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Abendständchen. An Lina, D265

First line:
Sei sanft, wie ihre Seele
first published in 1895
author of text
after an unidentified French poem

The Austrian poetess Gabriele von Baumberg was a significant Schubertian flirtation from the month of August 1815. She also had the signal honour of inspiring our composer to what was almost certainly his first ever song at the age of 13 – Lebenstraum, which survives only in the form of a fragment. The two Baumberg settings, An die Sonne and Der Morgenkuss, show us what to expect of the composer with this poetry. Baumberg was one of Schubert’s few female poets, certainly his first, and the only woman whose work he set in 1815 (Karoline Pichler was to follow in 1816). It is thus interesting to see with what old-fashioned gallantry and almost ornate solicitousness he sets her work, for there is certainly a character to the Baumberg settings which is unique. It also confirms what the avid Schubertian already knows – that far from indiscriminately setting any verse which came to hand, and not caring a jot from whence it came, the composer was deeply concerned about his poetic collaborators. When he could not know them personally he liked to give them a shape or personality in his mind which became very much a part of the music which he wrote to their texts.

Reed and Einstein aver that this song sounds like Haydn, and it does; the preludes to this Abendständchen and to Der Morgenkuss share a florid eighteenth-century manner, with elegant little cascades of notes like so many ruffles on a dress, which is both feminine and reminiscent of the keyboard writing of that master. Despite the fact that Baumberg was an extremely passionate and emancipated woman (and this passion comes out in her verse) Schubert seems more comfortable to treat her, and thus her verse, with courtesy rather than familiarity (with the exception of the rollicking Lob des Tokayers which is a most unusual text for the average ladylike poetess of the time to have written). This is not to say that the Baumberg songs are dull, for apart from beautiful melodies and an almost magisterial sense of poise (An die Sonne, despite its simplicity is one of the grandest hymns to the sun ever written) the careful ear can also perceive delicious touches of imagination in the accompaniments. Note for example the exquisite little canonic interchange between left and right hand in the introduction to Abendständchen, as if in his mind’s eye the singer is imagining himself communing with Lina, she on the balcony of the treble stave and he at the street level of the bass clef, separated by only one bar, if not an iron grille. Thus the idea of a serenade is set up from the beginning, and the gentle floridity of the piano writing seems exactly right for the ‘Phantasien’ – the improvisations mentioned in the last verse recorded here. References to a lute here are a further excuse for the music’s old-fashioned manner, as is the formality of what seems to be a suit involving unrequited passion. In its deliberate evocation of the manners of lovers of an earlier age the song has something in common with Huldigung. In this performance, in the manner of many a Lied of the period, the song’s introduction reappears as its postlude. Although this is not specified by the composer, it seems a pity to have only one chance to hear this inspired line of piano music. The text is apparently a translation of an original French poem but this has remained unidentified.

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 27 on CDJ33020 [2'54] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 13 on CDS44201/40 CD9 [2'54] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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