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Nur wer die Liebe kennt 'Impromptu', D513a

1817 (?); first published in a performing edition by Reinhard van Hoorickx in 1974
author of text

This fragment consists of a partial setting of a thirteen-line poem entitled Impromptu: in Tharants Ruinen geschrieben. If one's German geography is not a strong point the title 'written in Tharant's ruins' might summon up classical allusions, but the poet was probably referring to the ruins of the old castle which stood in the small town of Tharandt, a suburb of Dresden south-west of the city.

It is quite obvious that Werner has modelled his poem on Goethe's celebrated lyric, Mignon's Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt. Such imitations and parodies were seldom meant to mock or satirise the original; rather were they written in homage as the sincerest form of flattery. That the imitation is a sentimental effusion and a pale copy of the original is perhaps why this song remained a fragment: the composer crossed it out before completing it.

The key of the setting is A flat and it is worth noticing that Schubert's first setting of the six he made of Mignon's lyric (Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt D310) is also in this key with a similar rhythm and comparable vocal line. A feature of the song is a continuing shift between A flat major and minor (the by-play between these two tonalities was to reach its apotheosis much later in Auf dem Wasser zu singen and the piano Impromptu Op 90 No 4). There are touches of Schubertian inspiration: at 'Lebensmuth' romantic triplets cease in favour of stronger quavers, and the idea of melting (at 'dahin zu schmelzen in ein Meer') is illustrated with a descending chromatic phrase. The melismatic vocal flourish on 'Liebe zu versinken' suggests the Italianate influence quite commonly found in Schubert's music of 1817 (a good example of this is La pastorella written in this year), but in John Reed's opinion the dating of the song is 'highly conjectural.'

The entire vocal line of this fragment is genuine Schubert, but only the first twelve bars of the accompaniment (up to and including the words 'Der kennt das') are authentic. From 'schmerzlich selige Verlangen' until the end of the fragment the accompaniment (including the postlude) has been provided by Reinhard Van Hoorickx.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


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