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Rien de la nature, D Anhang IIa

from Echo et Narcisse
March 1816; aria from Echo et Narcisse by Christoph Willibald, Ritter von Gluck (1714–1787) arranged for voice and piano; accompaniment by Franz Schubert
author of text

In Lebenstraum D1A the influence of Gluck on the young Schubert can clearly be heard. This is hardly surprising as the autograph of that work contains a fragment (29 bars) of Schubert’s piano-duet arrangement of the Overture to Iphigénie en Aulide (D Anhang II, 1: beginning of 1810). Although we do not know whether Schubert had the opportunity to attend the opera house as early as 1810, it would have been possible for him to have seen a production of Alceste in this year. The only Gluck opera that we are certain that Schubert actually saw was the other Iphigenia opera (en Tauride) in January 1813. (Schubert’s admiration for the singers Johann Michael Vogl and Anna Milder dates from this occasion: he is said to have lost his temper with critical members of the audience as he vociferously defended the performances of Vogl as Orestes, and Milder in the title role.) Josef von Spaun in his memoirs of Schubert (1864) makes a point of saying that ‘all Gluck’s opera he could play almost from memory.’ The composer’s schoolfriend Anton Holzapfel tells us that Schubert ‘went through the whole of Gluck from whose works [he] often played things to us, which I still remember, especially a terrible and moving scene from Orfeo, the like of which I have never heard again.’ One must also remember that since 1769 Gluck had been Antonio Salieri’s friend, teacher and mentor. Schubert was thus, in a way, a grand-pupil of the composer he referred to (on the title page of these songs) as the ‘Chev. Gluck’.

The works recorded here are curiosities: they are the only music by another composer in this series, and the only songs in French. Although these arrangements were made as late as March 1816, their place in this series is beside the earliest of Schubert’s songs where Gluck’s influence seems to have been strongest. We have no idea why, and for whom, the composer made these arrangements. It is possible that they had something to do with his job application in April of that year to be Kapellmeister in Laibach (now Ljubljana in Slovenia). Presumably the ability to make vocal scores from orchestral scores was one of the skills required of a music director. Schubert may have made these arrangements at the end of May and included them with his application as a sample of his work; they are certainly among the neatest of his manuscripts. But it is equally possible that he prepared these arrangements for a private performance within his own circle. For example, the celebrations of Salieri’s golden jubilee in Vienna took place in June 1816 (see the songs devoted to this occasion in Volume 32), and these arias may have been meant to be performed as a kind of homage to the teaching lineage.

Echo et Narcisse is the last of Gluck’s operas for Paris, and one of the least successful and well-known. The original version of this ‘drame lyrique en trois actes’ was composed in 1779, but the revised version with a prologue (from which the first of these arias comes) dates from 1780. It was something of a flop in Paris, and Gluck returned to Vienna (for the last time, as it happened) intending to mount a Viennese production. This never happened, and again no one knows why. Schubert no doubt had access to the original full score which was almost certainly in Vienna, possibly in Salieri’s safekeeping. The arrangements themselves are kept simple and easily playable – model vocal score reductions for rehearsal purposes with the pianistic textures kept light and bright. These pieces are a reminder that Schubert’s accompaniments were greatly influenced by theatrical works of Gluck and Mozart in pianistic reductions. Hugo Wolf’s piano writing was influenced by the vocal scores of Wagner in the same way.

The first aria, Rien de la nature n’échappe à mes traits, is sung by Cupid, or Amour, in the prologue to the opera. He is determined to make Narcissus fall in love again after his unsuccessful infatuation with Echo whom Apollo means to keep for himself.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 33
CDJ33033Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 2 on CDJ33033 [2'00] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 18 on CDS44201/40 CD13 [2'00] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

Track-specific metadata for CDS44201/40 disc 13 track 18

Recording date
25 December 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. 33 (CDJ33033)
    Disc 1 Track 2
    Release date: September 1999
    Deletion date: May 2009
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 13 Track 18
    Release date: October 2005
    Deletion date: July 2021
    Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
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