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Stimme der Liebe, D412

First line:
Meine Selinde!
first published in 1838 as part of volume 29 of the Nachlass
author of text

This is certainly one of the most highly praised songs of 1816. All the commentators make a point of singling it out for special analysis and commendation. It is easy to see why, because within these two pages and 32 bars we encompass a roller-coaster of emotion and passionate involvement that seems to emanate from rather anonymous beginnings (bare pianissimo triplet chords in thirds in the right hand with the shy entry of a rising motif in the left) and which finishes in an even more withdrawn manner—three short chords marked ppp. Between these hushed extremities a veritable volcano of emotion erupts before our very ears. It could not be more different from Der Jüngling an der Quelle where classical restraint gives the work its enchantingly pastoral and idyllic air.

Triplet accompaniments which drive the music ineluctably forward were much favoured by Schubert in the 1815-1817 period—not only for the celebrated Der Erlkönig but also Nähe des Geliebten, Der Herbstabend, the famous Der Wanderer, Die Einsiedelei, An den Tod, Fahrt zum Hades and so on. The key word which gave Schubert his inspiration here was 'Engelstimme'—the angel's voice which says 'She will be yours!' These throbbing triplets which dominate the first section of the song resume towards the end on mention of 'die himmlische Stimme'. It is clear that the composer does not see this angel as a breezy little putto in some type of baroque fantasy, but rather a heaven-sent messenger with a trumpet. It is this which gives the song such a visionary, not to say ecstatically religious air; it seems to belong to the same family as Die Gestirne (June 1816) where field and forest sing the Lord's praise, and the celebrated Die Allmacht of 1825 where earth and heaven proclaim Jehova's might. The shifts of key are enough to make us giddy. The original is D major. After only a few bars we have moved into E flat; within seconds we are in D flat, and moments later, C sharp minor. The final return to the home key of D major right at the end is effected by a passage with a heroic sung high A. This is a man who feels life and love to the very limit and the vocal challenges of a song never found on recital programmes reflect this. The whole thing only lasts a minute and a half, but Schubert draws us into a world of romantic obsession. There is a symphonic feel to this music as though the piano left-hand figure that proposes a rhythm for 'Meine Selinde' (and which returns when these words are repeated) should be played by the cellos, the triplets generating a huge motor-rhythm energy by a full wind section. The only criticism of this remarkable song would be one of proportion in relation to style and content; the imposing stature of the work seems crowded by the relatively slender slot of time and space it occupies. It is also interesting that as probably the most ardent love song of 1816 it is not included in the collection put together for Therese Grob in November of that year. This could well be a sign that the relationship had cooled by then and that Schubert thought it no longer appropriate to copy out a song like this for her. Perhaps her parents would have been shocked by anything as bold as this; after all it was precisely because the young composer did not have the right to say 'You are mine!' that the relationship is said to have foundered. It could also be that young Therese found this music far too tricky to comprehend in matters of harmony.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 23 - Christoph Prégardien
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Track 8 on CDJ33023 [1'25] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 24 on CDS44201/40 CD13 [1'25] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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