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Die Entzückung an Laura, D390

First line:
Laura, über diese Welt zu flüchten
First version; first published in 1895
author of text

The original title of this poem, one of Schiller's eight Laura odes, was 'Die seligen Augenblicke'. There are nine verses, of which Mandyczewski prints the first four. For this setting Schubert uses two strophes per musical verse, which results in one repeat of this long-spanned melodie effusion. Although the tessitura is uncomfortably high in the original tenor key the song is one of the most naturally beautiful of the Schiller settings. The composer does not seem to be trying very hard to be worthy of his distinguished poet; instead he allows himself to dream on a deliciously meandering, triplet-wafted magic carpet of sound. The theme of the work is Laura herseif, not the various violently romantic reactions she prompts in the poet. All Schiller's hyperbole is thus ironed out as the singer murmurs his admiration; the imagery all about action, the music contemplative. This approach, which is essentially against the concept of illustrating words, works well here. All the details of the poet's hectic journeys heavenwards are ignored; the important fact is that he is already in heaven when he sees Laura, and the whole work is conceived in a mood of disembodied rapture — which probably accounts for the high tessitura of the original key.

That there is a quasi-religious side to this worship of the Ewig-Weibliche in Schubert's work, and that this is consistently translated into musical terms, is made clear by certain turns of phrase which look both backwards and forwards in the composer's song output. In Verse 1 the line 'in meine Blicken flimmt' is astonishingly prophetic of the music for 'aus diesem Felsen starr und wild' (and similarly in later verses) from the famous Ave Maria – Ellens dritter Gesang (Volume 13). This song was composed nine years later, but there is also something that echoes from two years earlier: compare the line in Verse 2 'Leyer erklang aus Paradieses Fernen' with how Schubert set 'Abendlüftchen im zarten Laube flüstern' in Matthisson's Adelaide (Volume 12). There is a similar contour to the melodic shape and in both cases the imagery is of rustling and distant sounds.

If Laura am Clavier points back to the age of Mozart, this song points forward to the bel canto art of Bellini. If it is true that the latter song displeased Salieri, surely he would have nothing to complain about Die Entzückung an Laura, for there is in this music a languid sensuousness which is Italianate to the core. The harmony changes no more than is absolutely necessary and somehow this is to the song's advantage, because the melody itself is so heartfelt and utterly Schubertian in its lyrical simplicity. For once Schubert is not tempted to search beneath the surface of a Schiller poem to find a meaning. The fact that he did not feel quite happy about this solution is evident from his décision to compose another, utterly different, version in 1817.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993


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