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Die Fröhlichkeit, D262

First line:
Wess Adern leichtes Blut durchspringt
first published in 1895 as part of the Gesamtausgabe
author of text

This merry little song is one of the many cheeky ditties which Schubert puts into the mouths of working-class philosophers. They put us in mind of Shakespeare’s comic characters. Such homespun wisdom with an anti-establishment bias was often to be heard from the comical characters of popular Viennese revue. Unlike their intellectual betters in the serious theatre, many music hall artists dared to lampoon the ruling order in satire which, because it was too genial and lowbrow to be considered truly subversive, was tolerated by the authorities. It was unfortunate for Prandstetter, who died when Schubert was still a baby, that the government of the time was not amused by his writings.

The marking is ‘Lebhaft’ and the piano writing of the introduction with its oscillation between single notes and thirds (something which suggests folksong and Ländler) is reminiscent of the Schubertian dance. The verb ‘durchspringen’ has given the composer all the encouragement he needs to find music which springs and bounces along as if the singer’s blood is being pumped from head to toe at a hearty rate. It may also be said that the tune seems ever to be moving in an upward direction which is very appropriate for a singer whose mood seems to be on a permanent ‘up’ (at least in the first verse) right up to the two final loud chords of the postlude. After the first two lines of poetry, octave leaps in the piano interlude seem to describe a great big grin; details in the accompaniment (perky staccati and gurgling trills) are generally suggestive of uncomplicated high spirits. The words ‘goldnen Ketten’ prompt sparkling chains of notes – vocal melismas of great geniality. A second reading of all twelve verses of the poem reveals that the poet has a more serious side to him: a somewhat less high-spirited mood rules the subsequent verses in this performance as thoughts of the ‘gentle grave’ render the narrator more philosophical, and non-stop quavers in the vocal line reflect the soft murmurings of the brook.

Martin Josef Prandstetter was a fascinating and controversial figure in Vienna at the end of the eighteenth century. He was born in Hungary but achieved high status in the Austrian civil service. Like the poet Mayrhofer from a later generation, Prandstetter was against the absolutist government of the time (the Emperor Franz II) and belonged to a Jacobin group in Vienna which professed open sympathy with the French Revolution. His poetry appeared in the Wiener Musenalmanach and also in Masonic publications. His lighter works (such as Die Fröhlichkeit) were influenced by Anacreon’s Odes, but he also wrote poems in the style of Klopstock and ballads inspired by Bürger and Schiller. Publication of his work ceased in 1794 when he was arrested for treasonable activities and sentenced to three days in the stocks and thirty years prison. He died three years later. His fate bears a certain similarity to that of the poet Schubart who was long imprisoned by the Duke of Württemburg. Prandstetter’s disregard for the powers that be was the cause of his downfall. It is interesting to speculate whether Schubert knew anything about him when he came across these verses, probably in an old copy of the Wiener Musenalmanach.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 20
CDJ33020Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 7 on CDJ33020 [2'34] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 9 on CDS44201/40 CD9 [2'34] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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