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Lied der Anne Lyle, D830

First line:
Wärst du bei mir im Lebenstal
Early (?) 1825; published in 1828 as Op 85
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In Walter Scott's A Legend of Montrose, Annot Lyle was carried off in infancy (and in complicated Scott-plot fashion) by a savage tribe known as the Children of the Mist; later she was snatched away once again, this time during a raid by the M'Aulay clan, and raised as one of their own. At the time of the novel she is eighteen but 'she might have passed for four years younger.' Of almost saint-like disposition, she is a veritable Mignon of the North, given to singing with angelic voice and playing on the clairshach, the Scottish harp. She is torn between her true affections and her loyalty to the choleric Allan M'Aulay. The poem, 'a little Gaelic song' comes from an opera text entitled Love and Loyalty by one Andrew M'Donald (as Scott spells it in the archaic Scottish manner) who went to London to make his fortune in the theatre, and died young in miserable circumstances in Kentish Town. Scott quotes it just after M'Aulay has revealed his love to Annot, and threatened her if she continues secretly to love the Earl Menteith, for whom, in any case, she considers herself unworthy by birth. Annot eventually discovers that she is the daughter of the noble Duncan Campbell of Ardenvohr; she is able to marry Menteith, of course, and thus effects a reconciliation (always a paramount theme in Scott's work), in this case between the factions of Cavalier and Presbyterian.

If we wish to find a musical clue to the character of her song we have only to follow her progress through the book, which suggests that Schubert did the same: 'her affection was of that quiet, timid, meditative character' who shies away from 'presumptuous or daring hopes.' The music somehow manages to sound as unaffectedly simple as a Scottish folk song. Einstein explains this by drawing parallels with the Andante of the E flat Piano Trio, D929, in the same key and with a similar kind of C minor melody with throbbing staccato accompaniment which also switches suddenly to E flat major. It is said that that movement is modelled on a Swedish folk song, and a certain 'Nordic' character is common to both pieces. The harmonies and repetitions suggest the soft turning away of wrath, direct confrontation side-stepped by a small, well-turned ankle, for here is also the momentum of a slow, sad dance, perhaps a reflection of Scott's description of her in Chapter V as 'the most beautiful little fairy certainly that ever danced upon a heath by moonlight'. In a similar way, Mignon's Heiss mich nicht reden, D877 No 2, has the air of a transcendental pavane. With the arrival of C major there are brave smiles through tears. The shyly insistent repeated thirds of the opening of the piano's ritornello tug at the sleeve and the heartstrings; together, voice and piano dare to dream of love, all the while miraculously mirroring Scott's description of a lack of presumption, legato cantilena alternating with staccato passages, where Annot steps forward in a boldness born of strong emotion, only to retreat in diffidence. Although it lacks the rounded immediacy and variety of Gretchen's music, this song is an unjustly forgotten gem in the Schubert catalogue.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991


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