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Track(s) taken from CDD22010

An mein Klavier, D342

First line:
Sanftes Klavier
c1816; first published in 1885
author of text

The Songmakers' Almanac, Anthony Rolfe Johnson (tenor), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: November 1983
St Barnabas's Church, North Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Martin Compton
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: March 1997
Total duration: 3 minutes 15 seconds

Cover artwork: Party Games of the Schubertians (Gesellschaftspeilungen der Schubertianer) by Leopold Kupelwieser

Other recordings available for download

Lucia Popp (soprano), Graham Johnson (piano)


'Impossible to imagine anyone not deriving enormous pleasure from this collection' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Reviewers have long since run out of adjectives to describe Graham Johnson's superb complete Schubert song series for Hyerion. Now, for the Schubert centenary year, comes a re-release of a Schubertide which while not part of the series is certainly in the same spirit. "Back catalogue" at Hyperion means caskets of jewels rather than dusty shelves. There are so many matchless performances on this set that you could operate the player blindfold and pick a winner every time. All conjure up memories of superb evenings in the concert hall where this group could justifiably claim to have set a new standard for the presentation of song' (The Singer)
It is not certain exactly when in 1816 this song was composed. This poem's original title is Serafina an ihr Klavier, but Schubert left out the third and fifth verses of the poem in order to remove Serafina from the song, as well as any reference to Schubart's infatuation with her. The piece is in fact a (rather more successful) companion piece to the Schiller setting Laura am Klavier. The song has always enjoyed a popularity because audiences have long valued the supposed autobiographical link between the song and the composer's own piano. In actual fact, because Schubart was a man of the eighteenth century, it is probable that the keyboard with which he was most familiar was the harpsichord. It has been suggested, however, that because the opening words are 'Sanftes Klavier', the poet is describing the soft and gentle sound of that most intimate of instruments, the clavichord. Aware that the poem is a period piece, Schubert made a song of matchless simplicity with an accompaniment contained within a short clavichord-like keyboard compass. The song is in the key of A major; John Reed states that this tonality 'unlocks the essential Schubert' and, on the evidence of this alone, this seems to be true. The use of the composer's favourite dactylic rhythm confers a special magic on this music; the repetition of the motif (all on one note) of a crotchet and two quavers, in the manner of a celestial dance, seems appropriate for music of the spheres.

There are three other settings of Schubart, including the famous Die Forelle. Although these poems little reflect the poet's revolutionary political leanings, members of the Schubert circle would have been aware of Schubart's unjust treatment by Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg (who was also the young Schiller's tormentor) and the fact that he had languished in prison for ten years for supposed sedition. They would have regarded Schubart as something of a hero from the past, and they would have been touched by the famous prisoner's faith in the healing power of music. Schubert almost certainly knew that Schubart was also a composer of note and that his numerous song settings had enjoyed a considerable vogue in their time.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993

Other albums featuring this work

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 17 - Lucia Popp
CDJ33017Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
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