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We have no way of knowing whether Schubert took his German songs to Salieri. Legend has it that it was Hagars Klage which had first aroused the old boy’s interest in Schubert, but it has also been assumed that the ballads after this were composed behind his back. If so, it is an extraordinary coincidence that the two texts match up in such a way, and in such close chronological proximity. One would be delighted to imagine the following scenario: Schubert takes Salieri his first sketches of Der Taucher; the Italian is interested and impressed, although he insists that he does not know enough about German to help with pieces of this kind – he is only prepared to mark the exercises in Italian; but he suddenly remembers that Mestastasio wrote a text about the stormy sea, and sets it forthwith as Schubert’s next exercise.
Another explanation of the coincidence is that Schubert had been lent a number of books containing Metastasio texts, and that he was permitted to make his own text selections for his exercises. This was almost certainly the case with the large number of Schiller exercises for vocal trio written in 1813, and it may have extended, after a while, to the Italian texts. Having embarked on Der Taucher, and being forced to break off from it in order to prepare a new exercise for Salieri, it would have been quite understandable if Schubert had been drawn to this turbulent and watery poem.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999
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