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Alles um Liebe, D241

First line:
Was ist es, das die Seele füllt?
first published in 1894
author of text

This is one of a row of E major Kosegarten settings; it seems that Schubert was convinced that this key was somehow right for this poet’s emotional world. He searched this way and that how best to mirror the fervour and simplicity of an older literary style within that tonality. It is interesting to note that not only is Zumsteeg’s setting in a different key (A major) but that it is composed in common time as opposed to Schubert’s 3/4. The older composer thereby achieves a different accentuation. For example bar-lines fall on ‘Sie füllt nicht Gold, noch Goldeswerth’ with Zumsteeg as opposed to on ‘Sie füllt nicht Gold, noch Goldeswerth’ in Schubert. The relative advantages of setting the poem in triple or duple time may be debated, but it is noticeable that Zumsteeg’s rather foursquare and earthbound setting fails to achieve the floating rapture of Schubert’s. Certain textual differences between the two songs (Zumsteeg’s ‘die öde Welt’, Schubert’s ‘die schnöde Welt’) suggest that Book 1 of the older master’s Kleine Balladen und Lieder was not to hand as Schubert wrote this setting, but rather that he was composing the song directly from a volume of Kosegarten’s poetry. One has a very different impression about Nachtgesang composed three months later.

Alles um Liebe poses a question (‘What is it that fills the soul?’) which is answered in a phrase which suggests inspired revelation (‘Ah, it is love!’) What a surprise! Of course we could all have guessed the answer, but Zumsteeg places a fermata after this question as if to suggest a pause for rather ponderous thought. In Schubert’s setting on the other hand the music treats this question as more or less rhetorical. The change of harmony on ‘Liebe’ is enough to introduce a new colour to the song; what could have been a stiff alternation between hackneyed question and answer becomes the tender musings of a soul very much in love, someone who is carried away by love rather than dissecting its workings. The delicacy of the setting is reinforced by a number of tiny but effective touches: the yielding phrasing of the pairs of crotchets in the piano’s introductory bars which is prophetic of Geheimes; the trills as if the very thought of love (already in the mind of the singer before the vocal line begins) sets the heart a-flutter; the mezzo staccato chords which tread softly so as not to disturb the lover’s dreams; the beautiful suspension which provides a note of yearning the second time the word ‘Liebe’ is heard in each verse; the pompous little arpeggio which is good for the pedantic ‘Goldeswerth’ in the first verse, but even better to depict the vain emptiness of ‘Titel, Stand noch Rang’ in the second. The ‘scoring’ of the charming six-bar postlude (strings plus oboe and bassoon perhaps) reinforces the impression that this little Lied would sound well as an aria for Claudine in the opera Claudine von Villa Bella (cf Liebe schwärmt auf allen Wegen) which was begun on 26 June 1815, the day before Alles um Liebe was written.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


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Track 15 on CDS44201/40 CD8 [3'05] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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