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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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This is the second setting of this poem. In the first (D52) the teenage Schubert had made considerable use of recitative but the more mature composer found a way to set the whole as an operatic aria where one section flows easily into the other. Although there are always many instrumental colours demanded of the piano in Schubert song accompaniments it is seldom that a whole orchestra seems explicit in a song. In Sehnsucht there is an orchestral feel from beginning to end and the vocal line is cradled and propelled as it may be in a large set-piece for the stage. Usually when Schubert attempted to create opera in the home he tells a story in ballad or scena, but here it is pure song which is magnified to theatrical proportions. Schiller's text in the grand manner is not, by his standards, of the highest quality; it smacks somewhat of stiff libretto rather than pliable lyric. It is the composer who makes the transitions of mood believable. The piece was intended for a singer of stellar conviction for only such an artist is able to prevent the softer, lyrical passages from losing their bite. The pace of this music is reminiscent of the energy of Gluck and sometimes the melodic curves of Weber come to mind. Certainly the final section (lifted from the first version of 1815) clinches the proceedings in true opera-house manner; here is perfect exit music for the singer to stride off-stage. It brings down the curtain on this recital as it does on Schubert's involvement (except for Der Pilgrim and one more song in 1826) with the poetry of Friedrich von Schiller.
Ach, aus dieses Tales Gründen,
Die der kalte Nebel drückt,
Könnt’ ich doch den Ausgang finden,
Ach, wie fühlt’ ich mich beglückt!
Dort erblick’ ich schöne Hügel,
Ewig jung und ewig grün!
Hätt’ ich Schwingen, hätt’ ich Flügel,
Nach den Hügeln zög’ ich hin.
Harmonien hör’ ich klingen,
Töne süsser Himmelsruh’,
Und die leichten Winde bringen
Mir der Düfte Balsam zu,
Gold’ne Früchte seh’ ich glühen,
Winkend zwischen dunkelm Laub,
Und die Blumen, die dort blühen,
Werden keines Winters Raub.
Ach wie schön muss sich’s ergehen
Dort im ew’gen Sonnenschein,
Und die Luft auf jenen Höhen,
O wie labend muss sie sein!
Doch mir wehrt des Stromes Toben,
Der ergrimmt dazwischen braust,
Seine Wellen sind gehoben,
Dass die Seele mir ergraust.
Einen Nachen seh ich schwanken,
Aber ach! der Fährmann fehlt.
Frisch hinein und ohne Wanken,
Seine Segel sind beseelt.
Du musst glauben, du musst wagen,
Denn die Götter leih’n kein Pfand,
Nur ein Wunder kann dich tragen
In das schöne Wunderland.
Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)
Ah, if only I could find a way out
from the depths of this valley,
oppressed by cold mists,
how happy I would feel!
Yonder I see lovely hills,
ever young and ever green!
If I had pinions, if I had wings,
I would fly to those hills.
I hear harmonious sounds,
notes of sweet, celestial peace,
and the gentle breezes bring me
the scent of balsam.
I see the golden fruits glowing,
beckoning amid dark leaves,
and the flowers which bloom there
will never be winter’s prey.
Ah, how beautiful it must be to wander
there in the eternal sunshine;
and the air on those hills,
how refreshing it must be.
But I am barred by the raging torrent
which foams angrily between us;
its waves tower up,
striking fear into my soul.
I see a boat pitching,
but, alas! There is no boatman.
Jump in without hesitation!
The sails are billowing.
You must trust, and you must dare,
for the gods grant no pledge;
only a miracle can convey you
to the miraculous land of beauty.