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Track(s) taken from CDJ33002

Am Bach im Frühling, D361

First line:
Du brachst sie nun, die kalte Rinde
published in 1829
author of text

Stephen Varcoe (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: October 1987
Seldon Hall, Haberdashers' Aske's School, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: December 1988
Total duration: 4 minutes 15 seconds


'A delightful collection of songs inspired by water' (The Guardian)

'Listen and marvel' (Fanfare, USA)

'How can a lover of Schubert songs do without this release?' (Stereophile)
This aria stems from the purest Schubertian inspiration, as natural and inevitable as the flowing of water and the blossoming of wild flowers beside the brook. This is all the more remarkable because the dilettante Schober's verses lack the originality and deep feeling of Mayrhofer's and veer dangerously towards sentimentality. The song's beautiful melody and seasonal radiance are initially in the major key, but like that other great spring song Im Frühling the smile in the music is heard through a gentle veil of tears—the vernal glories of nature only serve to emphasise the lover's pain. It is no doubt for this reason that Schubert conceived this 'blue' song for the bass voice. If it were transposed upwards it would be full of brighter sounds, but the low tessitura plays a large part in tugging at the heartstrings. A voice singing in this range has the quality of autumn in springtime, as if chastened by experience and suffering. A high vocal line energises a song, but here the mood is one of the deepest introspection and contemplation. How different this is from Auf dem Flusse in Winterreise where the stream's icy covering has not yet yielded to spring sunshine and the lover has not come to terms with his grief. The conventional triplet accompaniment for an italianate aria here also serves to suggest water, until at the phrase 'der Erde allgemeine Blute' words and music flower together—as if to create a herb to heal the lover's wounds. A measured recitative ends with arpeggiated chords in which the pianist's hands ripple through undergrowth in search of the solitary blue flower. This leads to a da capo in which it is up to the performers to demonstrate that in a song like this there is no such thing as mere repetition. In the slow movements of the late piano sonatas or the String Quintet the disquiet of the middle section lingers into the recapitulation; here only a change of vocal colour can suggest deepened awareness and introspection.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1988

Other albums featuring this work

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition
HYP200Super-budget price sampler — Deleted
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