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Lied in der Abwesenheit, D416

First line:
Ach, mir ist das Herz so schwer!
composer
April 1816; fragment first published in 1925 and completed by Eusebius Mandyczewski
arranger
arranger
author of text

 
John Reed states that 'Schubert's failure to complete this song has deprived us of a masterpiece.' It is in the composer's 'important' key of B minor (the first section anyway, before a modulation to G major for the second section, 'ziemlich geschwind') and the sad weighty utterance of the opening nine bars certainly promises much. The contrast between these bars and the jolly rollicking section beginning 'Sässest du auf meinem Schoss' is so great however that it would be my guess that this did not quite satisfy the composer; we have here, in effect, two separate songs of such entirely different moods that we end up by believing neither the tragic tone of the one (which seems to overstate the case made by the words) nor the rather saucy high spirits of the other.

This having been said there is much to treasure here that is genuine Schubert. The B minor section could well be sung by a Mignon or a repentant Gretchen, and the stark prelude of doubled octaves (which makes a reappearance before the change of mood) puts us in mind of Goethe's Harper (another creation of 1816) with its dragging gait drained of energy and emotion. John Reed believes, as does Reinhard van Hoorickx, that Schubert had a tripartite form in mind for this song and intended to end it with a repeat of the aria in the minor. The utterly delicious G major section is of such infectious gaiety (and something of a Moravian character that puts us in mind of Dvorak) that it would be difficult to imagine how the composer intended to exit from this and make a return to the B minor mood at the end. Although it is reasonable to imagine the poet's pipe dream punctured, prompting a return to the music of the opening, this is easier said than done without Schubert himself to do it for us; we have preferred to follow Mandyczewski's completion (with slight alterations of our own in the final two bars) which does not attempt a recapitulation. It seems fairly obvious that the music for the Schlegel setting Der Knabe (March 1820) had its beginnings with the second section of this song. The same imagery of childhood and flying summon up a tune of similar rhythmical shape, also in 2/4. Both songs have the same air of a pipingly repetitive ditty in a children's playground, and both share a merry and mischievous simplicity.

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. 17 – Lucia Popp
CDJ33017

Details

Track 8 on CDJ33017 [1'45]
Track 1 on CDS44201/40 CD14 [1'45] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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