Klage um Ali Bey, D496a

First line:
Lasst mich! lasst mich! ich will klagen
composer
November 1816; first published in 1968
author of text

 
Here is a rare example of a Schubert comic song. Our composer was never short of genial high spirits as a work like the lighthearted trio Die Hochzeitsbraten shows, but he is never very comfortable with malicious Schadenfreude (very much a Hugo Wolf speciality) and even his attempts at the parody of Italian opera (a form of music making which, for the damage it did to his own career, he had every reason to loathe) end up by showing the felicities of Italian music in a surprisingly sympathetic light.

In this case, however, the enemy is distant enough to be a cardboard cut-out of a character, and easier to lampoon. Most Austrians of Schubert's generation would have still somehow regarded Muslims as the enemy because of their country's long-standing altercations with the Turks. Certainly Mozart wrote a number of Turkish parodies in his operas and instrumental music, and even a song, Meine Wünsche, which celebrates the victory of Kaiser Josef II over the Muselmänner. As it happens Ali Bey was not Turkish but Egyptian. In this poem Claudius is commenting on an incident in 1773 when the Egyptian prince Ali Bey was slain by his favourite, Abu Dahab. The mourning E flat minor tonality that Schubert has used perfectly seriously in Am Grabe Anselmo's is here employed in parody of graveside melancholy. The music has something of an exotic oriental character without achieving the wit and perspicacity of Mozart's evocations. This piece (with its squeezebox chords requiring exaggerated crescendo and diminuendo on the strong beats) was originally conceived as a vocal trio; the piano-accompanied version seems to have been made by the composer for rehearsal purposes.

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 19 on CDJ33017 [1'48]
Track 17 on CDS44201/40 CD16 [1'48] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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