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Adelaide, D95

First line:
Einsam wandelt dein Freund im Frühlingsgarten
published in 1848 in volume 42 of the Nachlass
author of text

Schubert's Adelaide has always been eclipsed by Beethoven's—a substantial and vocally demanding composition loved throughout the world, and especially valued by tenors and their audiences, even those who are otherwise disinclined to sing, or listen to, Lieder. No less a person than the poet himself endorsed Beethoven's work (dedicated to him) at the expense of all other settings—it was also set by such composers as Pilz and Righini. Schubert certainly knew Beethoven's miniature cantata in the Italian manner of an 'Andante con Allegro' (it was written in the year before he was born) and he confessed to his friend Josef Httenbrenner that he was reluctant to set the poem 'because he would have to write it exactly as Beethoven did.' This of course was not the case; as a child of a new age, Schubert heard different, more intimate things in the music of Matthisson's words. His song has the flexibility and scale of a personal statement, for it is meant to be sung in the home, out of earshot of prince or countess; in it we feel that Adelaide is a real person, a young and graceful girl whom Schubert might have known (or shyly wished to know) whose comely shape is not entirely hidden by eighteenth-century court dress. Einstein states that between the two settings lies the dividing line between Classicism and Romanticism, and it truly amazing how much difference eighteen years makes in the evolution of word setting in the German language. The Beethoven work, for all the ardour of its Andante, loses something of its spontaneity in the repetitive formula of the 'Allegro con Moto'; this echoes the classical grandeur of the opera seria of Mozart's time. But Mozart, on a completely different scale, makes an appearance in Schubert's setting nevertheless: the accompanimental figure of the first and last verses with its seven-note gruppetto ascending and then turning in on itself, derives from his immortal song Abendempfindung, which, like Adelaide, envisages love outlasting the ashes of the grave.

The new thing about this song, as far as Schubert is concerned, is the happy ability to illustrate the multifarious workings of nature without interrupting the flow of melody, or compromising the essentially straightforward musical conception. The triplets of the accompaniment's middle section may derive from Beethoven's setting, but the vocal line is set in an entirely different manner. The very first word 'Einsam' shows we are no longer in Beethoven's company—a new generation seems to be saying 'Play it again, Einsam, but differently.' The long note (a dotted minim) of the first vowel and the falling figure say more about the solitary state of the poet than the older master's ascending crotchets. While Beethoven digs deep into the line for the word 'lieblichen', Schubert lets the word rise to delighted heights. In verse 2 the accompaniment mirrors the 'spiegelnden Flut' the bar after the words, while the voice part continues with another idea—a subtle canonic variant of the idea of illustrative music; one can see and hear the setting sun in two banks of descending round semibreves, and the voice launches itself into the starry meadows by means of an exceptionally beautiful and unexpected modulation into G flat. The singer is asked to sing very high here, but not without poetic reason. In verse 3 we have breezes, bells, waves and nightingales; the murmuring triplets on the piano and the bell-like minims ringing out in the pianist's little finger, are successfully pressed into Protean service to depict them all. Adelaide's name is sung twice at the end of the verse. In Beethoven's song, the poem's last verse had been the start of an extended allegro movement, but here the last verse is a recapitulation of the music of the first. In the final bars, Adelaide is invoked three times; the dying fall of both vocal and bass lines brings the song to a hushed conclusion of murmured quietus.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991


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