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Das Lied vom Reifen, D532

First line:
Seht meine lieben Bäume an
February 1817; first published in 1895
author of text

This is perhaps as near as Schubert ever came to writing a Christmas carol – and that in February! Countless song programmes devised for the festive season would be richer for this little song, half forgotten and not pressed into service because it failed to find a place in the Peters Edition. The tune seems to call for community singing, although the surprisingly tricky accompaniment, a sinuous line of semiquavers beneath the more straightforward vocal line, calls for more than a village-hall accompanist. At the postlude the chromatic weaving of the music recalls the style of Weber's piano writing.

The last five bars of this song were written on the reverse of Der Tod und das Mädchen, the most famous of the Claudius songs written at this time. This famous manuscript was cut up into pieces, so that various autograph hunters could have a piece of the relic. Das Lied vom Reifen was thus desecrated alongside its more famous sibling. For this reason it has never been very clear what the composer wanted at the end of the song. We perform here the four bars of postlude to be found in the Gesamtausgabe as well as adding another bar at the end which is to be found in the library of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. Strictly speaking, the song is no longer a fragment. John Reed states that it is clear from Schubert's autograph that he meant only three verses to be sung. The poem is an enchanting one, however, and as fifteen verses are printed in the Gesamtausgabe we have chosen a further three.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


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