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Beim Winde, D669

First line:
Es träumen die Wolken
October 1819; first published in 1829 as a supplement and then in 1833 in volume 22 of the Nachlass
author of text

Here the storm is allowed to enter into the picture with a vengeance – it has the potential ability to disrupt and destroy stability and happiness. Capell is rather scathing about the work, and he blames Mayrhofer's 'flagging impulse'. In actual fact Beim Winde contains many remarkable things that are the result of close and empathetic collaboration; it inhabits that rather special and strange world which the two artists created uniquely between them and which shows Mayrhofer to be a forerunner of the Austrian expressionist poets, and Schubert his match in taking up the avant-garde challenge. Schubert was fascinated by Mayrhofer's work not only because he was fascinated by the man; this visionary poetry is clumsy only in the sense that it is groping towards the future – and so it must have seemed to the composer. Neither artist was temperamentally fitted to be an obliging Kapellmeister in the chapel of his trade.

The short introduction (the key is G minor) is followed by the beginning of a vocal line accompanied by watery semiquavers. No sooner have we heard this than we are reminded of another much more famous Schubert song in the same key: Der Müller und der Bach from Die schöne Müllerin. Admittedly that masterpiece is in 3/8, and this is in 2/4, but there is nevertheless something powerfully similar about them. It is of course 'der Strom' (listed only seventh in the poet's list of dreaming natural phenomena) which governs the Bewegung of Beim Winde, so both songs have water at their heart. And then at 'Sie wiegen und schmiegen' we hear the familiar melody and harmony of 'ein Sternlein, ein neues' from Der Müller und der Bach where the stream cradles the star's reflection. The imagery of two songs written four years apart thus converges: dreaming, lulling, nestling deep down. The miller boy is offered peace of this kind cradled in the mill stream's depths. As early as 1819 (and probably much earlier) Schubert's vocabulary of tonal analogues and responses was already in place to cope with the challenges of Müller's verse. Also developed to a remarkable degree is Schubert's use of the juxtaposition of major and minor key which stands at the heart of both of the songs discussed here. In Beim Winde the moon and stars are introduced to us in G minor moonlit melancholy which yields meltingly to the major key as soon as the composer's shifts his gaze from the skies to the trees rooted in his beloved Earth. Tiny contrasts and inflections are also eloquent: at the end of the first section note how 'heimlichen Glück' is heard twice – the happiness coloured first in diminished seventh secrecy on an E flat, and then shared with us for only a moment as the vocal line opens its heart on an E natural.

It is the second section (beginning at 'doch Blättergesäusel') which gives the song its name. The sudden storm of another famous Müller song comes to mind – the cold winds which blow the hat off the traveller's head in Der Lindenbaum from Winterreise. The piano writing in cascading sextuplets is filled with dangerous accidentals leading the music restlessly from D major to B flat major/minor (the contrast underlining the difference between 'schmeichelnde Regung' and the more threatening 'wilde Bewegung'. B flat changes enharmonically to an A sharp and thus we find ourselves wrenched into B minor. At 'dehnende Räume' it is as if we are suspended in a void in space; Schubert achieves this feeling of temporary limbo by the simple means of allowing the harmony (elsewhere changing with almost every quaver) to remain fixed on an E minor chord for three whole bars. In the same way the vocal line which has writhed in uncertainty for 'dann wilde Bewegung' consists of thirteen C sharps in a row before climbing upwards to F sharp. This extraordinary interruption to the mood of what had seemed a tranquil song (and prophetic of the storms which interrupt and transform some of Schubert's instrumental slow movements) ends poised on an F sharp chord – the dominant of B minor.

What follows is the glory at the heart of the piece: a fervent hymn of such solemn tenderness and simplicity that we can tell that Schubert regards 'Die Deinen' as something of broader significance than his next of kin. This music invokes protection for the whole Schubertian Davidsbund (Schumann's later term for like-minded crusaders against the Philistines) – a holy circle of friendship – Us against Them – built on empathy and love of art; at the centre of this circle in 1819 were Schubert and Mayrhofer. This section is in B major with a heart-stopping excursion into A – a repeat of the words as if to say 'cherish your dear ones even deeper in your heart'. The coursing of blood ('es ströme dein Blut') and the raging of storms is quasi-recitative with piano doubling voice – a bridge passage which ends on an A sharp that will be reborn as a B flat on the other side of the double bar. Schubert breaks rules of word-setting by separating two words whose sense belongs together: 'besonnen' should be linked to 'zu schirmen' without a pause, but no matter, it is the composer's calculated risk. This audacity allows him to reintroduce the hypnotic slow dactyls of the hymn tune on the words 'zu schirmen die heilige Glut', here transposed into B flat. We have heard it first in the more optimistic sharp keys, and the effect of this flattening of the tone is utterly poignant: the protecting veil is drawn ever closer, but somehow the struggle of Us against Them is doomed, for we are only men, not gods, and at the mercy of fate. As if to accept this fact philosophically, the composer now returns to a repeat of the first section; we hear the G minor/major musings from a different perspective the second time around. On paper, Mayrhofer's last words are 'Die heilige Glut', potentially defiant, even triumphant. But it was Schubert who knew Mayrhofer well, and we may be sure that the music's tone of voice, the tenderness and wistfulness, do not stem from the composer alone but accurately reflect his mentor's complex personality and how Mayrhofer read his own verse.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 19 - Felicity Lott
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Track 13 on CDJ33019 [5'16] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 7 on CDS44201/40 CD22 [5'16] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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