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Ladislaus Pyrker was perhaps the highest ranking establishment figure that our composer ever knew, and if the memoirs of Beethoven's friend Schindler are to be trusted, the moment of Schubert's second meeting with Pyrker in Gastein in 1825 was 'one of the most inspiring of his life'. Pyrker was a cleric of Hungarian birth and Tyrolean ancestry. He was ordained in 1796, and appointed Patriach of Venice (then still in Austrian possession) in 1820. This was also the year that Schubert first made his acquaintance at the home of Matthäus von Collin. The Opus 4 songs, published in 1821 and including Der Wanderer and Wandrers Nachtlied I (Volume 1), were dedicated to Pyrker. Lofty status in the church would not have been enough to impress the composer; Pyrker must have been a charismatic person to judge by the enthusiasm with which Schubert immediately set two of his poems (the other is that ballad of nostalgia for the mountains, Das Heimweh). Pyrker's Pearls from Antiquity is an epic in rolling hexameters; the subsection of the poem from which Die Allmacht is taken is entitled (appropriately enough for the artist on this recording) Elisa. Despite his admiration for Pyrker, Schubert, realising that nothing should threaten the unified sweep of his song, chose to leave out an introductory strophe which in his earlier years of ballad writing would have been fashioned into a superb recitative. These deleted words establish, however, the dramatic (and definitely non-liturgical) context of the poem; in this respect Die Allmacht is a relative of the Scott setting Ave Maria, which has also been sung many times in church to an inauthentic organ accompaniment.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989
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