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Wolke und Quelle, D896b

First line:
Auf meinen heimischen Bergen
Autumn 1827 – early 1828; first published in Heuberger’s Franz Schubert (1920) and then in volume 14b of the Neue Schubert Ausgabe
author of text

The group of Leitner settings on this disc begins with a group of three songs sketched sometime between the autumn of 1827 and January of the following year. Many a reader of John Reed’s Schubert Song Companion has been tantalised to see the entries for these three unknown lieder, the more interesting for being the last of the composer’s songs to remain incomplete fragments, and all more or less contemporary with the songs for the second half of Winterreise. Schubert wrote down all three on the same sheet of manuscript paper; it seems clear that they were conceived at the same time and were probably the work of a single day. As was the composer’s usual practice, the vocal lines were sketched first but, although he allowed space for an accompaniment, the songs were abandoned before they were taken to the next stage of development. We are thus in possession of a great deal of genuine Schubertian melody in the treble clef with scarcely an indication of harmony and little idea of what pianistic motifs might have been used to fashion the accompaniments. Just occasionally Schubert jots down a few notes in the empty piano staves to remind himself of what had occurred to him in this regard.

The authenticity of two of the poems is also something of a problem. Fröhliches Scheiden, has Leitner’s lyrics (with title but no acknowledgement of author) written out by Schubert; the others have no words written under the notes. Reinhard Van Hoorickx came up with the idea that the remaining two songs were also Leitner settings (this is surely highly likely), and having examined the Leitner poems in Schubert’s possession at the time (the Gedichte published in 1825) he proposed that the missing texts were Wolke und Quelle and Sie in jedem Liede. Hoorickx published a private edition of these songs with his suggested textual underlay, as well as an accompaniment which is typical of his work in this field: he does not pretend to be a skilled composer, but his completions are simple enough to allow us to hear Schubert’s melodies with a harmonic and pianistic background that does its best not to take attention away from what is genuine in the setting. Of course Hoorickx always incorporates the few genuine notes in the accompaniment that Schubert had happened to write in a sort of musical shorthand on the piano staves.

The editors of the Neue Schubert Ausgabe rather grudgingly concede that Wolke und Quelle is, in all probability, the correct poem for the music, but are less convinced by Sie in jedem Liede. These reservations are based on the fact that at certain points the poem has been made to fit the music with some difficulty. In the absence of any counter-suggestions, however, the Leitner titles suggested by Hoorickx have been adopted by the second edition of the Deutsch catalogue. The problems of fitting the words exactly into the musical sketch may well have been ironed out by the composer himself if he had done any further work on the songs.

The gentle rocking gait of Wolke und Quelle brings another quasi-waltz song in 9/8 to mind, also with a Leitner text – Drang in die Ferne. Of course the mood suggested by the text has been governed in this instance by Hoorickx’s piano part (he has opted for something much less impassioned, and dreamier, than Drang in die Ferne) but the link with a possible Leitner style is obvious. What is also clear is that Schubert is writing with a certain singer in mind – almost certainly a tenor. Nowhere else in the songs of the late period is the voice line placed so high – except of course in the famous choral piece for tenor and men’s chorus, Nachthelle. That was one of the great works of 1826 performed at the beginning of 1827 at a Musikverein concert with Ludwig Titze as the lead tenor. The solo part was written ‘für … verdammt hohen Tenor’ – ‘for a damnably high tenor’ (Schubert’s friend Ferdinand Walcher described it thus in a letter to the composer on 25 January 1827). It may have been that Titze had asked Schubert to write him some new songs, and that these sketches show an attempt to do so: they are scattered with high notes, and the tessitura hovers around high Gs and As much more frequently than is normal in Schubert’s lieder. In both Fröhliches Scheiden and Sie in jedem Liede there are a number of high B flats (authentic), and the latter song boasts a high C towards the end which is a Hoorickx suggestion for a passing-note.

It is interesting to speculate on the relationship between the composer and this particular tenor. Titze took part in many first performances of both vocal quartets and solo songs and was often accompanied by Schubert himself. And yet when it was proposed at Schubert’s death that the composer should have a requiem sung in his honour, the tenor was the only person against the idea, putting forth the opinion that the composer was ‘only a song-writer’ and not important enough to merit such an honour. From someone who had experienced the full range of Schubert’s genius at close quarters this suggests either someone stupid (displaying the obtuseness legendarily ascribed to tenors) or someone with a grudge. It is interesting that the only work dedicated to Titze was the Offertorium in C, D136. Perhaps the composer and singer had a disagreement some time in the autumn of 1827, or perhaps the composer abandoned these three songs because he had little enthusiasm for writing music styled to show off the strong points of a particular voice. (This failure to deliver a promised group could easily have engendered Titze’s disappointment and anger.) In any case one has the impression that this singer was more of a technician with an fine instrument than an interesting artist; in contemporary accounts we read of the special feeling and understanding of Vogl or Schönstein, but Titze’s singing was always praised more for his timbre and his command of the upper tessitura than for his artistry.

Looking at the mellifluous shape of the vocal line (as printed in the Neue Schubert Ausgabe with a great deal of empty space for the accompaniment) one regrets more than ever that Schubert did not complete the task. Here surely is an example of where the character of the accompaniment could have made all the difference in the world. Hoorickx’s realisation is gentle and unpretentious; he chooses to mark the piece ‘Ruhig’ where some parts of the poem – ‘Es drängte mich fort in die Fremde’ for example – might have suggested a more urgent interpretation. As a result there is a sentimental note to the music which suggests the salon more than usual. It is true that this tone is also struck in Heimliches Lieben, written at the same time, but music which seems to be cosily Biedermeier in character is a Schubertian rarity. One could also argue that this style was another of Schubert’s occasional commercial ploys – an attempt to reach a wider market. What is interesting however is that the airy idea of floating clouds, and the flowing imagery of the stream, are both beautifully captured in the vocal line, and that if the composer was looking for a text suitable for a high voice this poem was eminently suited for the purpose by the ‘head in the clouds’ mood of its subject matter.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000


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