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We do not know for certain whether Schubert met Friedrich Schlegel, who had lived in Vienna since 1809, but it seems probable that from the end of 1818 the composer was drawn into his circle via Franz von Bruchmann. That Schubert went though a phase of great enthusiasm for Schlegel's poetry in the following two years suggests something of a personal connection. Schlegel was a Roman Catholic convert whose viewpoint on religion was very different from that, for example, of Schubert's father. The oppressive link between Church and State seems to have been at the root of the composer's distaste for organised religion, but in Schlegel the composer found a poet whose religious feelings were deployed in an astonishingly wide and liberal philosophical context. Schlegel's words here encourage a moving musical response to the human tragedy of the crucifixion and a mother's grief. The self-imposed hieratic austerity of the 'old' music still allows for the inner glow of Schubertian compassion.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994
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