hopes never fade' and in doing so is more perceptive about himself than he has ever been. For the only time in the entire cycle the music turns away from the certainties of duple time to paw the ground restlessly in a disorientated triple metre (the E minor section), or in order to float eerily with the spirits in E major 'in some gently, hypnotically swaying other-world, no longer earthbound' (Susan Youens).

As is appropriate to a graveside hymn, the song is in a simple strophic form. In each of the three verses (which are made up of two rhyming quatrains) the first six lines makes up the minore section, and the final two lines move into the major key and are repeated (with slight variations) to make a symmetrical musical structure. Once again the effect of this strophic symmetry is to give the impression of the morbid and compulsive revisiting of old burial grounds, and all to no avail. Ceaseless and meaningless repetition of words and actions is a sign of mental illness in itself. Because there are six lines of words to cover in E minor (versus only two with the same amount of music in the major), life's tumult in a torrent of words makes a vivid contrast with the peace of the grave. In the opening, accents on the third beat betoken jagged nerves, the detached quavers of the accompaniment are short gasps; if legato phrasing is an analogue for persuasive coherence, the use of short detached notes achieves the opposite effect here. There is an eerie effect of wind over graveyards at 'Und wenn die Wind' auch schaurig sausen': right-hand octaves (looking for all the world like level tombstones separated by the decency of a patch of rest on the printed page) stay on repeated B's on the off beat, leaving the left hand to shift beneath with changing harmonies. This effect was to reappear in Winterreise: in the song Rückblick a bank of repeated off-beat As is underpinned by a left hand, on all the strong beats, floundering in harmonic quicksand at 'kömmt mir der Tag in die Gedanken, möcht ich noch einmal rückwärts sehn.' Capell (and subsequently Fischer-Dieskau) have already remarked on the similarity between 'du Stadt der Unbeständigkeit!' in this same song and the setting of the words 'in der unbeständ'gen Welt' in Tiefes Leid. The whole of this major-key section is remarkable for a vocal line that lies in the middle of the song's texture, with the piano singing an obbligato line above it. This has the effect of the solemn wind and brass music to accompany burial known as Blaskapelle and is also to be found in Das Wirtshaus in Winterreise where the pianist's little finger sings a descant over the verse beginning with the words 'Ihr grünen Totenkränze könnt wohl die Zeichen sein.' There are also similarities between Tiefes Leid and another E minor song of 1826, Mignon's Heiss mich nicht reden which also deals with a burden which is carried to the grave.

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 17 on CDJ33018 [3'44] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 5 on CDS44201/40 CD31 [3'44] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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