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Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 17 - Lucia Popp

Schubert in 1816
Lucia Popp (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)
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Label: Hyperion
Recording details: April 1992
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: April 1993
Total duration: 68 minutes 44 seconds

All of the music on this album is also available as part of the specially priced box set The Complete Songs of Franz Schubert: ‘This is an archive of glorious Lieder singing as much as it is a definitive treasury of the greatest Lieder ever composed’ (The Guardian).


‘Piano-playing, notes and recording all enhance the virtues of this rewarding disc, which will surely be a thing of joy for many years to come’ (Gramophone)

‘A moving and fitting memorial to one of the loveliest and most beloved singers’ (The Sunday Times)

‘Another triumph’ (Hi-Fi News)
1815, examined in detail in Volumes 7 and 10 of this series, was such an extraordinary annus mirabilis for Schubert, and for the composition of Lieder in particular, that the considerable achievements of the following year have often been overlooked or underestimated. It is true that 1816 can boast no Gretchen am Spinnrade or Erlkönig (composed in 1814 and 1815 respectively) but the wide range of songs from 1816 (a good number of them unjustly neglected to this day) and the composer's flirtations with a wide range of poets, provide an astonishing kaleidoscope of songwriting activity. The great work of 1815 is continued very much in the same vein, although the Schubert aficionado will detect an ever-growing mastery of form and content as the months speed by. And then of course there were the other works: piano pieces, string quartets, even a quasi-concerto for violin which show that whatever Schubert's devotion to song, his prime concern was to become well-rounded (his physical shape was perhaps already tending in that direction), able to compose in all of the forms employed by his great predecessors Haydn and Mozart, and by Ludwig van Beethoven. This gigantic and enigmatic figure in musical Vienna was still at the height of his powers and was to compose his song cycle An die ferne Geliebte in 1816, a work which makes him almost as much of a song pioneer as his younger contemporary. Schubert's moods in this year veer between a not unjustified confidence in his youthful mastery, and despair that he would never be able to emulate, let alone equal, the work of his elders. In 1816 he moves between adolescence and manhood, a painful enough transition for someone of sensitivity, exacerbated by the ongoing struggle to establish his right to leave his father's school where he was employed as a teacher, and devote himself entirely to music. 1816 is also an important year in Schubert's emotional life in that the question of his affection for the baker's daughter Therese Grob, which dated back to 1814, came to some sort of resolution and conclusion. If the termination of this romantic friendship (in all probability somewhat idealised and unconsummated) was a sad disappointment at the time, no less frustrating was the first of the fruitless attempts by the young composer's friends to acquaint Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with the depth and extent of Schubert's affinity with the great man's poetry. The year thus had its disappointments and failures (there is not a single year in the Schubert calendar without some setback or other), but on the whole the young composer consolidated his growing reputation, in particular with the performance of the cantata Prometheus D451 (since lost) in July.

As always in Schubert studies it is the Documentary Biography which provides an outline of the year's activities—tantalisingly incomplete perhaps, but especially fascinating if one reads between the lines. In February 1816 the post of music master at a school in Laibach (now Ljubljana in Slovenia) was first advertised in the Wiener Zeitung. The composer was encouraged by his teacher Antonio Salieri to try for the job, although his application was rather late and dates from April. The successful applicant was required to teach music for three hours daily (presumably leaving time enough for composition) and the salary might have been just enough to support a wife, if Schubert's thoughts had been moving in that direction. On the other hand the composer's first priority may have been to flee the claustrophobic influence of his father even if this meant leaving his friends and his beloved Vienna; at least he would be teaching music as opposed to the rudiments of writing and arithmetic, and he would have had a measure of independence. This post was in effect a government appointment, and the letters printed in the Documentary Biography illustrate the long-winded grind of the Austrian Empire's bureaucracy—a seemingly endless round of what would now be termed inter-departmental memos. Despite Salieri's personal recommendation (the rival candidates were also his pupils and were also probably armed with references from him) and testimonials from such important Viennese worthies as Joseph Spendou and Karl Unger (who was later to introduce the composer to the Esterházy family) Schubert failed to get the job. It was eventually awarded to one Franz Sokol in August 1816. It is rather intriguing to imagine a Yugoslavian dimension to Schubert's career; so much in his life might have been different if work had taken him outside Vienna at this crucial stage of his development. Fifty-five years later the young Gustav Mahler was successfully to conduct his first opera at the Landestheater in Laibach, but he soon returned to the Austrian capital.

On 17 April 1816 Josef von Spaun took his courage in both hands and composed a long and eloquent letter to the poet Goethe on behalf of his friend Schubert. He sent this to Weimar together with a book of songs, fair copies in the composer's hand, containing some of the great Goethe settings of 1814–15, as well as a few from the beginning of 1816; the collection culminated in Erlkönig arranged with easier piano accompaniment (in duplets instead of triplets) just in case the original was beyond the powers of whatever amateur musicians happened to be in the old man's circle. The volume, certainly one of the most exciting gifts ever made by one artist to another, contains, in its extant form, the following works:

Jägers Abendlied D368; Der König in Thule D367; Meeres Stille D216; Schäfers Klagelied D121; Die Spinnerin D247; Heidenröslein D257; Wonne der Wehmuth D260; Wanderers Nachtlied D224; Erster Verlust D226; Der Fischer D225; An Mignon D161; Geistes-Gruss D142; Nähe des Geliebten D162; Gretchen am Spinnrade D118; Rastlose Liebe D138; Erlkönig D328.

In its original binding this volume probably began with An Schwager Kronos (which dates from early 1816) or perhaps the earlier Szene aus Faust. Of course there is a great deal of flowery and flattering prose in Spaun's letter to Goethe, but some interesting and ambitious plans for the dissemination of Schubert's songs were outlined: the idea was to issue a series of eight books of songs (and such a scheme might have been taken up by a publisher if Goethe's active support had been forthcoming) the first two of which were to be devoted to Goethe settings; the third book was to include works inspired by Schiller; the fourth and fifth were to be given over to a great poet of the past, Klopstock; the sixth was to include slightly more recent masters such as Matthisson, Hölty and Salis-Seewis; books seven and eight were to settings of Ossian. According to Spaun the Ossian works excelled all the others, which is evidence of how highly the circle of Schubert's friends valued such works as Kolmas Klage and Shilrik und Vinvela written in the previous year. This tidy method of ordering and arranging musical works according to a type of encyclopaedic survey of literary history (with Goethe at the head of the list of course) was perhaps calculated to appeal both to the poet's vanity and his sense of methodical order; Goethe was later to request the young Mendelssohn to perform for him the most important works in musical history, in chronological sequence. If the poet had bothered to take Spaun's letter seriously, and if he had listened to the music, he might have realised that the high claims made for Schubert's importance were no exaggeration. Spaun was even careful to emphasise that 'the pianoforte player who is to interpret [the songs] to Your Excellency should want nothing in skill and expression.' No reply to the letter was received; the volume of songs was returned without comment. Otto Erich Deutsch suggests that this may have been because Spaun's uncle Franz Seraphicus, who lived in Munich, was known to Goethe as a literary enemy and antagonist, but the poet's silence may have been simply occasioned by the welter of dedications and petitions which, in his later years, habitually flooded into Weimar from every corner of the civilised world.

The most personal of the 1816 documents are Schubert's own diary entries for five days in June (13, 14, 15, 16, 17) and a lone diary entry for 8 September. They cover a wide range of the composer's thoughts and feelings including (13 June) his indebtedness to the music of Mozart, and a comparison between two of his own songs, one a Goethe setting, the other by Schiller; he comes to the conclusion that Goethe's words for Rastlose Liebe contributed to its greater success with the public. On 14 June he describes an evening walk with his brother Karl; the young Schuberts passed a graveyard which led them to talk, 'sadly and intimately', about their dead mother. The composer went to an exhibition of pictures (15 June) and was attracted to a Madonna and Child by the painter Josef Abel. Very recent research by Rita Steblin in Vienna has suggested that Schubert was already acquainted with Abel's work, and that the painter had executed a portrait of the young composer which Steblin persuasively argues should now join the accepted Schubert iconography. If we had diary entries of this kind for each day of Schubert's life, how much more we should know about him!

On 16 June there was a gathering to celebrate Salieri's golden jubilee, his fifty years in Vienna. This was an all-day event involving official visits and investitures, high mass in the Court chapel (with Salieri's own music of course) and a formal luncheon. In the evening there was a mighty reception at Salieri's home where he was surrounded by no less than twenty-six pupils—fourteen women and twelve men. Most of the young ladies were the maestro's singing students, but each composer arrived with a dedicatory composition under his arm. These were heard in strict order of seniority, with the younger pupils' work heard first. Schubert's offering, an unaccompanied vocal quartet with men's voices, D407 (it had originally been cast as a vocal trio with piano accompaniment) was thus heard before that of Josef Weigl (1766–1846) who was already well established as an opera composer of note. This was one of only two proven occasions when Schubert chose to set words of his own:

Gütigster, Bester! (Master most gracious)
Weisester, Grösster! (Great and sagacious!)
So lang ich Thränen habe, (As long as I've a tear to shed,)
Und an der Kunst mich labe, (And art remains my daily bread,)
Sie beides Dir geweiht, (I'll dedicate them both to you)
Der beides mir verleiht. (Who taught me art, and feeling too.)
So Güt' als Weisheit strömen mild (Kindness and wisdom gently flow)
Von Dir, O gottes Ebenbild, (From you, the nearest God we know;)
Engel bist Du mir auf Erden, (To such an angel here below)
Gern möcht'ich Dir dankbar werden, (My gratitude I'll gladly show.)
Unser aller Grosspapa, (For all our sakes, o grandsire dear,)
Bleibe noch recht lange da! (Remain with us for many a year!)

The diary entry for this day seems much less mature than the passages written a few days before; it is Schubert the obedient and earnest pupil who speaks here, patting Salieri metaphorically on the back for his 'pure, holy nature' and comparing him to the healthy model of Gluck. By way of contrast, Schubert castigates Beethoven (without actually naming him) for an 'eccentricity which joins and confuses the tragic with the comic, the agreeable with the repulsive, heroism with howling and the holiest with harlequinades without distinction, so as to goad people to madness instead of dissolving them in love.' This censorious tone is untypical of Schubert; rather it sounds like a side-swipe at Beethoven by the wily old musical politician Salieri himself, dutifully regurgitated by the young composer when the day's events came to be written up in his diary. For those who delight in pondering the real relationship between Salieri and his contemporaries (including Mozart), we have evidence here of just how factional the making of music in Imperial Vienna could be, and how teachers expected their pupils faithfully to mirror their prejudices. Plus ça change.

On 17 June Schubert notes that he had composed for money for the first time. This was a cantata Prometheus written for the name day of Professor Watheroth, jurist and teacher of Josef von Spaun as well as the mentor of the older Leopold Sonnleithner who was to figure in Schubert's life as a patron. The performance was due to take place on 12 July, but was postponed until 24 July because of bad weather. It is a tragedy for Schubertians that the manuscript has been 'mislaid' since about 1828; it is the most substantial, and probably the most interesting of Schubert's lost works if we accept John Reed's argument that the apocryphal Gmunden-Gastein symphony is in actual fact the Great C major. All that we have of Prometheus (a work which is said to have lasted for three-quarters of an hour) is a few themes which Sonnleithner noted down from memory years after the performance. Its loss is all the more tantalising because it made such a big impression on its audience: Josef von Spaun notes in a letter to Schober (19 August) that the cantata of 'our dear minnesinger … has been performed with much success.' Baron Schlechta, poet of a handful of Schubert songs, wrote an exultant panegyric about the effect this music had on him. When this poem was eventually published in 1817 it marked the first time that the composer's name had appeared in a periodical.

The poet Johann Mayrhofer, a man whose work and personality were to be of crucial importance to Schubert, makes his first personal appearance in the documents on 7 September. He writes to Schober: 'Schubert and several friends are to come to me today, and the fogs of the present time, which is somewhat leaden, shall be lifted by his melodies.' The composer had first set Mayrhofer's verse in 1814, and was to move into his apartment in the Wipplingerstrasse in 1817. Schubert's diary helps us imagine the type of conversation that occurred between composer and poet that day; the entry for September 8 is full of idées reçues somewhat clumsily articulated but showing beyond doubt that Schubert was anxious to exercise his mind in the realms of philosophy. It seems likely that he was drawn like a magnet to a man like Mayrhofer whose introspection and cynical world-weary view of life could not disguise an inspiring idealism and a thirst for the true and beautiful. Schubert seems to have been excited and even disorientated by this meeting on 7 September. The long diary entry dating from the next day is an extraordinary mish-mash of aphorisms and pensées in the style of Marcus Aurelius (himself a distinguished former inhabitant of Vienna) and owing something to Shakespeare among others. The composer makes a valiant attempt to make sense of some of the great issues of life: man as plaything of the gods; 'All the world's a stage' where we all have to play our allotted parts; the conflict of mind and heart; the nature of friendship and happiness in and out of marriage; the nature of sincerity and convention in the conduct of human relationships and so on. At the end of a pile-up of aphoristic observations of diminishing cogency the composer writes : 'I can't think of any more now … why does my mind not think when the body is asleep? It goes for a walk no doubt … And so to bed.' We know that Mayrhofer was already taken with Schubert, and probably sensed in him a young ephebe (the classical reference is appropriate for a poet so absorbed with the history of Greece and Rome) willing to learn from him. The prospect of a protégé must have been touching and challenging for a lonely man in his late twenties, extremely diffident about personal relationships and inspired by the highest and most noble achievements in others. His poem of October 1816 (Geheimnis) makes clear his admiration for his young friend.

Even if this relationship had a homosexual element, at least on Mayrhofer's side, in November 1816 Schubert celebrated his affection for Therese Grob by putting together a Lieder album especially for her. This may well have been in honour of her birthday on 16 November, but it might also have been a farewell gift. Nothing like the elevated collection of masterpieces that Schubert and Spaun had gathered together for Goethe earlier in the year, the volume has a homespun quality that suggests that the songs, some of the more modest in the composer's output, are those that Therese herself enjoyed singing. Two of the better known Lieder in this collection are Litanei and Am Grabe Anselmo's. Schubert left home in the autumn of 1816 when he went to live with his friend Schober, and gave up teaching for a period of a year or so. His tactful modus operandi seems to have been to accustom his parents to this prospect by staying away for short 'holiday' periods at the homes of various friends; with the protection of the Schober family, the composer seems to have found the courage openly to confront Schubert senior who far from being a mellow paterfamilias was still a sexually active husband and demanding and exacting father. The former point is proved by the fact that a half-brother, Theodor Kajetan Anton, was born on 15 December. During the autumn of that year there seems to have been something of a decisive break (did Mayrhofer influence this turn of events in any way?) and in leaving the parental home in Vienna's Ninth District, Schubert also seems to have renounced any lingering feeling that Therese and he had a future together. It is interesting that Schubert's formal association with Salieri, another father figure, was also to terminate in December 1816. On the manuscript of the songs Lebenslied and Leiden der Trennung (both heard on this disc) he twice writes the words 'At Herr von Schober's lodgings—December 1816.' This is the last of the documents for 1816 and it seems to be have been written in a spirit of determination and relief. After all he had started the year by applying to go to Laibach; if this was not to be granted to him, Schober's lodgings in the Landskrongasse at least had the advantage of being nearer to his ever-widening circle of friends. Increasingly these friends began to take the place of the family in sustaining the young composer both intellectually and emotionally. Closer relationships with Mayrhofer and the singer Johann Michael Vogl, and the great phase of the Lieder inspired by classical themes all lay before him in the near future. The transition from boy to man was well under way.

1816 saw the composition of two Symphonies (No 4 in C minor ['Tragic'], and No 5 in B flat), a Mass in C major, a String Quartet in E, and over a hundred songs. Although no hard and fast rules apply, the year is, very broadly speaking, divided among the poets. January and February are the months of Ossian; March is devoted to Schiller (many of the settings in Volume 16) and Salis-Seewis; April is Matthisson month, and May belongs to Hölty; June seems to be devoted to Klopstock and Uz; August is the month of the miniature Jacobi cycle recorded on Volume 8; September is largely devoted to Goethe and his poems of Mignon and the Harper from Goethe's Wilhelm Meister; in October, Schubert's gaze turns towards the work of his friend Mayrhofer; November explores the poet Claudius more thoroughly than ever before or after. The composer also embarked on the composition of Die Bürgschaft (see notes in Volume 16), his first attempt at opera seria. The year is also notable for the composition of a large amount of dance music: Menuettes, Tänze, Ländler and Ecossaises; on the whole this is written for piano, but there was also an amount of music of this genre written for violin.

In 1816 the composer seems to have abandoned the scrupulous dating of his autographs that makes the chronology of the works of 1815 much easier to chart. There are a large number of songs that can be dated to 1816 with some certainty, but we are unable to say exactly when in the year they were composed. To make matters even more confusing, the running order of the Deutsch catalogue sometimes defies chronology in this period. Thus Lodas Gespenst, clearly dated 17 January 1816, is given the Deutsch number 150, which places it among the works of 1815. This is because Deutsch, in the first edition of his catalogue, believed in the existence of a manuscript from August 1815. The 1978 catalogue quietly neglects to mention this putative (and probably non-existent) earlier manuscript, but the Deutsch number has not been revised. Other examples abound where I have preferred to follow evidence of the dates on the autographs rather than the conjecture of earlier copies. For example Deutsch places Litanei (D343, dated August 1816) thirty items before the de la Motte Fouqué Lied D373 dated 15 January 1816. For this recital, in order to give the listener some idea of how 1816 progressed in terms of musical creativity, we have attempted to place the songs as much as possible in the order of their dated autographs. From time to time this contradicts the chronology of the Deutsch numbers.

Graham Johnson © 1993

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