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.
Hyperion offers both CDs, and downloads in a number of formats. The site is also available in several languages.
Please use the dropdown buttons to set your preferred options, or use the checkbox to accept the defaults.
This is the penultimate volume of the Hyperion Schubert Edition. It is devoted to music from the penultimate year of Schubert’s short life, 1827. There are 17 widely varied items in it including three Italian settings, three rare fragments never before recorded, the comic cantata Der Hochzeitsbraten, and a touching thanksgiving tribute for the recovery from illness of 17-year-old Irene Kiesewetter, written for four soloists, choir and two pianists.
All of the music on this album is also available as part of the specially priced box set: ‘This is an archive of glorious Lieder singing as much as it is a definitive treasury of the greatest Lieder ever composed’ (The Guardian).
The year 1827 is an important one in the lieder-lover’s calendar: Winterreise was composed in two different instalments in February and November. This great song-cycle towers above all others, and over much else of Schubert. But this should not allow us to forget that there were other marvellous works written in this year. Here we look at some of the year’s other masterpieces, most of it Schubert of the highest quality. The settings of Karl von Leitner (written as a result of the composer’s connection with Graz during this period) are important and not all well known, and the same is true of the three final settings of Schubert’s closest friend, Franz von Schober. These include Der Hochzeitsbraten – one of the very few pieces by this composer with a deliberately humorous content, like Il modo di prender moglie, the third of a set of buffo songs written for the great bass Luigi Lablache. These settings are the greatest of Schubert’s numerous Italian canzone.
The end of 1826 had been dominated by Schubertiads, the biggest of which were arranged by Josef von Spaun and immortalized by Schwind’s famous group portrait sketched many years later. These were happy months for the composer who seems not to have been unduly bothered by fears over his health. Whatever the long-term prognosis of his syphilitic condition, he was now able for much of the time to put the worst period of his life (late 1822 to 1824) behind him. (This period of well-being was sadly temporary and was to last only until the autumn of 1827 when there were to be worrying signs of a further deterioration in health.) In the autumn of 1826 he had shared a house with Schober in the Bäckerstrasse, parallel to the Wollzeile behind the Stephansdom. At the end of the year he moved to a flat on his own in the Karolinentor on the Bastei – the old city wall which has long been demolished. Modern-day visitors to Vienna can picture the situation of this apartment if they imagine it on the inner-city side of the Ringstrasse, opposite the Stadtpark with the Konzerthaus lying further to the right. None of these modern landmarks of Viennese life were known to Schubert, of course.
By February or March of 1827 he had moved from this solitary existence to live once more with the Schobers. This time the building, because it was the family home rather than students’ lodgings, was more elegant than the old digs in the Bäckerstrasse. The second-floor apartment in the Tuchlauben was roomy and spacious: the composer had the use of two rooms as well as a small separate area for a piano; his quarters were even big enough to welcome guests. This was more or less an unheard-of luxury, and it reflected a new ease and relaxation in Schubert’s life. Always assuming he was able to forget the Damoclesian sword of his illness, there seemed to be much light at the end of the tunnel on his thirtieth birthday – things were looking up, the words of Frühlingsglaube come true at last, or seemingly so:
Nun armes Herz, vergiss der Qual!
Nun muss sich alles, alles wenden.
Now, poor heart, forget your torment.
Now, all must change.
There were some disappointments of course. In April 1826 he had applied for the position of Vice-Hofkapellmeister, and towards the end of January 1827 (such was the snail-pace of Austrian bureaucracy) he heard that the position had gone to the composer Josef Weigl. Schubert made the best of this, as he admired Weigl. In any case, from what we know of his working schedule, and his inability to buckle down to a regular timetable of duties, he was better off without this particular job.
Another slight setback was the refusal of the publisher Probst of Leipzig to publish any of Schubert’s work. Probst’s excuse for not doing so now sounds comical: he was engaged in preparing an edition of the complete works of Kalkbrenner. But Schubert was hardly impoverished at this time: the rent he almost certainly paid Schober for his comparatively luxurious accommodation came from the money he received from the publishers Artaria and Diabelli (he had fallen out with the latter in 1823, but there had been a reconciliation); and there was a burgeoning relationship with the newly established firm of Tobias Haslinger. There were no fewer than fourteen opus numbers published in the first half of the year including such substantial works as the Piano Sonata in G major, D894, dedicated to his oldest friend Spaun.
Schubert’s music was now regularly reviewed (often very favourably) by all the important German music journals, and even critics in London were beginning to take note of his name. At last his career had a rolling momentum of its own; he was acquiring a real reputation at home and abroad, and his music was regularly played at various meetings of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde – no fewer than ten times in 1827. (In June he was named a full committee member of that institution.) It was also highly convenient that his new home with the Schobers was next door to the Musikverein building where these concerts took place. The heavily social aspect of the early months of 1827 is emphasized by the happy chance that we have access to the diaries – unearthed by Otto Erich Deutsch in 1913 – of two young friends of Josef von Spaun, the brothers Fritz and Franz von Hartmann, twenty-two and nineteen years old respectively. They came from Linz (like so many others in the Schubert circle) and were students at Vienna university. Little could these amiable provincial visitors know that their fortuitous presence at various junketings, and the fact that they took the trouble to record a series of social events in which the composer played some part, would assure their immortality among Schubertians. The Hartmanns’ diary entries had already featured to a large extent in the documents of 1826 relating to the great Schubertiads at the end of that year, and the first document for 1827 in the Deutsch compilation is also Franz von Hartmann’s: ‘2nd January 1827: Towards 10 o’clock we meet Schober and Schubert at the Anchor, but unfortunately Spaun is not there. We remain until 12 o’clock, but it is not very jolly.’
On the next night they meet Schober at the same place. This time the poet Bauernfeld, the composer Franz Lachner and his brother Ignaz, and Josef Huber (the so-called ‘tall’ Huber who had given Schubert refuge in the bad times of 1823) were among the company. Thus do many of the important figures of the circle appear in these jottings. Sometimes (as on 9 January) the talk turned to more serious things; on this occasion Jean Paul and Goethe were discussed, but the conversation was usually much less elevating. These brief lines, not written with an eye on posterity, are valuable because they tell us of the social life of the Schubertians, and where certain people were on a given evening, but they are also largely trivial. When Schubert appears in the Hartmanns’ dairies it is a like a ghost (as Maurice Brown observed). He joins the others for a drink, sometimes he accompanies his songs, but we know little of his real life through these pages – there is no insight into the composer’s engagement with his muse and the fire of creation which burned so brightly within him.
It is perhaps for this reason that John Reed writes of 1827 as the ‘climacteric year’ when ‘the contrast between man and artist reaches baffling proportions; the task of reconciling Schubert’s private life with the inner world of his imagination becomes so difficult as to seem irrelevant’. When Hoffmann von Fallersleben, a poet whose work was to interest Schumann and Brahms, saw Schubert by chance on a visit to Vienna in August 1827, he later recounted (1868) that ‘there was nothing in his face, or in his whole being, that resembled my Schubert’. The italics are my own, for this is a sentence that someone from our own century might have written had he been granted the opportunity to go back in time to meet a favourite hero. Each of us has a clear idea of what and who ‘my Schubert’ is, and here is an early record of a distant admirer’s disappointment when confronted with ‘the real thing’. But is a composer’s appearance at a distance the ‘real thing’ after all? Reed’s point is that now in 1827 there is a larger gap than ever before between the composer’s outward form in everyday life, and his transfigured state when putting pen to paper.
The lack of any curiosity on the part of the Hartmann brothers in Schubert’s inner life may be ascribed to the composer’s unprepossessing, perhaps even rather seedy, appearance – short and overweight, balding, and probably with a pallor that indicated some years of ill-health. (Fallersleben noted, however, that like all Viennese, Schubert’s linen was impeccably clean, and that his hat was a shiny black.) The following, from 12 January, is one of Franz von Hartmann’s more descriptive efforts, and yet Schubert himself, whose music was the centre point of the evening, rates scarcely a mention: ‘… To Spaun’s where there is a Schubertiad … one by one, came Gahy [the distinguished pianist, and Schubert’s partner as a piano duettist], Schober, Schubert, … Lachner, a certain Rieder [the painter whose portrait of the composer can be seen on the cover of volume 35] … finally Vogl and his wife, Bauernfeld, Schwind, Gross. We had a splendid sonata for four hands, glorious variations and many magnificent songs, among them a brand-new one (sung by Richard Cœur-de-Lion in Ivanhoe) and old ones including Nacht und Träume and Erlkönig. A specially beautiful one, ‘Die Abendröte’ by Lappe [actually Im Abendrot] was sung twice by Vogl, who happened to be in an exceptionally good mood. Then we had a delicious repast, and several toasts were drunk. Suddenly Spaun arrived and said we must drink brotherhood, which much surprised and pleased me. Then we had tossing in a blanket (Enderes and Huber, the latter behaving very clumsily) … At last we took our leave of our kind hosts and went helter-skelter to Bogner’s, where we smoked a few pipes, and in the street Schwind, running and flapping his cloak, gave a striking illusion of flying.’
Amidst the rather juvenile excesses of gymnastic display and laddish games (a tendency to rather juvenile high spirits which increasingly exasperated the composer) some beautiful songs were heard. Romanze des Richard Löwenherz (track 1 of this disc) is here described as ‘brand new’. It could have been composed a few days earlier, or at some time in 1826. It is, in any case, the last of Schubert’s Scott settings. Three other songs, not heard on this occasion, were all definitely composed in this January: these all have texts by Johann Friedlich Rochlitz, and the titles are Zur guten Nacht, Alinde and An die Laute. (These, and the Bauernfeld setting Der Vater mit dem Kind, also composed at this time, are all to be heard on volume 6.) It may have been at the urging of the politically astute publisher Haslinger that Schubert set some of the poetry of Rochlitz, a very influential music critic in Berlin. As if to confirm this premise, these songs took only a few months to reach publication. The month of January ended with a party on Schubert’s thirtieth birthday, a gathering which the composer did not attend but which may have been organized in his honour. Gahy played ‘glorious things’, American cigars were smoked, and there were the inevitable ‘surprising tricks’. Were the latter idiocies of ‘men behaving badly’ sufficient to keep Schubert away from the festivities?
It is much more likely, as often must have been the case in similar circumstances when the composer did not turn up, that he was busy working – a fact that does not seem to have occurred to those of his peers who lived each day as a sequence of jollifications. If Schubert’s sybaritic streak sometimes briefly tempted him into a similar attitude, one cannot believe, taking his enormous output into account, that he succumbed for long. His thirtieth birthday (31 January 1827) finds him on the threshold of the composition of the first twelve songs of Winterreise. Although he had probably not yet moved in at the Schobers, he spent a lot of time at their house where a small library had been created by his friend Franz especially for the composer’s pleasure. It was probably there that Schubert encountered the 1823 issue of the almanac Urania. This contained the first printing of twenty-three of Rückert’s Liebesfrühling poems which were later to fascinate Schumann, among others, as well as sonnets by Platen, a poet whom Schubert had already set twice. But on this occasion it was something else in the almanac which caught his eye: twelve ‘Wanderlieder’ by Wilhelm Müller which constitute the first book of Winterreise.
Somehow or other in this month he also found the time to set two poems by Schober, both betokening a firm re-establishment of a close relationship that seems to have waxed and waned over the years (it was at its lowest ebb when the composer was at his most ill, and Schober was following a phantom career as an actor in Breslau). Both songs refer to the inspiration and strength of male friendship. In Jägers Liebeslied (track 2) the song of a hunter in love with a nameless woman ends with an image of him being embraced in the arms of his best friend. If this seems to prophesy some of the imagery to be found in Housman’s poetry, Schiffers Scheidelied (track 3) seems more like Whitman, once again avant la lettre; it is a vigorously masculine paean to the loyalty and inspirational qualities of ‘Mein Freund’, otherwise depicted as an angel strong enough to bury the departing seaman if he were to be washed up on the shore. The only other piece ascribed to February is Schlachtlied (Klopstock, D912) for double male chorus.
On 2 March four songs were published (a duet and three songs of Mignon) from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister; on the same day Drang in die Ferne (Leitner) appeared on the market, as well as the immortal Stolberg setting Auf dem Wasser zu singen. These three opus numbers, 62, 71 and 72, all bore the Diabelli imprint, the first works by Schubert to appear at this house since the estrangement of publisher and composer in 1823. There is, however, no new work listed in the Deutsch catalogue for March 1827. Indeed, the six months between March and September were exceptionally fallow in terms of productivity. There can be no doubt that the effort involved in the composition of the first twelve Winterreise songs must have been emotionally draining. It was not until the autumn that Schubert felt himself able to begin work once again at his normal pace.
In the meantime the social life of the Schubertians went full steam ahead (only just an anachronism; the first steamboat went up the Danube in 1829). On 4 March there was a gathering at Schober’s house at the invitation of the new lodger, the composer himself. The two Hartmann brothers duly turned up with many other friends including Schwind and Bauernfeld, but Schubert was nowhere to be found. After a long wait, Schwind had to sing a selection of the early songs instead, apparently to enchanting effect. The composer caught up with the gathering at the ‘Castle of Eisenstadt’ inn much later in the evening and seems to have been forgiven because of his, as Fritz von Hartmann put it, ‘amiable simplicity, although he had deceived our hopes by his artist’s negligence’.
March was also the month of Beethoven’s death, which caused an enormous stir in Vienna. The great man died on the 26th and was buried on the 29th. For many weeks it had been known he was mortally ill. Sometime in February he had been given a collection of Schubert songs to read by Anton Schindler, his amanuensis. Beethoven is said to have exclaimed at the number of songs, as well as their length and variety. It would be nice to believe that he really came out with the phrase ‘truly in Schubert there is the divine spark’, but this could well be a Schindler invention along with such phrases ascribed to Beethoven as ‘he [Schubert] will make a great stir in the world’. On 18 March legend has it that Schubert went to visit Beethoven in the company of the two Hüttenbrenner brothers, Anselm and Josef. Sadly, the Hüttenbrenners are another source of embroidered Schubert stories, and the usually reliable Spaun denied that this visit ever took place. We are certain, however, that Schubert was one of thirty-six musicians nominated to carry wax torches at the funeral; the torchbearers were all clad in black with black gloves, with white roses and bunches of lilies tied to their arms with crêpe. Fritz von Hartmann’s diary tells us that Schober, Schubert and Schwind ended the day together at the ‘Castle of Eisenstadt’: ‘We talked of nothing but Beethoven, his works and the well-deserved honours paid to his memory today.’
The composer Hummel and his sixteen-year-old pupil Ferdinand Hiller had come to Vienna at this time specifically to pay their last respects to the dying Beethoven. Hiller, more perspicacious in musical matters than the Hartmanns, left a fascinating account of an important encounter which resulted from a party arranged by Hummel’s friend, the erstwhile singer Katharina von Laczny, dedicatee, in 1825, of the songs Nachtstück and Der zürnenden Diana: ‘After … dinner Schubert sat down at the piano with Vogl at his side – the rest of us settled down comfortably in the large drawing-room, wherever we felt inclined, and then began a unique concert. Song after song ensued – the performers inexhaustibly generous, the audience inexhaustibly receptive. Schubert had but little technique, Vogl had not much of a voice, but they both had such life and feeling, and were so completely absorbed in their performances, that the wonderful compositions could not have been interpreted with greater clarity and, at the same time, with greater vision. You did not notice the piano-playing nor the singing, it was as though the music needed no material sound, as though the melodies, like visions, revealed themselves to spiritualized ears. Of my emotions, of my enthusiasm I dare not speak – but my master, who already had almost half a century of music behind him, was so deeply moved that tears trickled down his cheeks.’
At this point Hummel went to the piano and improvised variations on a song he had just heard, Der blinde Knabe. If the stories of Beethoven’s admiration for Schubert are spurious, Hummel (a composer whose own reputation has happily been reassessed and upgraded in recent years) takes the laurel as the most famous living musician to have acknowledged our composer’s genius in his own lifetime. Schubert was aware of the honour and planned to dedicate his last three piano sonatas to Hummel. (Both composers had died by the time they were published and Diabelli decided instead to dedicate them to Schumann.) The morning after this event, Hiller called on Schubert and was astounded by how wrapped up he was in composition. Answering enquiries concerning his way of working, the composer said: ‘I write for several hours each morning. When one piece is finished, I begin another.’
This story accords ill with the Deutsch catalogue’s account of the works composed in this period. Like March, the months of April and May were almost entirely devoid of any new work. The few exceptions were a slight piano piece written for his friend Walcher (Allegretto in C minor, D915) and two choral works: Nachtgesang im Walde, D913, for male chorus and four horns, and Frühlingslied, D914, for unaccompanied men’s chorus with a text by Aaron Pollak. It is likely that the arrangement of Frühlingslied for solo voice and piano (track 4) also dates from this time. As if to compensate for this sluggish activity there were many Schubert performances: partsongs on 6 April, a vocal quartet on the 12th, the first public performance of the Octet on the 16th, and the first performance of the above-mentioned Nachtgesang im Walde on the 22nd. This is quite apart from performances of solo songs, and four Schubertiads, the most substantial of which took place at Spaun’s on 21 April. This seems to have been a party for a large number of people; as usual, the guests moved on to the coffee house (Bogner’s this time) and the Hartmanns, together with Schober, Schwind and quite a few others, talked until 1 o’clock in the morning. In a moment of rare introspection, Franz von Hartmann felt that this rowdy gathering sadly effaced the ‘glorious impression’ of that evening’s Schubertiad.
In May there were further song publications: Die Allmacht and Das Heimweh (both to poems of Pyrker) were issued as Op 79; the Seidl songs Der Wanderer an den Mond, Das Zugenglöcklein and Im Freien were published as Op 80 and dedicated to the manuscript-collector and sometime host of Schubertiads, Josef Witteczek; songs issued formerly as supplements to the Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur und Mode were reissued as Op 68 (Der Wachtelschlag) and Op 73 (Die Rose). The latter song-publication contains the first printed list of Schubert’s works in order of opus number – an unmistakable sign that a small Schubert ‘industry’ was taking wing.
In the wake of the first part of Winterreise the composer had fallen silent for as long as at any time in his adult life. It was only in June that the creative fires seem to have been gradually rekindled, and even then they were not burning at full force. Schubert, probably accompanied by Schober, went to stay in the village of Dornbach to the west of Vienna, in Hernals (today the city’s 17th district or Bezirk). Their hostelry was called ‘Zur Kaiserin Elisabeth’ and it was surrounded by the beauties of the Wiener Wald. It was here that Das Lied im Grünen was composed, the only song that we know for certain was written in that month. (It is possible that the Italian songs for Lablache were also written in Dornbach; they also seem to be imbued with the sunlight and happiness of this country interlude.) Much more substantial was a new operatic project, Der Graf von Gleichen, with Eduard von Bauernfeld as collaborator. (Bauernfeld quotes Goethe’s poem Wonne der Wehmut in the course of the story which Schubert accordingly sets to the music for his Wonne der Wehmut from 1815.) This libretto had not received the censor’s approval, but Schubert decided to set it anyway. He sketched the music for twenty-one scenes of the two-act opera, but it remained incomplete. The name Suleika, so familiar from the Goethe songs of the West-Östlicher Divan, reappears as a character in this work. According to Lachner, Schubert spoke of the work with enthusiasm on his death-bed, saying that he wished to finish it. Published in facsimile form in 1988, it is clear that apart from a few numbers, most of the sketches are barely legible; even such an enthusiast for the Schubert operas as Elizabeth McKay counts it ‘irretrievable as a stage work’. The wonderful Impromptus for piano, which were to be published as Op 90 in December 1827, were also probably sketched in Dornbach. In the meantime, publication of Schubert’s works continued: as a supplement to the Wiener Zeitschrift of 23 June there appeared in print for the first time Wandrers Nachtlied (‘Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’) together with the Schober setting Trost im Liede.
The only musical work for the month of July 1827 was Ständchen for alto voice and chorus. The story behind the composition of this piece is connected with Luise Gosmar, a charming young singing pupil of Anna Fröhlich. So small was the circle of mutual acquaintances in this gathering of friends that Gosmar was introduced to Fritz von Hartmann, and danced with him while speaking of her enthusiasm for Schubert’s music. Anna Fröhlich, who taught a number of pupils at the Vienna Conservatoire, knew that Luise soon had a birthday and prevailed on the poet Grillparzer (who was conveniently in love with Anna’s sister) to write a poem for her. She then asked Schubert to set it to music as a surprise for Luise. Schubert duly obliged, but by mistake wrote a work featuring a male, rather than female, chorus. Told of his mistake he immediately rewrote the work for the required forces, but the first version, with the contrasting textures of female solo and male chorus, is more effective than the second. (Luise Gosmar, incidentally, later married Leopold Sonnleithner who had played such an important part in an earlier stage of Schubert’s life by reorganizing his finances and attempting to put the composer’s dealings with the publishers on a more solid footing.)
A number of commentators believe that Schubert saw the death of Beethoven as initiating a challenging new phase in his own life. He might even have known the famous phrase about the metaphorical mantle, once belonging to Mozart, which Beethoven had supposedly received from the hands of Haydn. If there was such a mantle, who was now better suited to wear it than Schubert? Although his operatic ambitions were not quite at an end (as is proved by his interest in Der Graf von Gleichen), the composer seems to have decided to concentrate on new and ‘serious’ explorations – thus worthy of the Beethoven tradition – in the field of piano and chamber music. We have already mentioned the Opus 90 Impromptus, a set of pieces which includes the most famous of Schubert’s shorter works for the piano – the Impromptu in G flat major. To these should be added the Op 142 Impromptus (D935), including the famous theme and variations on a theme from Rosamunde, written in December 1827. From the same month comes the Fantasie in C für Violine und Klavier, D934, which is particularly demanding and virtuosic for both instruments. The E flat major Piano Trio, Op 100 (D929), was begun in November 1827, and it remains a bone of contention whether the other celebrated Piano Trio in B flat (Op 99, D898) was written before or after the E flat work. It was presumably a matter of chance whether Schubert bothered to date his works (he was more assiduous in this respect as a much younger man) but each case in which he failed to do so has spawned endless contention and speculation.
This is, however, to jump ahead to the end of the year. The earlier part of the summer was spent in Vienna and there was the usual round of parties, faithfully described by the Hartmanns. It was at a Grinzing Heurige (a wine-garden with the newly harvested wine on tap) in August that Hoffmann von Fallersleben had come across Schubert ‘with his girl’ (most likely a casual acquaintance) and had been disappointed in how ordinary the composer seemed. On 3 September Schubert set off for Graz (or ‘Gratz’ as it was still known at that time) in Styria. This journey had been planned for some time through the good offices of Schubert’s friend Johann Baptist Jenger. (Jenger’s portrait is on the left on the front of this CD; the Graz-born composer Anselm Hüttenbrenner is in the middle of the picture, next to Schubert.) Jenger was a military civil servant and pianist, and he was one of the movers and shakers of Austrian musical life. He worked in Vienna but was a native of Graz and had long hoped to attract Schubert to his city (then little more than a town, but with a strong cultural tradition) and to introduce him to the intelligent and sympathetic Marie Pachler and her family. Jenger played a leading part in the activities of the Musikverein in Steiermark, both as an administrator and accompanist in various concerts (he was later to play for Baron von Schönstein, the gifted amateur baritone who introduced Die schöne Müllerin to the world). It was probably Jenger, au courant with the latest developments of musical life in Vienna, who recommended that Schubert be appointed an honorary member of the Styrian society as early as 1823. In 1825 he got to know the composer personally (possibly through Anselm Hüttenbrenner, also a native of Graz), and a warm friendship developed between them.
We read of plans for this Graz journey as early as 1826, but Schubert had no money in that year to travel away on holiday. He was invited again in 1828, but once more financial difficulties intervened. But in early September 1827 all the conditions were suitable. He set off in Jenger’s company for the twenty-four-hour journey by express coach. He was in Graz for little more than two weeks, but it was a holiday which made an indelible impression on him, as well as on the new friends he made in that beautiful part of Austria. He was treated and feted as an honoured guest. His host, Karl Pachler, was a barrister with a brewing business; his hostess Marie Pachler was a distinguished pianist whose playing, a decade before, had impressed Beethoven: ‘I have not yet found anyone who performed my compositions as well as you do’, the great man wrote; ‘you are the true fosterer of my spiritual children.’ Schubert was also obviously impressed by Marie’s talents, and not only in terms of music. It was rare that he followed the suggestions of other people regarding the poetry which he set to music, but as we will see, her influence is to be felt in the composition of three songs with texts by Herder (as a translator), Karoline von Klenke and, above all, Karl von Leitner.
On the first full day of his arrival Schubert was taken to hear Meyerbeer’s Il crociato in Egitto in a German version by his old colleague and fellow-creator of Fierabras, Josef Kupelwieser. He was apparently singularly unimpressed by Meyerbeer’s music. After the first act he apparently said to Hüttenbrenner: ‘Look here, I can’t stand any more of this; let’s go outside!’ Apart from this, the whole stay was a huge success with almost constant music-making, sometimes formal (as with the benefit concert by the Styrian Music Society given in Schubert’s honour) or in a number of Schubertiads where the composer sang his songs to his own accompaniment and played pianoforte duets with Jenger. Such evening gatherings were contrasted with picnics in the early autumn sunshine, and visits to such beautiful spots as the castle of Wildbach where the Pachlers, Jenger, Anselm Hüttenbrenner and Schubert went for three days. During the stay in Graz there was a serious attempt to interest the Intendant of the opera there in mounting a production of Alfonso und Estrella; a score was sent to Graz (where it remained, gathering dust for many years) and the correspondence about this dragged on for some time, but to no ultimate avail. Rather more successful were the works that Schubert wrote in this two-week period at the suggestion of Marie Pachler. These were a setting of Herder’s translation of an old Scottish ballad (Eine altschottische Ballade) which Loewe had set as Edward; indeed, it seems that a printed copy of this song was the source of the words when Schubert decided to set them in a very different, altogether simpler, way. The other song was Heimliches Lieben (track 12), the only poem by Karoline von Klenke that Schubert set to music. At the time he almost certainly thought that this text was by Karl von Leitner.
Jenger and Schubert left Graz on 20 September and had an enjoyable extension to their holiday by making their return journey to Vienna last four days, and by taking a different route home from that of their outward journey. They visited Fürstenfeld on the Austro-Hungarian border before going on to Hartberg and Schloss Schleinz, in each case staying with friends of the well-connected Jenger. There was even time for a bit of solid exercise; the pair managed to climb to the summit of the Eselberg although Schubert was far from being in a fit condition for such exertion.
While he was away in Graz the firm of Haslinger had brought out the three Italian songs which make up Op 83: two settings of Metastasio, and one of an unknown author. These three pieces – L’incanto degli occhi (track 5), Il traditor deluso (track 6) and Il modo di prender moglie (track 7) must have been composed earlier in the year. They show all the mastery of Schubert at his wittiest; he is able to poke gentle fun at the Italian style at the same time as according it sufficient respect to write music of ravishing grace and wit. The composer must have been delighted to see the fresh copies of the new opus number on his return to Vienna. But there was more serious work afoot; we know that Schubert was already working on a second instalment of Winterreise songs in Graz because he left a sketch of Die Nebensonnen there. It seems that he had been considering how to further his work on the song-cycle since as early as August. This is despite the fact that the twelve songs which make up the remainder of the cycle were dated October 1827 in the fair copy. We do not know exactly when Schubert discovered that he had only set half of Müller’s complete cycle to music in February 1827. The Urania poems had seemed to be complete in their own right, and he had confidently written ‘fine’ at the end of the twelfth song. And then, probably some time in the summer, he found twelve more in another source, the second volume of Müller’s Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten (1824). How Schubert dealt with this discovery, and expanded his first twelve songs into the twenty-four-song masterpiece we know today, is discussed in detail in the notes accompanying volume 30.
Side by side with these great songs there was another lieder project. Schubert had brought back a volume of poetry from Graz – the Gedichte of the young Karl von Leitner, published in 1825. These poems came with the recommendation of Marie Pachler, Leitner’s fellow Styrian patriot. Schubert was not unaware of Leitner, having already composed Drang in die Ferne early in 1823; since then it had been published as a supplement in the Wiener Zeitschrift, and as Op 71 in March 1827. The composer now turned his attention to this poet in a more concentrated way. There are seven Leitner songs on this disc, all written some time between October 1827 and January 1828. Of these, the most famous are Die Sterne (track 13) and Der Kreuzzug (track 15). Less celebrated, but still published in the composer’s lifetime is Das Weinen (track 11). Der Wallensteiner Lanzknecht beim Trunk (track 14) appeared as part of the Diabelli-published Nachlass. There are also three songs which survived as incomplete fragments and which have been arranged for concert performance by the late Reinhard Van Hoorickx. These are Wolke und Quelle (track 8), Fröhliches Scheiden (track 9) and Sie in jedem Liede (track 10). There are further Leitner settings dating from this period which are to be found elsewhere in The Hyperion Schubert Edition: Vor meiner Wiege, Des Fischers Liebesglück, and Der Winterabend, all three exceptionally beautiful songs.
Thus when Schubert returned from Graz he already had a number of tasks in mind: an urgent return to Müller, and a return to Leitner prompted by Pachler pressure (the latter task was less urgent, and we know that at least some of the Leitner songs were composed in November, and Die Sterne even in January of the next year). He had also promised to write a piano duet for Marie’s young son, Faust, for him to play on his father’s name-day, 4 November. This Kindermarsch, D929, an early piece of children’s music in which Schubert did not feel he had distinguished himself, was sent off to Graz. It is a charming trifle, deliberately fashioned to lie under a child’s hands, which contrasts mightily with the world of Winterreise. But that the composer was already in the mood for those songs of despair and alienation is shown by the tone of the ‘bread and butter’ letter sent with (for Schubert) surprising promptness to Marie Pachler: ‘Already I find that I was too happy in Graz, and that I cannot yet get accustomed to Vienna. Admittedly, it is quite big, but then it is devoid of cordiality, openness, genuine thought, meaningful words, and especially of sensible behaviour. There is so much confused chatter that one hardly knows whether one is being clever or stupid, and inward calm is seldom or never achieved … at Graz I soon recognized an artless and sincere way of being together … above all, I shall never forget the kindly shelter where, with its dear hostess and the sturdy ‘Pachleros’ as well as little Faust, I spent the happiest days I have had for a long time.’
In Schubert’s distaste for Vienna there is something that reminds us of the winter-traveller’s chip on the shoulder and scorn for town life, particularly as voiced in Im Dorfe; in this letter the composer seems to cast himself as an outsider relieved to find shelter, if not in a charcoal-burner’s hut then in a small city far away from the unfriendly Viennese hurly-burly. Putting two and two together we can also deduce that Schubert had not been altogether healthy in Graz; in a later letter to Frau Pachler enclosing the Kindermarsch (12 October) is the ominous line ‘my usual headaches are already assailing me again’ – a sign that she might have been already aware of his chronic complaint. Perhaps they had had a heart-to-heart about it during the holiday. Three days later in a letter to Nanette von Hönig the composer excused himself from a social engagement in Vienna by saying that he was ill, and that his particular illness rendered him quite unfit for any society. These communications are a clear indication that as far as Schubert’s illness was concerned, the period of remission, which had made the first half of 1827 seem relaxed and even lighthearted, was now over.
The composition of Winterreise Part II, and the famous story of how Schubert played the songs to his friends to their general incomprehension and consternation, went hand in hand with this general down-turn in the composer’s health. As Joseph von Spaun recalled many years later in his memoirs: ‘We who were near and dear to him knew how much the creatures of his mind took out of him, and in what anguish they were born. No one who ever saw him at his morning’s work, glowing, and with his eyes aflame, yes, and positively with a changed speech … will ever forget it … I hold it beyond question that the excitement in which he composed his finest songs, in particular the Winterreise, brought about his untimely death.’
This is a rather romanticized view written many years after the event, and we can easily detect a brave attempt on the part of a discreet friend to explain away the composer’s health problems with reports of overwork. But it makes the point that both separate parts of Winterreise drained the composer for some months after their composition, and this exhaustion was something separate from his ongoing problem with syphilis. Certainly it seems that no lieder ever cost him as much in the writing of them, and we have it from the reliable Spaun that he valued these songs more than any others. In the middle of darkness there is also a certain amount of light. Parties of various kinds, both with and without music, continued apace. It was no doubt for one of these, in November, that Schober’s comic trio Der Hochzeitsbraten (track 16) was written. In this music we discern more clearly than anywhere else the improvised party atmosphere of the Schubertians, where each home-made literary reference is an in-joke that we can never hope entirely to unravel. On 12 December we note that Schubert’s Op 88 was published under the imprint of Thaddaeus Weigl: this included Abendlied für die Entfernte, Thekla, Um Mitternacht and the immortal An die Musik to a poem by Schober. We have already mentioned the two great piano trios, the E flat written in November 1827, and the B flat probably earlier, as well as the two sets of Impromptus which count among the jewels of the year. Apart from these, the Deutsch catalogue and the documentary biography are empty of any important new works and events for the rest of 1827.
The postlude to this recital is a cantata for soloists, chorus and piano-duet accompaniment to celebrate the recovery of Irene Kiesewetter, a girl who has already featured in this series connected with the background to the vocal quartet Der Tanz. This was obviously performed at a party on the evening of 26 December. The blaze of C major rejoicing which concludes that work seems to augur well for the new year. But Time, that old coachman, is whipping the horses; the lie of the land, a dangerous downward slope, accelerates the speed at which the carriage containing Schubert, and all our hopes for his future, hurtles towards an unknown destination. Perhaps the Schubertians are laughing too loudly at the pranks of Der Hochzeitsbraten to hear the rattling spin of the wheels grinding against the gravel. Almost exactly a year later all revelling will cease. Then we will hear only funeral music and requiems for a friend whom everyone thought too down-to-earth to slip away, someone often taken for granted, and suddenly forever lost.
Graham Johnson © 2000