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Drei Gesänge, D902

first published by Haslinger in September 1827 as Op 83

These three songs are associated with the name of the celebrated bass, Luigi Lablache (1794-1858). Lablache was at his height as a performer when Edward Holmes visited Vienna in 1827 and recorded his impressions (none of which include Schubert) in A Ramble among the Musicians of Germany. Holmes saw the bass as Uberto in Paer’s Agnese: ‘Lablache as the distracted father astonished me by the feeling of his singing, and the truth of his acting, and showed a wonderful change from the prodigious folly and bombast of his demeanour and singing as an Indian cacique’. Holmes also noted that although the singer was also a master of ‘the arts of grimace and face-making’ with ‘elaborate contortions of body and dexterous pirouettes’, he never once forgot the seriousness of his part. This blending of tragedy and comedy, as we note in the commentary for Il traditor deluso, seems to have been typical of the period in Italian opera. A member of Domenico Barbaja’s Italian company in Vienna since 1824, Lablache was, in a sense, a ‘member of the opposition’ – Schubert’s own hopes for a career as an opera composer had been dashed when Barbaja took over the management of the Kärntnertor Theatre. But as Josef von Spaun pointed out in his Notes on my association with Franz Schubert (1858), the composer was not one to bear a grudge:

A splendid characteristic of Schubert’s was his interest and pleasure in all the successful creations of other people. He did not know what it meant to be envious and he by no means overrated himself … Although absolutely German in tendency, he by no means agreed with the abuse of Italian music, and especially of Rossini’s operas, which was usual at that time. The Barbiere di Sevilla he found delightful and he was enchanted by the third act of Otello; in the operas given at that time … Lablache’s singing captivated him. The latter took a great liking to Schubert, and once when the four-part song, Der Gondelfahrer, was sung at a party he liked it so much that he asked for it to be repeated and then sang the second bass part himself.

Lablache probably met Schubert at the home of Raphael Kiesewetter. These three songs (Schubert’s last in Italian) were certainly dedicated to Lablache, but it is also likely that they were written especially for him. It is also possible that he sang them some time before they appeared in print as Op 83, and that he played some part in the correction of the Italian accentuation before the work went to the printer. The songs were published simultaneously with a German text; this is still to be found in the Peters Edition where the songs are listed in Volume 6 under their German titles Die Macht der Augen, Der getäuschte Verräther, and Die Art ein Weib zu nehmen. The translator’s name is not known; Walter Dürr points out that it is unlikely to have been Schubert’s erstwhile collaborator Craigher de Jachelutta; Craigher was a native Italian speaker and would almost certainly have corrected the mistakes in Schubert’s Italian prosody before providing the German translation. In fact the corrections were made only after the translation was added.

Opus 83 as a whole is typical of the publications put out by Haslinger who was ever aware of musical politics and market forces. He must have found these pieces ideal for his purposes: the dedicatee was a celebrity, songs in the Italian language were all the rage, and the style of the music was accessible. At least one critic, G W Fink of the Leipzig Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, agreed. In an enthusiastic notice (30 January 1828) he refers to Schubert as ‘the generally lauded and favoured composer’ and that all three songs are ‘well suited to social entertainments’. He predicts that ‘Signor Luigi Lablache, to whom these three numbers are dedicated, is sure to make a furore with them’. The composer Heinrich Marschner, on the threshold of his own success as an opera composer, was less impressed. Writing in the Berlin Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung (19 March 1828) he criticised the songs for being neither fish nor fowl – not sufficiently colourful and vital enough to be truly Italian, not expressive enough to be real German Lieder. ‘The flow of his melodies is too intermittent, too heavy-handed; it is no glowing lava stream but only a somewhat cold, murmuring northern brooklet … Herr Schubert has thus not yet succeeded with these songs in bringing about an alliance, however desirable, between German and Italian music.’ Of course Schubert had no such grandiose aim, and the listener of today is able to delight in the mixture of styles that is the inevitable result of such a work. We can only agree with Capell: ‘Schubert is here working outside his natural style, but he does it uncommonly well’.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 36 - Juliane Banse, Lynne Dawson, Michael Schade & Gerald Finley
CDJ33036Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


No 1: L'incanto degli occhi  Da voi, cari lumi
author of text

Track 5 on CDJ33036 [2'48] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 1 on CDS44201/40 CD34 [2'48] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
No 2: Il traditor deluso  Aime, io tremo! – Ah l’aria d’intorno lampeggia, sfavilla
author of text

Track 6 on CDJ33036 [3'29] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 2 on CDS44201/40 CD34 [3'29] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
No 3: Il modo di prender moglie  Or sù! non ci pensiamo
author of text
originally attributed to Metastasio

Track 7 on CDJ33036 [4'16] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 3 on CDS44201/40 CD34 [4'16] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

Track-specific metadata for CDS44201/40 disc 34 track 1

L'incanto degli occhi
Recording date
1 January 1999
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 36 - Juliane Banse, Lynne Dawson, Michael Schade & Gerald Finley (CDJ33036)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: July 2000
    Deletion date: December 2018
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 34 Track 1
    Release date: October 2005
    Deletion date: July 2021
    Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
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