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Das Mädchen, D652

First line:
Wie so innig, möcht’ ich sagen
February 1819; first published in 1842 as No 1 of volume 40 of the Nachlass
author of text

The inclusion of these forlorn lines in Schlegel's cycle seems puzzling at first, for this is the only poem from Abendröte which refers to romantic love. The wanderer in the last song does not include such a luxury in his scheme of things, and the boy in the one before that is still at the stage of his life where he would scorn it. The characters in the cycle have been given words which define their natures. Thus the birds of Abendröte flitter and twitter like all birds, all roses are subject to the weather, and Der Schmetterling, like all butterflies, flies from flower to flower. Even if all boys do not wish to be birds, Der Knabe is fairly representative of a young tearaway with many an over-ambitious project in his head, full of energy and immature. So it would seem that Das Mädchen is also meant to be generically representative of all maidens, her plaint a familiar one since time immemorial. The contrast between this 'exquisite valentine' (as Capell calls it) and the song about the boy could not be more different. Schlegel knows that girls mature much more quickly and he has painted a portrait of deep sensibility in contrast to the hobbledehoy of Der Knabe. She is like a flower that has been briefly visited by the promiscuous butterfly then abandoned, a rose who has given herself too early to the sun's rays. Schlegel seems to be saying that all girls feel love more deeply than boys, that this is in the natural order of things. She is aware that her lover's feelings are not similarly 'innig', that he is 'only after one thing' perhaps; her feelings are somehow fundamentally different from his, but she has neither the words, nor the music, to explain her melancholy. Perhaps the poet is attempting to define here the difference between men and women. Despite all his amorous protestations, she feels cheated by his lack of true reciprocation. As in Der Knabe (the boy who longs to fly with the birds), Schlegel has given a human being the one thing denied to the natural world: the ability to mourn for what might have been, a longing for what she does not have. To reinforce the poet's stereotypes it only needs a wise old woman (as in Wolf's Rat einer Alten) to enter Schlegel's world to tell the maiden that all men are unreliable, and what would you expect from a man anyhow?

Ever since Gretchen am Spinnrade Schubert's ability to empathise with women, to depict the female condition, has been a source of wonder and delight. Unlike some other great composers he does not patronise women; time after time he invests their music, be it for Mignon or Ellen, Suleika or Delphine, with the greatest sense of human reality - his music for women is seldom placed within the inverted commas of staged femininity. Nevertheless Schubert is a nineteenth-century composer, and his women are sometimes charmingly delicate. In the short-breathed phrases of this music, its descending sequences seeming to wilt like a flower on a stem, we sense the maiden's appearance, slight of stature and build, exquisite of feature. The alternation of triplet semiquavers and quaver duplets gives a rather shy feel to the music. As she searches for an explanation to her woes (she is somewhat surprised that she is giving voice to them at all) the music carefully descends the stave in ladylike steps. The change to the tonic minor at 'Um zu lindern meine Klagen' comes in on tiptoe and is extremely reticent; the music only momentarily darkens with a change of colour, like thoughts troubled by a passing cloud of doubt.

The girl's inability to express exactly what disturbs her is perfectly caught by the music for 'Will ich's sagen, so entschwebt es' where the two phrases are set in opposition, the first aspiring in its upward inflection, the second evaporating before our ears as the music falls away. The middle section suddenly finds its musical tongue as it were. An outbreak of passionate chromaticism lets us hear the girl absorbed in her dreams of being musical; Schubert has here imagined her stronger and more eloquent, and for seven bars he has lent her an ability to give voice to her passionate nature. The courtship games played by man and maid are swept aside by a rising tide of liberated feeling as she finds the means to tell him the truth. This section is crowned by the triumphant forte setting of 'in jenen Tönen lebt es', but after this there is nowhere else to go, and the phrase resonates in the void of unfulfilled hopes. We return to the reality of the tonic via an interlude which consists of two bars of the dotted rhythm figure which has accompanied the maiden's plaint. (On its own it sounds like a skipped heartbeat, or a tiny shudder of apprehension.) Two further bars are taken up by a broad cadence in dotted crotchets, eloquent in its length and simplicity (cf. a similar cadence before the last strophe of Der Schiffer D694, as dreams cede to reality). Mention of the nightingale in the final section reminds us that another 3/8 setting, Claudius's An die Nachtigall, shares certain musical similarities with Das Mädchen: both songs are single-paged prayers, tiny and intimate, touching in their modesty, bejewelled by Schubert's ability to give to the weak an unexpectedly powerful musical voice.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996


Schubert: The Complete Songs
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Track 16 on CDJ33027 [2'35] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 16 on CDS44201/40 CD21 [2'35] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Track 13 on CDJ33034 [2'20] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40

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