Hyperion Records

Viola, D786
First line:
Schneeglöcklein, o Schneeglöcklein
composer
March 1823; published in 1830 as Op 123
author of text

Recordings
'Schubert: The Complete Songs' (CDS44201/40)
Schubert: The Complete Songs
Buy by post £150.00 CDS44201/40  40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
'Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 3 – Ann Murray' (CDJ33003)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 3 – Ann Murray
Buy by post £13.99 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDJ33003  Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40   Download currently discounted
'Schubert: The Songmakers' Almanac Schubertiade' (CDD22010)
Schubert: The Songmakers' Almanac Schubertiade
Buy by post £27.98 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDD22010  2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service   Download currently discounted
Details
Track 13 on CDD22010 CD2 [13'44] 2CDs Dyad (2 for the price of 1) — Archive Service
Track 10 on CDJ33003 [14'49] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 1 on CDS44201/40 CD27 [14'49] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

Viola, D786
For Schubert, 1823 was a year of big projects. The opera Fierrabras and Die schöne Müllerin were the two big vocal works: twenty-five ensembles and arias gathered together to make one opera, twenty songs to make a song cycle. But Schubert was also always experimenting with other means of joining strands together to make a satisfying musical sequence. Goodness knows he had done his apprenticeship in the composition of long ballads, and the flower ballad Viola was one of the pieces where all this earlier work paid handsome dividends. Here is a piece of vocal chamber music where the unified feeling of an instrumental sonata finale is brought to the Lied. The poet, Franz von Schober, was perhaps Schubert's closest friend. Whether or not he deserved the composer's admiration and devotion has been a moot point among Schubertians ever since. He was half-Swedish, handsome and gregarious; he was also feckless and idle. It was said to be Schober who encouraged the composer to enjoy himself at a brothel towards the end of 1822. By the early months of 1823 the terrible (and finally fatal) consequences of that expedition were evident. At a time when Schubert felt very ill indeed, the two men who had caroused together collaborated in writing a song about a lovesick and abandoned flower. A century later this amused a writer like Capell who said that he felt inveigled into a tour of a horticultural show, but at second glance the choice of subject seems horrifyingly apt. Trampled innocence and wasted potential, succumbing to powerful blighting forces, are all in this song. As Tovey (who wrote an analysis of the piece) says, 'It's love and longing too great for its strength, Viola wastes away in solitude and shame'. In 1823 Schubert understood the feeling.

Unlike many of the ballads, the structure of the piece gives a feeling of seamless continuity. It is in fact a rondo with re-statements of the opening theme at verses 5, 14 and 19. We shall never know whether this was originally Schober's idea or a structural refinement at Schubert's suggestion. Despite the different note values, the tempo of the refrain remains the same; as Reed points out, this is an example of so-called structural acceleration. The style of 2, 3, and 4 is ceremonial, suggesting the priapic energy of spring. Between verses 6 and 8 there is music of the utmost delicacy and excitement where the skilful change from 4 to 3 in a bar and the elegant phrasing of the piano's left hand enhance the feeling of the flower's feminine grace. At verse 9 and the advent of the minor key, a chill enters the song, and a feeling of incipient panic. By the end of 10 everything has come to a terrified halt. The music of 11 suggests an ominous succession of shivers, and frozen trepidation. Viola's flight (second half of 11 until the end of 13) is hugely effective, with a type of long arch-like sweep that could come from a violin sonata; the return of the main theme at 14 is nothing less than a masterstroke. The music at 15 is a beautiful aubade with the voice singing in counterpoint with a courtly bassoon-like bass line. Meanwhile back at the ranch spring festivities continue and at 16 we once again hear the music of verse 2. This skilfully winds down to the point where Viola is missed and a search party is sent out in double quick time. There is a good deal of walking, strolling and sauntering in Schubert's music (his figure probably governed the speed of his country excursions), but this is a rare example of running. At 17, with music of the tenderest simplicity, we find the crushed flower. The enharmonic modulation from this plaintive D minor to the home key of A flat (and the final and poignantly inevitable refrain in requiem) is, as Tovey points out, especially fine.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDJ33003 track 10
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-89-00310
Duration
14'49
Recording date
18 November 1988
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 3 – Ann Murray (CDJ33003)
    Disc 1 Track 10
    Release date: December 1989
    Deletion date: November 2012
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 27 Track 1
    Release date: October 2005
    40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
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