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Aus 'Diego Manzanares': Ilmerine, D458

First line:
Wo irrst du durch einsame Schluchten der Nacht
composer
first published in 1872
author of text

 
This interesting little song—and there is nothing else quite like it in all Schubert—has been completely ignored by singers, the public and commentators. Apart from the rather controversial and very early Don Gayseros cycle, a miniature set of three songs which tell the tale of a Spanish woman's doomed love for a Moorish prince, this is the one example we have of Schubert attempting a Spanish style. The composer is much more mature in 1816 than he had been at the time of the Gayseros cycle (1813) and the music with its accents on the off beats, and its strong left hand chords sparking off simulated guitar configurations in the right hand, sounds much more assuredly Spanish as a result. Of course, it is still a far cry from the convincing Spanish-styled music that would be written somewhat later in the century by German composers; both Schumann and Wolf explored the world of Spanish pastiche and evocation much more thoroughly than Schubert, but this must be something to do with the vogue for translation of hispanic literature which was to come about through the work of such writers as Emmanuel Geibel.

This poem is by Baron von Schlechta whose seven contributions to the Schubert song canon (a modest number compared to Mayrhofer's forty-seven, and rather less than Schober's twelve) are spread rather evenly among the eleven years between 1815 to 1826. Schlechta published his works in 1824, but it is certain that when Schubert set one of his friend's poems he did so from the manuscript. Diego Manzanares was a play (unperformed, of course) by Schlechta who was only twenty, one year older than Schubert, when it was written. The female heroine Ilmerine bemoans, in fairly conventional manner, the absence of her beloved. As befits the music for a stage piece, the composer has written something of an orchestrally-accompanied aria in the tempestuous key of F minor: as John Reed writes, 'how well the opening figure would sound with plucked string and woodwind.' The same is true of the postlude to the song which cries out for an oboe to sing the tune in the final two bars above the throbbing strings. It is a pity perhaps that the song is not slightly longer, which would have allowed the composer more time to establish the music's national character. As it is, the whole is over too quickly, a brief flash of light and heat from the south which is so singular in its effect that it never finds a place on recital programmes. This is a pity because this song shows a side of Schubert which would appeal to operatic singers who find the conventional Lieder repertory rather too anodyne. The difficulty would be to find other songs which, with this one, would make a convincing group in recital.

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 12 on CDJ33017 [0'58]
Track 13 on CDS44201/40 CD15 [0'58] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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