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Lied aus der Ferne, D107

First line:
Wenn, in des Abends letztem Scheine
July 1814; first published in 1894
author of text

John Reed finds this delightful strophic song too lighthearted for its 'ghost-haunted poem'. I believe that Schubert saw reflected in it the affectionate dabbling with the occult which was part of the romantic spirit of the times. This is perfectly caught, for example, in a letter that Robert Schumann wrote to the young Clara Wieck in 1833: 'Tomorrow at the stroke of 11, I shall play the adagio from Chopin's Variations and at the same time I shall think of you very hard; exclusively of you. Now, the request is that you should do the same, so that we may see each other and meet in spirit… If you do not a piano string will break at 12 o'clock; it will be me.' No serious threat, that. If one believes that both lovers are very much alive, and merely parted by distance, the teasing tone of this song is more understandable. The subtext of the poem is 'Ich denke dein', and it is uncanny how the setting is reminiscent of the music Beethoven wrote for Matthisson's Andenken: there is the same lilting 6/8 rhythm, a similarity in the cast of the accompaniment, and in this version even the same tonality (the first version is in E major). The manuscript of the first version is lost, but it is significant that Schubert wrote out the song in D major for the Lieder album he prepared for his beloved Therese Grob in 1816. This version is slightly more straightforward in some of the figurations of the accompaniment. The distance between the vocal line and the accompaniment which is in the tenor register for long stretches, is reminiscent of another much greater song, also set in the countryside: when we hear the music for the words 'am Rasensitz im Eichenhaine' (Verse 1), we can just make out the haunting shape, accompaniment and A major tonality of the opening passage ('Am Bach viel kleine Blume stehn') from Des Müllers Blumen in the cycle Die Schöne Müllerin.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991


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