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Im Walde, D834

First line:
Ich wandre über Berg und Tal
March 1825; first published in 1828 as Op 90 (changed in 1835 to Op 93) No 1
author of text
from the Poetisches Tagebuch

The Poetisches Tagebuch entry reads 'In the forest beyond Falkenhagen, 22 July 1814.' This places Schulze in the area around Göttingen three days before his horse-ride across country and the composition of Auf der Bruck. It is possible that Schubert deliberately changed the title of that song to 'On the bridge', but it is certain that he removed Falkenhagen from his song's background. He preferred to place his protagonist simply 'in the forest'. Just as in Auf der Bruck, the song is driven tempestuously forwards and the recurrence of a ritornello gives the impression of going around in self-defeating circles, as if lost in a forest. Capell detects here 'a single over-mastering impulse that never relaxes' which is perhaps a way of saying that the work is irrigated by a scarcely-concealed flood of sexual energy where the composer is more than a match for the poet. Women tended to back away from Schulze when he became emotionally involved with them, but he was handsome enough to have enjoyed a host of conquests. Indeed he must have been used to the fact that his good looks were not only part of his armoury as a Don Giovanni, but part of his armour which shielded him from real intimacy in relationships. The Tychsen sisters were both girls who saw through his looks; they set this inherited advantage (more potent to some than power or money) at nought, and the passionate young man was appalled to discover that he doubly desired those whom he could not have. Talk of flowers in this poem refers to woman; there are thousands available for plucking but he wants only one, even if he has to stoop (note the imagery, for he believes that this woman is not really on his level) to pick it. But Adelheid will not permit him into her garden, and he is stung by the audacity of the bees who fly in where poets fear to tread. He also talks of finding 'it' in the last verse; presumably he means love which he sees as a commodity rather than something to do with a real human being. The wanderer asks when he will find 'rest' but he means quietus; thus did an earlier generation of poets refer to the moment of orgasm as death.

The first version of the song was written in G minor, but Schubert later re-cast it in B flat minor—not a common tonality in his work, and shared by the anguish of Gretchen in her prayer to the Mater dolorosa and by Ihr Bild from Schwanengesang. Gretchen has lost her innocence and Heine his beloved; Schulze his peace of mind. The texture of the music is more bottom-heavy than is usual with this composer, the forest paths muddy with unclear thoughts and emotions. Susan Youens has pointed out that there is much in Im Walde which is related to the triplet-accompanied passages in Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte, but she makes the point, as do all the other commentators, that in terms of its shape and constant triplet Bewegung, Im Walde is most strongly related to another anguished song of search, Erstarrung from Winterreise. Note how the left hand of the pianist in that masterpiece plays an eloquent heartfelt melody in single notes in the undergrowth of the score as it tries to search for traces of the beloved with delicate and supple fingers, however frostbitten. In Im Walde the search is less specific, the triplets are in the left hand instead of the right, and the right hand melody is robbed of digital finesse by being doubled in blustering double octaves. Nevertheless it seems clear that there is more than a coincidental similarity between the two songs and that Im Walde was something of a study for Erstarrung. This is clearer still when one compares the structure of the two works in each of which the first and fourth of the strophes are related, as are the second and fifth. This interleaving of material strengthens and buttresses the structure; there is a strong impression of repetition and recapitulation but in a slightly unpredictable way; we have the feeling both protagonists are wandering in a wide and erratic manner. The touching, lyrical episodes in each song (the traveller's 'Wo find ich eine Blüte', Schulze's Wohl blühn viel Blumen auf der Flur') are very similar in atmosphere. However, the remarkable thing is how tailored to their poets the two songs remain. The sensibilities of the two protagonists emerge quite differently—Müller's hero more refined and aware, dealing with an emotional crisis in which a real relationship has foundered, and Schulze whose self-pity and self-delusion (the vocal line is somehow suffused with both) make us regard his plight less sympathetically than that of the winter traveller.

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. 18 - Peter Schreier
CDJ33018Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 18 on CDJ33018 [5'42] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 16 on CDS44201/40 CD29 [5'42] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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