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Lambertine, D301

First line:
O Liebe, die mein Herz erfüllet
first published in 1842 in volume 36 of the Nachlass
author of text

This is a characteristically brave experiment from that annus mirabilis of song, 1815. The opening of the piano introduction is a pre-echo of the Goethe settina An die Entfernte from 1822. Lambertine, which manages to sound new and to be in the old Haydnesque cantata style at the same time, is divided into three clear sections. The music of the opening strophe (in E flat) has an Italian cast to it, rather conventional for a few lines and then thrown into expressive gear changes of grieving modulation by left-hand trills which undermine the girl's happiness. The middle section in F minor (the four flats and the movement rather reminiscent of the middle section of Hölty's An den Mond from earlier in the same year — Volume 7) suddenly surges forward, adrift in a sea of disorientated key changes. After this, all seems set for a recapitulation of the beautiful music of the first verse (as happens in An den Mond). But no, this is not to be, and it is the quasi-operatically motivated character of Lambertina who dictates the new mood. It is true that we return to the key of E flat, but the last two verses are set to different music entirely. Gone are the restless sextuplets, their sprawling despair replaced by luminous poise, heartfelt and chaste. The reason is that Lambertina has made a stoic decision to continue loving without reciprocation, and the music of these last two verses manages to suggest a struggle for abstinence somehow won, and thereby a sort of spiritual liberation (the music moves to 3/4 from the restrictions of duple time). The fact that the last verse is a musical repeat of the third only adds to this feeling of resolve. Lambertine is a good example of how Schubert can depict the progress of a character from one point in her life to another in two pages and three minutes; other composers took a whole evening in the opera house to tell a similar tale.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990


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