Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.

Hyperion offers both CDs, and downloads in a number of formats. The site is also available in several languages.

Please use the dropdown buttons to set your preferred options, or use the checkbox to accept the defaults.

Grablied, D218

First line:
Er fiel den Tod fürs Vaterland
published in 1848 as part of volume 42 of the Nachlass
author of text

Here is proof indeed, if any were needed, that the young men of the Schubert circle regarded the death of a war hero as something of a personal tragedy. Josef Kenner was one of the composer’s school friends and the poet of the unlikely ballad Der Liedler, the gothic horror of which, werewolves and all, gives us some idea of how the still impressionable young men of the Imperial Seminary thrilled to a Jurassic Park scenario of the day. But Grablied leaves this innocent high camp for the serious pitched battle of the Austrian soldier and the ‘Befreiungsschlacht’ against the French. References to ‘splintered bones’ and ‘deadly bullets’ show not only a typical young man’s fascination with the gory details of violence (at a time when ‘video’ was still only part of a Latin verb) but also the poet’s relief that he and his comrades, safely back at school in Vienna, were spared a similar fate. It is easy to see in this poem a specific lament for the poet Körner who, as a successful playwright and cultural figure in Vienna, had the double distinction of being an artist as well as a man of action. It is true that he had died some two years previously, but Napoleon’s unexpected return from Elba, and the tension induced by the frantic military activity of the ‘Hundred Days’ put the fears of the Viennese, and the achievements of their fallen, once more on the agenda. Grablied was written four days before the Battle of Waterloo, and Kolmas Klage, which is a woman’s elegy for the death of her father and brother, was written only two days before that.

The music is typical of Schubert’s elegies of the period – Kosegarten’s Schwangesang (and also originally in F minor) comes to mind. There are the usual sensitive touches one can all too easily take for granted: the word ‘süssen’ elicits a tender and lingering appoggiatura, and mention of the ‘Befreiungsschlacht’ – the War of Liberation – prompts a note of rueful regret rather than self-satisfied jingoism. The semi-staccato chords in the accompaniment under ‘wir graben ihm’ (meant to suggest the sound of a shovel doing its grim work, iron against earth, at a burial) help classify Grablied as one of the composer’s gravedigger songs. The implication is that the singer is not only present at the funeral but actually doing the spade work – often the sad lot of a fellow soldier in the field. In such a manner does the composer take himself to the scene of battle on a magic carpet of sound. The tomb-like depth of the piano in the little postlude as well as the ominous basses in octaves are prophetic of the greatest of all burial songs, written a decade later and without mention of war, Totengräbers Heimweh in F minor. Schubert’s feeling for key does not change over the years; in 1815 F minor was already his key for graveyard ritual.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 20
CDJ33020Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 22 on CDJ33020 [2'48] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 12 on CDS44201/40 CD7 [2'48] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

Track-specific metadata for CDJ33020 track 22

Recording date
1 November 1993
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell
Hyperion usage
  1. Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 20 (CDJ33020)
    Disc 1 Track 22
    Release date: March 1994
    Deletion date: January 2010
    Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 7 Track 12
    Release date: October 2005
    40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Waiting for content to load...
Waiting for content to load...