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Schwertlied, D170

First line:
Du Schwert an meiner Linken
first published in 1873
author of text

This poem stands at the end of the collection of Leyer und Schwert. An annotation tells us that it was written a few hours before the death of the poet, a fact which has not deterred the composer from making a hearty song out of the text, originally sixteen verses long. There is as usual, however, a chilling mirthlessness about this typically Teutonic marriage between death and celebration. It is as if the steel which is about to enter the unfortunate singer’s body has already entered his soul. For English-speaking listeners the accentuation of the word ‘Hurrah’ seems unusual. Schubert calls for sound effects at this final chorus where he stipulates that the sound of swords rattling should accompany the jubilation. Hyperion, despite its warlike lineage in Greek mythology, is not given to sabre-rattling on its own or anyone else’s behalf; we regret that the clanking of a hundred swords must be left to the imagination of the listener. It is interesting to imagine how the requisite sounds might have been conjured by the composer and his friends when, and if, this piece was sung (‘Any old iron?’) at a musical party. Are we to assume that just as the average American of today keeps a gun in the house, most Viennese householders could put their hands on a sword with relative ease? In itself the song is a stirring enough solo for a young tenor promoted from the choral ranks. The tempestuous piano writing displays a Beethovenian manner, and the abrupt chords of the postlude suggest swords hacking through the air as they counter the parry and thrust of an imaginary enemy.

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 20 on CDJ33020 [1'27] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 18 on CDS44201/40 CD5 [1'27] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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