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Schäfers Klagelied, D121 Second version

First line:
Da droben auf jenem Berge
composer
early 1819 (?); prepared for a public performance on 28 February 1819 in a higher key (E minor rather than C minor) with added Vorspiel; published in 1894 in series 20 of the Gesamtausgabe, Leipzig
author of text

 
Goethe fashioned this poem after an old German folksong with the same opening line. The form of the song is masterly (and somewhat palindromic) where the music for Verse 1 = Verse 6 (E minor) and Verse 2 = Verse 5 (G major). Verses 3 and 4 at the heart of the work contain new material heard once only: the flowers of the field stretch out in C major and the storm is in a Beethovenian C minor leading (in an astonishing little recitative) to E flat and thence to the dominant of G major. This sets up the delightful appearance of a consolatory rainbow and thence back, in a perfect arch, to the mood of the opening.

This was the first of Schubert's songs to receive a public performance – on 28 February 1819 at the inn known as 'Zum römischen Kaiser'. It is surely significant that the composer first came to the notice of the wider public (until then his songs had been performed only among his friends) as someone who had set the verses of Goethe to music. The singer was the tenor Franz Jäger, and the version recorded here (a major third higher than the first) was almost certainly prepared especially for the occasion. Apart from the key and the fact that the C minor version was printed (and thus more scrupulously prepared with dynamic and phrasing markings), there is little substantial difference apart from an introduction of four bars fashioned from the tune of the opening of the vocal line. This suggests the possibility that in Schubert's time, even when a song was printed without an introduction, the accompanist was expected to improvise an opening. The other question raised by this version is the sanctity of the composer's original tonality. The transposition upwards alters the character of the song: the change of tessitura turns something brooding and introspective into a more openly dramatic utterance. But Schubert was practical and a realist. When faced with the chance of a performance by a high-voiced tenor who liked a song, he adapted. He probably did so, as an accompanist of his own work, more times than we shall ever know. Singers and their pianists have always had to live in the real world in this respect, musicologists less so. The composer has the final say, however: when Schubert published this song in May 1821 he fielded the C minor version without an introduction; he had also included the song in this key in the Lieder album sent to Goethe in 1816. It is thus that we hear the authentic voice of his preference for the first version.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995

Recordings

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 24
CDJ33024Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40

Details

Track 1 on CDJ33024 [3'39] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 13 on CDS44201/40 CD21 [3'39] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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