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Litanei auf das Fest Aller Seelen 'Am Tage Aller Seelen', D343

First line:
Ruhn in Frieden alle Seelen
August 1816; first published in 1831 in volume 10 of the Nachlass
author of text

When one comes across this immortal song as part of a sequence of the 1816 Lieder it is remarkable how familiar its style already appears to be; a rippling accompaniment of deceptive simplicity underpins the melody which is the purest and most ineffable of legato flowerings. We have heard this sort of thing before on this disc, although perhaps not raised to such a pitch of expressive power. It is obvious that the hard work of 1816, when one of the composer's aims seems to be creation of melody pure and simple as an Italianate contrast to the less effulgent recitative and arioso of German dramatic balladry, has paid off here in handsome fashion. Salieri must have been beside himself with delight. Like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the work has something for everybody of whatever education, whether an Austrian requiring deep and profound word-setting, or an Italian, like Schubert's teacher, who desires a memorable and moving tune written with optimum effect for the voice. As Fischer-Dieskau has written: 'The singer who can execute the long spun-out vocal line with a perfect legato and, at the same time, interpret each phrase meaningfully, probably knows everything that there is to know about singing piano.' The patent depth and sincerity of this music unites the musical connoisseur and neophyte, both saluting it as masterpiece (as indeed it is) whether judged by the most demanding standards of the head or the heart.

The song is very much a 'hit' and it is easier to salute Schubert's skill than to analyse how he puts on a single sheet of paper such depth of emotion. As is usual with this composer the answer lies in the poetry, for he has taken his clue from the shape given to him by Jacobi. The poet's six-line strophe becomes the carefully plotted ground plan: the music for the first line of poetry and the last (including the piano postlude) are the two elegiac pillars between which the musical edifice is built. Within these noble demarcation lines, lines 2 to 5 of the verse allow a pang of anguish into the proceedings (the music moves into the relative minor, the note values are shorter, the mood more troubled by chromatic harmony) so that the cleverly prepared return to E flat major via a cadence in the dominant appears as an old friend, a blessing and a consolation. As Capell says, this is expressive of 'grief consoled and yet still near weeping.' Throughout most of the song the piano is gently supportive, the resonance of the bass line a source of unobtrusive strength, but the concluding three solo bars are in that special class occupied by only the greatest of Schubert's postludes. The valedictory commentary, in part made up of a new musical idea, seems to amplify the meaning of the music beyond what the words themselves are capable of saying; its rising sequences, phrases which seem to turn the gaze of the suppliant gently heavenward, depict and provide a measure of musical consolation which lies beyond the power of speech. There are nine verses in the original poem, but most performers find that the song makes its greatest impact with the performance of only three.

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. 17 - Lucia Popp
CDJ33017Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 15 on CDJ33017 [4'44] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 20 on CDS44201/40 CD15 [4'44] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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