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I need but stick it in my heart
And down will come the sky,
And earth's foundations will depart
And all you folk will die.
Musical comparisons with Wagner come to mind again, but this is Wagnerian audacity laced with the implacable classical rigour of Gluck. In this song Schubert seems to have given musical shape to the poet's megalomania, as in its companion piece Abendstern (Volume 6) he finds Mayrhofer's fear, insecurity and humility. Auflösung in full swing seems enormous, but in actual fact the song is also contained and introspective; it is too private to be rabble-rousing, as performers who have tried to end a group with it have discovered. With its thrum, hum and buzz of extra-terrestrial sorcery, it bristles with electricity but finally lacks the mean to harness it. It excites pity more than delight for it voices the poet's intense inward wail ('Geh unter, Welt!'), a tone which Schubert probably had heard only too often from his old friend. The sweet ethereal choirs are the sirens of self delusion; the climactic high note is placed by the composer (who knew exactly what he was doing) at a deliberately awkward point for the singer, already winded, as they all are, by the relentless onslaught of vocal arpeggii and never a pause for breath. The effect looks ecstatic on paper but in reality it is straining after the impossible; the hopelessness of the poet's vision is built into the music itself. After this, the brave rhetoric subsides to a dark, muttering undertone, and then the rumbling infinity of silence.
Auflösung is by far the biggest of the four songs written in March 1824 which mark both a return and farewell to the poetry of Mayrhofer after a two-year silence, the result of a personal estrangement between composer and poet. We shall never know why there was this coldness between old friends; Schubert was remarkably faithful to members of his circle. The two men had shared a room in the Wipplingerstrasse for eighteen months between 1818 and 1820; it must have seemed to the young composer a very haven of Bohemian cultivation compared to the discipline of the schoolhouse which was his parental home. Whatever had been the relationship between them (and one must concede that Mayrhofer, ten years older than Schubert, was no penniless student, and had no need to share his space for the reasons of impecunity that prompted, say, Wolf and Mahler to share a room as young men) it is certain that his tastes in literature and philosophy changed the course of the composer's life. This is a scenario that could encompass anything from Mayrhofer as fatherly mentor, to unscrupulous seducer of a runaway. Fritz Lehner in his film entitled Mit meinen heissen Tränen conjectures that the composer had gone through a certain phase of intimacy with Mayrhofer as a younger man, but had grown impatient with the importunacy of his continued advances. Schubert's illness has been cited as both the cause of the rupture (presumably because the poet was horrified by the heterosexual adventure that occasioned it) and the reason for the reconciliation. The latter seems to me more likely to be the case; in the new phase of Schubert's life, after the experiences of 1823, the slate was wiped clean of old quarrels and misunde rstandings. The fires of Auflösung seem to consume and cleanse the petty personal concerns of the past; poet and composer are hurtling, in different directions, toward new and uncharted realms.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991
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