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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
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