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Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 33

The Young Schubert
Graham Johnson (piano)
Download only
Label: Hyperion
Recording details: Various dates
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Various producers
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: September 1999
Total duration: 76 minutes 58 seconds

This volume of our Schubert edition has the subtitle ‘The Young Schubert’ and it contains music written between 1810 and 1814. There are several ‘first recordings’, including D1A, a 12-minute song called Lebenstraum which Schubert left unfinished and untitled, and also without any words! Inspired scholarship has recently revealed the poem which was in Schubert’s mind when he was writing it. He turned to the same poem again soon afterwards in D39, which is also on the disc. There are several Italian settings from Metastasio which Schubert prepared whilst studying with Salieri, and there are even two never-before-recorded duets in French deriving from operatic works by Gluck. Also included is the recently discovered Die Nacht, which doesn’t have a Deutsch number yet. Altogether this is a fascinating programme of virtually unknown music from the youth of one of the greatest composers who ever lived, and of far more than academic interest.

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).


‘Intriguing views of a young genius’ (Classic CD)
The Young Schubert 1810-1814
With Volume 33 of the Hyperion Schubert Edition we complete the song recordings of the composer’s early years. Indeed, with the appearance of this disc (and with only four more to come in the series) we will have issued the Schubert lieder of 1810 to 1816 (the composer’s most prolific period of song composition) in their entirety. Two further volumes will cover the songs of 1817 to 1825, and one each is to be given over to 1827 and 1828.

The essay accompanying Volume 12 gives a biographical outline of Schubert’s early life in the context of his song composition. With this disc comes another opportunity to review the musical influences at work on the young Schubert’s astonishingly fertile mind. In 1809 William Wordsworth wrote the following celebrated lines:

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive
But to be young was very heaven.
(from The Prelude)

Without realising it, the English poet might have been speaking for the young Schubert for, as part of the story of a relatively unlucky life, it was this composer’s good fortune to be born into the age when Romanticism was at its youngest, freshest, and most vital. There were many disadvantages about being born into a big city like Vienna during the Napoleonic era: Schubert, like every European of the epoch, had to suffer the dire economical effects of war, and his creative life was later blighted by the system of police-state repression put in place to quell any further unrest among students and other potential revolutionaries. But in terms of music at first pure and simple, and later pure and not so simple, one can think of no better time or place for the nurturing of his talents. In comparison, it was bad luck for Robert Schumann to be born in a provincial backwater like Zwickau; even the wealthy young Mendelssohn would have been a very different composer if he had been spared the musical rigidities of Berlin’s musical life and allowed to flourish in Vienna.

Think of it: when Schubert embarked on composing songs (as early as 1810, as we shall hear with D1A on this disc), Mozart’s presence was still to be felt in the Imperial City. He had not been dead twenty years; there were many people still alive who had known him well, and the star of his posthumous reputation was mightily in the ascendant. Joseph Haydn was another musical saint whose shade haunted Vienna in the most genial way. He had died even more recently (1809) and the first performance of Die Schöpfung (1798) had taken place in Schubert’s lifetime. Beethoven was a living god to be seen on the streets, and at the height of his powers. Antonio Salieri – a good composer, though not a great one – was primo maestro di capella at the Imperial Court, and it was one of his duties to give composition lessons to exceptionally talented members of the choir of the Hofkapelle – the forerunner of the Vienna Boys’ Choir. As a working member of this establishment, Francesco Schubert (as Salieri called him) was eligible for such lessons. The exercises which were part of the Salieri teaching regime made a huge difference to the teenager’s fluency in the creating of melody and to his understanding of the voice. And ever in the background was the shade of Christoph Willibald von Gluck who in 1779 had left Paris, the scene of his greatest triumphs, and returned to Vienna to live out the remaining eight years of his life. One of his last compositions was a set of Klopstock odes for voice and piano (1785). Thus it was that the greatest opera composer of his day (always excepting Mozart) ended his life with the Lied as it was then understood. Gluck was Salieri’s friend and mentor, and the two men collaborated on an opera (Les Danaïdes) for Paris. On the older composer’s death in 1787 it is likely that many of Gluck’s papers and scores went to Salieri, including the manuscript of Echo et Narcisse, the opera which hastened his return from Paris. Schubert was able to borrow all the Gluck scores, as well as a great deal of Italian music, from his teacher. The effect of these loans on the young composer’s song-writing is to be heard in the earlier works; once these influences were thoroughly absorbed, they passed into the bloodstream, resulting in the miracles of assimilation and transformation which are the prerogative of genius.

Although Schubert’s father was a teacher (he was born and educated in that part of Czechoslovakia which precipitated the Sudetenland crisis of 1938) it could not be said that the composer came from a cultivated background. Franz Theodor Schubert’s school was a down-to-earth establishment which struggled to din the three Rs (reading, ’riting, ’rithmetic) into unruly working-class children. There is no doubt that Schubert was lucky with his very first music teacher. To Michael Holzer (1772-1826), organist at the Lichtental parish church (within easy walking-distance of Schubert’s home), must be given the credit of ensuring that the spark of Schubert’s genius was kindled; insensitive pedantry at an early age can easily snuff out enthusiasm. But Holzer soon claimed that he had no more to teach the boy. Schubert had won his place in the Hofburgkapelle by open audition and as a result of his singing voice. On his entry into the Imperial Konvikt he suddenly found himself surrounded, rather like a scholarship boy at Eton, by much richer and grander contemporaries. This was the lifeline which transformed the intellectual and musical development of someone without a piano at home, and with only the Bible and school primers on the parental bookshelves. In a few years he was to become the most cultivated – even if only in a literary sense – of all the composers: a voracious reader conversant, like few others, with the greatest literature of past and present. He was surrounded by good-hearted admirers, chief of whom was the older Josef von Spaun, and they ensured that this phenomenon (for this is soon what they took him to be) was well supplied with manuscript paper, and that he was otherwise nurtured in a way that he could never have been at home. In the so-called Imperial Konvikt, the mind of Schubert was shaped and refined. It is likely that the musical guidance of Wenzel Ruzicka (1757-1823), his teacher before he graduated to Salieri’s guidance, was more important than has been generally acknowledged. But just as important as the actual school lessons were the friendships which gave him strength and confidence, the companionship of young men whose completely different backgrounds placed art, and the prospect of a life as a composer, in an attractive and respectable light. Spartan as was the life within the Konvikt in those years of war and political instability, the prospect of Schubert never having fulfilled his destiny, of his never being known to us had he not won that scholarship, is a very real one.

It is important for any young composer to hear music, and lots of it. There was a busy musical curriculum within the school. Apart from all the vocal music which had to be sung in connection with Imperial duties, Schubert was a violinist in the orchestra. By the very nature of the establishment, all his fellow singers were accomplished musicians to a greater or lesser degree. And if there was a bit of money to spare, and if people like Spaun were feeling generous, there was the opera: and in Vienna this could mean performances at the Kärntnerthor-Theater, the Theater an der Wien, the Theater in der Josefstadt or the Theater in der Leopoldstadt. What riches in comparison to Zwickau! We do not know exactly how many times Schubert visited the Kärntnertor-Theater as schoolboy but by the age of fifteen he had already seen Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and operas by Weigl, Boiëldieu, Cherubini (Médée), Isouard and Spontini (La Vestale). It is possible that he had also seen Gluck’s Alceste, and Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Die Entführung aus dem Serail. What a range of influences here for that schoolboy who, like Mozart, had only to hear something once to be able to remember it.

Thus it is that in the early music we hear a great deal of Gluck, some Mozart, a trace of Weigl and so on. But our concern here is songs and, from the beginning, it seems that Schubert was not only excited by works written for the theatre. Equally important to him were pieces written for the theatre of the mind – the works where the most complex emotional scenarios could be imagined and staged at will, without having to take into account all the tiresome aspects of physical stagecraft. Of the old school he must have known the earlier German songs of Haydn, and perhaps even the English canzonets. He must have known the Mozart Lieder and the Beethoven Lieder because we can find traces of both these composers’ songs in Schubert’s own works. And of course there were the songs of such composers as Conradin Kreutzer (1780-1849), an older Viennese contemporary whom Schubert admired greatly. The musical scores (almost always published in oblong format) of such famous musicians were relatively easy to come by. If they were not available from the Konvikt library one may be certain that the parents of one of the composer’s schoolfriends owned them. Schubert was not a collector by nature and, unlike the other great Lieder composers, seems not to have had his own collection of books and scores. Mainly out of economical necessity the borrowing of books and scores became a lifelong habit.

We have long known how deeply Schubert was influenced by the long ballads of the South German composer Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg (1760-1802); the young composer took the seven slim volumes of that composer’s Kleine Balladen und Lieder and devoured them, according to Spaun; he used some of these compositions as note-for-note models in the composition of his own early ballads (see the note on Hagars Klage in Volume 31 of this series). Schubert also knew the work of the Berlin composer Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814), and it would have been extraordinary if he had not also studied the songs of Karl Friedrich Zelter (1758-1832), also a Berliner, and Goethe’s great friend. But music by less famous names also came Schubert’s way. Maurice Brown mentions Joseph Friebert (1724-1799) and Walter Dürr postulates the importance of the influence of the Czech composer Joseph Anton Stepán (1726-1797) (often spelled Steffan in the German manner) who was enormously famous in Vienna at the time and whose Sammlung Deutscher Lieder für das Clavier (1778-82) challenged the stricter Lieder-writing theories of the Berlin school. It was Stepán who first employed Italianate vocal lines in the setting of German poetry, as well as the effects of imaginative modulation and more ornate accompaniments than were generally favoured by the North German composers. This example of a typically Viennese licence, a loosening of stays, was not lost on the young Schubert.

Typical Viennese license? One must not forget that Vienna was in effect the most southern of all the German-speaking cities, a mixture of races and cultures, the seat of an empire which boasted Italians within its borders as well as being tinged by the more exotic gypsies of Hungary, Greek refugees and Turkish immigrants. This is quite apart from all the tourists and the political entourages of every nationality which descended on the town in 1814 for the Congress of Vienna. It is more than likely that the first tunes sung to the infant Schubert in the cradle were Czech folk melodies which his mother (both of his parents were born in that part of the world) had picked up in as a child. During his life it is possible that Schubert got to know something about Greek folk music; and we know that at the end of his life he studied the Jewish rite. By comparison, the Stuttgart of Zumsteeg, and the Berlin of Reichardt and Zelter, were very confined and rigid places. If Vienna was not the capital of world music at the time, it is difficult to think of any city more deserving of the accolade. Naturally, the laissez-faire of this city, touched by the ethics of the Eastern souk and home of the Turkish-shaped croissant, was the subject of derision; for many Germans, Vienna was a huge market full of impure people on the make, all lobbying, Vicar-of-Bray-like, for some career advantage in a maelstrom of backbiting, graft and patent insincerity.

To a certain extent Vienna kept this reputation up to the time of The Third Man, and well after; but Harry Lime’s view of the ultra-respectable Swiss, and their inability to invent anything other than the cuckoo-clock, makes a point, however facetious. The cosmopolitan nature of Vienna, for all its drawbacks (among which were a huge number of infected prostitutes) can only have been mind-broadening and stimulating for a young creative artist. In such a great melting-pot as this were to be found any number of important intellectuals and artists, both professional and amateur (some of the most talented, like Johann Mayrhofer, were in the latter category) and such creative people were part of a salon culture which shaped the intellectual, and artistic, life of the country. And of course a new, distinctly musical, version of the salon would soon evolve under the title of ‘Schubertiad’. This was an extraordinary mixture of middle-class cultivation (Schubert belonged to a reading-circle where the latest and most important books were read aloud and discussed), bachelor high spirits (although as an older man Schubert hated the intrusion of the ‘yobbo’, beer-swilling, element into these gatherings) and friendship based on love of music and personal simpatico. Art was taken seriously in Vienna, and almost everyone aspired to be something of an artist. Many of the composer’s friends were amateur poets (some much better than others), but each was treated with respect in these gatherings. Schubert took the trouble to listen to his friends: these were not one-way relationships. There was a type of unwritten consensus that it was a great and honourable thing to do to strive to beautify the world (this, not only to impress the ladies) and strapping lads were known to grapple with the sonnet form (a task sometimes well beyond them) in a well-meaning attempt to leave their creative mark on the times, Many of these people were Schubert’s schoolfriends, and can claim a tiny scrap of immortality only thanks to their portly chum.

Thanks to Schubert, even such a great name as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is better known (certainly to the English-speaking world) than he would otherwise have been. And mention of Goethe brings to mind the legions of artists who were every bit as influential on the young man as the musicians like Zumsteeg whom he hero-worshipped, emulated, and surpassed. These were the makers of his texts; and words, arguably more than any other thing, had the most powerful effect on Schubert’s imagination. In his youthful songs, the power of old musical influences mixes with the inspiration of new words, one summoning and complementing the other, and fusing to make something newly Schubertian. As we listen to the music on this disc, the echoes and refrains from the past which have made Schubert’s youthful attempts possible are often too closely woven together to identify individual strands with any accuracy. I make an attempt to do so from time: here and there we can see moments of homage, and fragments of undigested musical sustenance. But by and large there are so many people, musical and literary, who have given Schubert the ideas he needs that we are encouraged to forget the conventional picture of a shy little bespectacled schoolboy. He is here unmasked, like all the great composers, as a grasping, unashamed thief, pulsating with energy and determination, and attaching himself (more limpet than mushroom) to anyone or anything that can offer him the support he needs to survive, develope and evolve. Darwin is one author that Schubert had never read, but these early evolutionary years of his career have a grandeur worthy of a scientific theory to frighten the Victorians.

The songs of 1810-1814: A chronological list
Lebenstraum (first setting) , D1A [Gesang in c] (Baumberg); before 1810?. This CD
Lebenstraum (second setting), D39 (Baumberg); beginning of 1810?. This CD
Hagars Klage, D5 (Schücking); 30 March 1811. Volume 31
Des Mädchens Klage (first setting), D6 (Schiller); 1811/12. Volume 31
Leichenfantasie, D7 (Schiller); 1811? Volume 16
Der Vatermörder, D10 (Pfeffel); 6 December 1811. Volume 12
Der Geistertanz (first and second settings, two fragments) D15/D15A (Matthisson); c1812. Volume 12
Quell innocente figlio, D17/A (Metastasio); 1812? This CD
Quell innocente figlio, D17/B (duet version) (Metastasio); 1812? This CD
Viel tausend Sterne prangen, D642 (Eberhard); 1812?. This CD
Klaglied, D23 (Rochlitz); 1812. This CD
Der Jüngling am Bache (first setting), D30 (Schiller); 24 September 1812. Volume 1
Entra l’uomo allor che nasce, D33/A (Metastasio); September-October 1812. This CD
Entra l’uomo allor che nasce (duet version), D33/B (Metastasio); September-October 1812. This CD
Serbate, o Dei custodi, D35 (Metastasio); October-December 1812. This CD
Die Advokaten, D37 (Engelhart) 25-27 December 1812. Volume 12
Misero pargoletto (first setting, second version), D42/1A (Metastasio); 1813? This CD
Misero pargoletto (second setting), D42/1B (Metastasio); 1813? Volume 9
L’incanto degli occhi (first setting), D990E (Metastasio); 1813? This CD
Ombre amene, D990F (Metastasio); 1813?. This CD
Totengräberlied, D44 (Hölty); 19 January 1813. This CD
Dithyrambe (first setting), D47 (Schiller); 29 March 1813. This CD
Die Schatten, D50 (Matthisson); 12 April 1813. Volume 12
Sehnsucht, D52 (Schiller); 15-17 April 1813. Volume 16
Verklärung, D59 (Pope, trans. Herder); 4 May 1813. Volume 11
Thekla (Eine Geisterstimme), D73 (Schiller); 22-23 August 1813. Volume 1
Trinklied, D75 (?Schäffer); 29 August 1813. This CD
Pensa che questo istante, D76 (Metastasio); 7 and 13 September 1813. This CD
Der Taucher, D77 (Schiller); 17 September 1813 until the beginning of 1815. Volume 2
Son fra l’onde, D78 (Metastasio); 18 September 1813. This CD
Don Gayseros, D93 (Fouqué); 1814(?). Volume 12
Adelaide, D95 (Matthisson); 1814. Volume 12
Trost an Elisa, D97 (Matthisson); 1814. Volume 12
Andenken, D99 (Matthisson); April 1814. Volume 12
Geisternähe, D100 (Matthisson); April 1814. This CD
Erinnerung, D101 (Matthisson); April 1814. Volume 5
Die Befreier Europas in Paris, D104 (Mikan); 16 May 1814. This CD
Lied aus der Ferne, D107 (Matthisson); July 1814. Volume 12
Der Abend, D108 (Matthisson); July 1814. This CD
Lied der Liebe, D109 (Matthisson); July 1814 . Volume 12
Erinnerungen, D98 (Matthisson); Autumn 1814. This CD
Die Betende, D102 (Matthisson); Autumn 1814. Volume 12
Romanze, D114 (Matthisson); September 1814. Volume 8
An Emma, D113 (Schiller); 17 September 1814. Volume 16
An Laura, als sie Klopstocks Auferstehungslied sang, D115 (Matthisson); 2-7 October 1814. Volume 12
Der Geistertanz (third setting), D116 (Matthisson); 16 October 1814. Volume 11
Das Mädchen aus der Fremde, D117 (Schiller); 16 October 1814. Volume 16
Gretchen am Spinnrade, D118 (Goethe); 19 October 1814. Volume 13
Nachtgesang, D119 (Goethe); 30 October 1814. Volume 12
Trost im Tränen, D120 (Goethe); 30 November 1814. Volume 12
Schäfers Klagelied (first version), D121A (Goethe); 30 November 1814. Volume 1
Schäfers Klagelied (second version), D121B (Goethe); 1814 . Volume 24
Ammenlied, D122 (Lubi); December 1814. This CD
Sehnsucht, D123 (Goethe); 3 December 1814. Volume 12
Am See, D124 (Mayrhofer); 7 December 1814. Volume 4
Szene aus Faust, D126 (Goethe); 12 December 1814. Volume 13

Graham Johnson © 1999

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