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Hoffnung, D251

First line:
Es reden und träumen die Menschen viel
First setting; first published in 1872
author of text

Schiller was one of the most important inspirational figures of Schubert’s early years. His lyrics were well suited to the stirring times of the Napoleonic Wars, for his works advocated action as much as contemplation, and countless young men took his patriotism to heart. The poet’s bracing lack of self-pity, his masculine determination and boundless determination made him a natural pioneer of Sturm und Drang. By 1815 it was well known that in later life he had backed away from the revolutionary ideals of his youth (his anti-tyrannical stance and early sympathy for the ideals of the French Revolution had made him seem subversive as a young man) and by 1815 his exhortations seemed conservative and old-fashioned enough to appeal to the Establishment. Moreover he was a patriot whose historical dramas told of the struggle of good against evil: in the great Piccolimini trilogy (Schubertians are familiar with the Thekla songs from Wallenstein) the public was transported to another period (during the Thirty Years’ War) when Germany was struggling for existence. Even Metternich approved of the poet whose status as a classic in Austria was confirmed by the authorised publication of a Viennese Schiller edition in 1809.

This little song is a triumph of tuneful simplicity. Much less well-known than, say, Heidenröslein, the music has the same catchy inevitability that distinguishes the composer’s folksong-like Lieder. Schubert has scanned through the words of the first verse and found two images which are the clues to the character of the setting – ‘rennen’ (running) and ‘jagen’ (chasing, or literally, hunting). Accordingly the music runs in delightful ascending flights of fancy (not only in the tripping vocal line but also in the piano; note the little interlude after the first ‘Verbesserung’) and the chase after happiness is suggested by the accompaniment’s hunting horns echoing in alternating thirds and sixths, particularly in the penultimate bar of the postlude. For all its charm, however, this song is perhaps a little too lightweight to match the universal scope of Schiller’s sentiments. Schubert must have thought so too; he returned to the poem at a later date and made another setting of greater harmonic complexity (D637) which is less carefree and optimistic, more evocative of impossible dreams and aspirations than of breezy certainties. Nevertheless, who else but Schubert with his whole life ahead of him, and everything to live and hope for, could have composed such an open-hearted little gem?

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 24 on CDJ33020 [1'54] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 20 on CDS44201/40 CD8 [1'54] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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