When Liszt issued his Sechs Melodien von Franz Schubert
in 1844, he was as unaware as most of the musical world at the time that the first song which he transcribed was a misattribution to Schubert. The piece is nevertheless offered here to keep Liszt’s collection intact, and the obscurity into which it would fall if listed as a song by its true author is reason enough to preserve its quite Schubertian beauty in the noble context which Liszt intended. Lebe wohl!
(‘Fare well!’) was composed by Hans von Weyrauch, who was born, as the excellent Neue Liszt-Ausgabe informs us, in 1788, and who wrote the song as Nach Osten!
(‘To the East!’) in 1824, but it was reissued in 1843 with new words (by Branger) as Adieu
and translated as ‘Lebe wohl!’ under Schubert’s name. (It is still published by Schirmer in one of their collections of Schubert Songs!) The simple text bids farewell to a dead loved one, and Liszt’s transcription retains simplicity, even though the texture of the accompaniment is greatly varied over the two verses of the song.
The Schiller song Des Mädchens Klage
(‘The Maiden’s Lament’, D191b) brings us to Schubert proper, and a complex transcription cast as a theme and variations dramatically depicting the maiden’s discovery, having lived and loved a little, that sorrow and tears follow hard on the heels of joy. Das Zügenglöcklein
, D871b—the title which Liszt knew, Das Sterbeglöcklein
, amounts to the same thing—is a strophic prayer for the unknown dead being tolled by a distant bell. Again Liszt sets the work as a theme and variations of great refinement and intricacy. Trockne Blumen
(‘Dried Flowers’, D795/18) comes from Die schöne Müllerin
. The poet speaks to a few dead flowers which were the only gift he had had from his beloved. If the flowers were buried in his grave, and if she realized that his feelings had been true, then the flowers would spring to life again. Liszt’s arrangement (in C minor, rather than Schubert’s E minor) is quite straightforward, and the hope of the second part of the song is accentuated by his placing the material octaves higher than the original. Ungeduld
, D795/7 is also from Schwanengesang
and is Liszt’s first transcription of the piece (in F major rather than Schubert’s A major) and, like the second transcription, is a theme and variations one verse shorter than the original. Curiously, it approches the business of conveying the poet’s impatient passion in quite a different way from the later transcription, and adds a short, extremely blue. coda. Finally, Die Forelle
, D550d, is given a full-blooded concert transcription.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1995