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Die Advokaten, D37

First line:
Mein Herr, ich komm’ mich anzufragen
25–27 December 1812; published by A Diabelli & Co in Vienna in 1827 as Op 74
author of text

The Christmas holiday of 1812 was evidently happier than that of 1811. During these days Schubert busied himself with a piece whose merry good humour has won more admirers than its musical merits perhaps deserve; everybody tends to remember a piece of music which evokes the sound of money. The history of the work and its publication is rather complicated, and confusion has piled on confusion as more information has emerged over the years. Father Reinhard van Hoorickx finally clarified the situation in an article in the Revue Belge de Musicologie (1974).

Die Advokaten was originally composed by one Anton Fischer, conductor at the Theater an der Wien in the early years of the nineteenth century. It was published in 1804 by an obscure Viennese publisher, and disappeared utterly from circulation. Until fairly recently no-one had seen the Fischer publication, and no-one knew its date. It was impossible to say whose work had come first (it was thought for a time, however unlikely this seems, that the elderly Fischer had stolen it from the schoolboy composer). There was disagreement as to whether the original work had been misattributed to Schubert, or whether it was indeed a complete re-working in the same way that Zumsteeg's ballads had been thoroughly 'Schubertised'. A copy of the Fischer trio has emerged in recent years, and it is clear that Schubert's version is very different. Fischer's accompaniment is rewritten, the tempo indications are changed, and the vocal line is completely reshaped. In 1827 Schubert revised his original re-working of Die Advokaten, and it was published in the version we perform on this recording. For some time there was considerable surprise that at the height of his powers, Schubert should have bothered to publish a work manifestly inferior to the other songs of the late 1820's, and not entirely his own into the bargain. The fact is that the trio was popular and had been regularly performed in the Schubert circle for some fourteen years; it was published, it seems, by popular demand. The author of the poem, a lampoon of the rapacity of the legal profession, was in all probability a lawyer by the name of Rustenfeld who used the pseudonym of Baron Engelhart. In 1827 Schubert was encouraged to compose and prepare for publication another comic trio in G major (this time including a soprano)—the enchanting Die Hochzeitsbraten with a text by Franz von Schober.

The comically self important music says little of substance, but this could be taken as a witty match of musical means to poetic content, and a comment on the emptiness of legal jargon. Almost all the music pivots around G major, and is in Singspiel style. The piece is divided into three main numbers—a duet for the two lawyers, a trio which begins with the entry of their rustic client Sempronius, and a concluding trio. These legal quacks are related to the notaries and lawyers of Mozart's operas (Curzio, Despina in disguise) and they bustle with busybody pomposity. One is also reminded that the fashion for domestic trios with piano accompaniment begun with Mozart's comic trio Das Bandel, K441.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991


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