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Zwei Szenen aus dem Schauspiel 'Lacrimas', D857

September 1825; published posthumously in October 1829 as Op 124
author of text

The play Lacrimas appeared in Berlin in 1803. It might have come to Schubert's notice because of Schütz's link with the Schlegel brothers; Friedrich von Schlegel lived in Vienna and Schubert almost certainly had some contact to him through Franz von Bruchmann or Matthäus von Collin. Einstein points out that Schütz was the author of a drama entitled Der Graf und Gräfin von Gleichen, but this connection with Schubert's operatic plans with Bauernfeld was almost certainly coincidental. As the songs date from the end of Schubert's stay in Upper Austria he may have discovered the play in the library of one of his friend's houses during that time. In the first edition the author's name is left out, but Friedrich's brother August von Schlegel (described as the play's editor) wrote an introductory poem. This laudatory dedication ('An den Dichter des Lacrimas') makes it unlikely that Schubert himself, as late as 1825, would have thought that Schlegel himself was the author of the play. It is true however that the first edition of the songs (1829), prepared without Schubert's co-operation of course, attributes the poems to the elder Schlegel, but music publishers were not always well versed in literary matters. My copy of the first edition of the play has the author's name entered on the title page in a contemporary hand. In any case, Lacrimas was rather famous in its day. It has a Shakespearean complexity of plot and a beauty of language enriched by the contemporary fashion for oriental fantasy, something to which Schubert himself was rather partial as we know from his settings of poems from Goethe's West-Östlicher Divan, the opera Fierrabras and of course his projected opera Der Graf von Gleichen. East versus West and Christian versus Muslim were long-standing obsessions in a Vienna that had once been besieged by the Turks; the composer was an avid enthusiast of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail. There was something about these conflicts and contrasts which had appealed to Schubert even at the beginning of his career: the three songs of Don Gayseros tell the story of Donna Clara and her love for Don Gayseros, a Moorish king in disguise. Gayseros is slain by his beloved's brothers, and the lady, who has at first been shocked to discover her lover's religion, pines away in regret.

Lacrimas explores similar themes. The action of the first two acts takes place near Malaga where the local high-born Spaniards are susceptible to strange visits from ship-borne foreigners. The eponymous hero, newly arrived on Spanish shores, is educated and charming, but like Don Gayseros he is not what he seems; he comes from north Africa although he is taken for an Italian. He falls in love with the beautiful Ismene and confesses to her that he is not a Christian. She is at first shocked, but she resolves to elope with him nevertheless. The second pair of lovers, a sub-plot of the play, interest Schubert more. Ismene's cousin is Florio, son of Antonio of Aredo. He conceives a passion for a slave-girl, also part of the ship's company that has docked in Malaga. He hears her singing sad songs of her homeland and is enchanted by her voice. He learns that her name is Delphine and that she is believed to be Italian in origin. It seems she has been bought in Italy and is now destined to be part of a sultan's harem in a far-away land. Florio resolves to rescue Delphine and woo her, no matter what the dangers. The third act unfolds in the oriental realm of Elmadina where Zumrud is Pasha. Lacrimas and Ismene have sailed here of course, and Florio also—the two young Spaniards in oriental disguise. It transpires that Delphine is in reality the long-lost daughter of Zumrud's overlord, Amru, Sultan of Merameris. She had been kidnapped by Bedouins as a child, sold into slavery and brought up as a Christian; her return to her homeland as a princess is not the dastardly act of white-slave-trafficking which Florio continues to believe, ignorant of Delphine's true identity. She is imprisoned by her over-protective father in a palace surrounded by a garden and Florio can only get near her by working as a woodcutter. The song which Schubert sets, 'Nun, da Schatten niedergleiten', comes from the ninth scene of this long act. Florio watches Delphine arranging flowers on her terrace as he tells of the pains of love; she can see him as he sings, recognizes the same person who was her distant suitor in Spain, and secretly gives him her heart. This he has no way of knowing at the time. She later tests him by sending Onaiza, her lady-in-waiting, disguised as the king's daughter, to seduce him. Florio proves his fidelity by telling the 'Sultanin' that he can only think of Delphine. The second scene of the fourth act begins with a monologue for Delphine, now helplessly in love with her mysterious serenader, which Schubert sets to music. Ismene's parents, as well as Florio's, arrive from back home in Malaga for the denouement, chief among which is the question of Florio's parenthood. Of course he turns out to be Amigad, long-lost son of the sultan Tansor, and thus the perfect bridegroom for Delphine. The two lovers meet and speak to each other only in the final two pages of the play. At the end there is a mood of general reconciliation and understanding between Christian and Muslim. In the same way, at the end of Fierrabras, Boland, Prince of the Moors, is reconciled to the marriage of Roland and Florinda. In Lacrimas the unlikely outcome is a Muslim kingdom ruled by two people brought up in the Christian tradition.

Delphine's song is sung by a virgin; there is an element of containment about it which is the counterbalance to its erotic qualities. She is on the threshold of sexual discovery; tremulous curiosity is to be heard in the shimmering staccati of the right-hand accompaniment, and in the left hand reminiscent of a bassoon line. Yet the piece is marked in moderate tempo ('Mässige Bewegung') and the exact mood of the song is hard to capture for, as well as its girlish qualities, Schubert intended it to display womanly passion in the oriental manner. It is something of a companion piece to the Suleika songs which singers and accompanists have performed at various tempi, some influenced by the work's classical poise (with some of the characteristics of a symphonic movement) where a steadier pace seems appropriate, and others tempted to a helter-skelter tempo by the passionate text and exotic mood. The interpretation of Delphine by the late Arleen Auger (Volume 9, track 12) favours a shyer, steadier interpretation where the girl seems as yet unschooled in the arts of love—and this is consistent with the character. Christine Schäfer's version (Volume 26, track 3) seems also authentically Schubertian however. It is scarcely faster, but provides another view of Delphine whose imagination of love-to-come from her mysterious serenader leads to a rather more 'hot and bothered' performance. The reader is directed to the note accompanying Volume 9 for a fuller commentary on the song.

Just before Florio sings his song, Delphine, from her balcony, has been admiring his prowess as a woodcutter, hatchet in hand, as he fells cypress trees. How delightful it would be, she says, if he were to pick up a lute instead and pluck its strings in serenade. Schubert has taken his clue from Delphine's words and given Florio a strummed lute accompaniment with mezzo staccato quavers in the right hand. The music is marked 'Langsam' in 4/4 and the temptation to sing this song alla breve, as a jolly serenade, should be avoided. The words are full of pain and longing, for here the young suitor is at his most desperate; he has no way of actually being in contact with Delphine, and can only admire her at a distance. In Schütz's original, Florio compares the charms of Delphine metaphorically to the oriental delights of sherbet, yet this delicacy is poisoned and will kill him unless she provides the antidote. Schubert baulks at setting the words 'in süssem Scherbet' to music in a song of this poignancy, and replaces them with 'dass ich und ihr verderbet'. He was probably proud of his new rhyme. Nevertheless he responds to the idea of a poison slowly spreading through the veins with a meltingly beautiful series of progressions in the middle section of the song. At 'Erst mit Tönen, sanft wie Flöten, goss die Schmerz in meine Adern' the vocal line descends in stately steps underpinned by harmonic suspensions; these not only suggest the strange enchantment of Delphine's singing of the Moorish songs which first enchanted Florio, but are also an unmistakable tonal analogue for the idea of a drug seeping through the veins of the lover. A little figure of four quavers which has made its first sinister appearance in the bass after mention of the poison reappears in the alto voice of the accompaniment, slides into the tenor register, and from there into the bass. Thus the body of the music droops stage by stage through the veins of the stave as the spirits of the lover are poisoned by a surfeit of unconsummated love. After 'Und nun wird ihr Reiz ihn töten' the whole accompaniment has slipped to the bottom of the piano, as if drugged, and only recovers to lead us, via a delicious modulation, back to the home key for the last verse. The wafting breezes in the second line of the poem inspire melismas, even on such unimportant words as 'Und die Lüfte'; these add to the oriental flavour of the piece as a whole. There is something about gently dancing vocal decorations of this kind which suggests nocturnal serenade to the composer. Compare 'Wenn euer Lied das Schweigen bricht' in Der Einsame and the melismas of 'Ihre Saiten rühren kann' from Des Sängers Habe, both songs composed in the same period.

The first edition of Deutsch follows Mandyczewski and places Florio first and Delphine second within D857. This is also the order of the songs as they occur in the play. The new Deutsch catalogue reverses this and lists the songs in the order they were published in the first edition. The Neue Schubert Ausgabe follows suit.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 26 - Christine Schäfer, John Mark Ainsley & Richard Jackson
CDJ33026Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 9 - Arleen Auger
CDJ33009Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


No 1: Lied der Delphine 'Delphine'  Ach, was soll ich beginnen
Track 12 on CDJ33009 [4'51] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 3 on CDJ33026 [4'51] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 13 on CDS44201/40 CD30 [4'51] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
No 2: Lied des Florio 'Florio'  Nun, da Schatten niedergleiten
Track 4 on CDJ33026 [3'23] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 14 on CDS44201/40 CD30 [3'23] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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