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Gott der Weltschöpfer, D986

First line:
Zu Gott, zu Gott flieg’ auf, hoch über alle Sphären!
1816 (?); first published posthumously in March 1829 as Op 112 No 2
author of text

In the absence of the original manuscripts, Eusebius Mandyczewski, in the old Gesamtausgabe, took the decision to follow the first edition of the last two works, publishing them as more or less one piece, separated only by a title as if marking a subsection. There is no evidence to suggest that Schubert had envisaged one large work beginning in C minor (Gott im Ungewitter) attached to another short quartet in C major (Gott der Weltschöpfer). The two works have a poet in common, but the dates remain uncertain. After all, the Hymne an den Unendlichen was also included by Mandyczewski in this portmanteau assembly of vocal pieces, although it was drafted as early as 1815.

This piece is altogether simpler than what has gone before. If there is some small possibility that Gott im Ungewitter dates from 1828, it seems very likely that Gott der Weltschöpfer is by the composer when much younger. If the blazing C major of triumphant religious conviction reminds us of the grandiose choral setting of Die Allmacht this piece is much less ornate – although it is typical of the mature Schubert to modulate from C major to C flat major within the space of ten bars. The accompaniment is scarcely more than a doubling of the vocal parts relieved by only a handful of more adventurous pianistic details. The three chords of introduction are almost painfully plain (one can sympathize with Mandyczewski for seeing in this the music of transition, but we are not even sure whether they are genuine Schubert, or inserted by the publisher Czerny). There is a sign, here and there, of the old-style striding basses which remind us of Das grosse Halleluja from 1816 but on the whole this effective music eschews fussy chromaticism. The plunging basses which move the music from C major to F before the repeat of the words ‘flieg’ auf, zu Gott’ suggest the movement of flight. But even illustrative touches such as this are rare. The purpose of this music is to convey a sort of religious immensity. In this mood, Schubert draws on block harmonies rather than resorting to the harmonic wiles more typical of his art. Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven achieve blazing moments like this in the finales of their religious works. Schubert’s teacher Salieri would have claimed to have learned such powerful simplicity from Gluck, whose operas were, of course, also a great influence on the young Schubert.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999


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