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La pastorella al prato, D528

January 1817; first published in 1872
author of text

This is the second Schubert setting of Goldoni's little poem. The first (D513) is a charming and undemanding quartet for men's voices, with appropriate canonic flourishes on the words 'cantando in liberta'. The text is taken from Carlo Goldoni's opera libretto II filosofo di campagna (the sixteenth scene, no less, of Act II) where it is the final strophe of an aria sung by the character Lena. The entire libretto had been set as an opera by Galuppi. It might be tempting to imagine that Schubert, free from Salieri's apron strings, found the text for himself, but he was almost certainly still seeing his Italian master at the time he wrote the quartet. We can deduce this from the fact that a fellow pupil, Karl Freiherr von Doblhoff, also set the poem as a vocal quartet and published it (with a dedication to Salieri) in 1820. Deutsch tentatively dates the quartet as 1817, which would make the Schubert's link with Salieri much more protracted than is generally supposed from other hints in the documents. We know that the delectable solo arietta here was composed in 1817, but perhaps the quartet, pace Deutsch, dates from an earlier time. The surprising thing is that the solo aria is infìnitely more Italian in flavour and style; it is as if the composer has approached it in a spirit of pastiche and parody (definitely not allowed by Salieri), but in the process has lingered in the making of melody long enough to fall in love. In this conflict of Prater versus prato is defìned Schubert's ambivalence towards the musical style that so threatened his own prospects as a composer of German operas, but which in the final analysis he could not truly resent or hate. The richly omamented vocal line of La Pastorella is reminiscent of the embellishments added to some of the Schubert songs by the singer Vogl, an artist old-fashioned enough to omament all his music in (sometimes ridiculous) eighteenth-century Italian style. It is a moot point whether Schubert approved of these additions, or whether he merely suffered them to indulge a senior citizen singer whom he otherwise much admired. The evidence points to the latter.

Carlo Goldoni was born in Venice and was both a playwright and librettist. Almost as important and prolifìc a figure as Metastasio, he is credited with the formulation of a new dramaturgy for mid-eighteenth-century comic opera which expanded its decorative element while speeding up the action and simplifying the plot by vastly reducing the amount of recitative. He collaborated a great deal with Galuppi, and countless others, but he lived in an era where the fame of the librettist still outweighed that of any composer.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990


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Track 17 on CDJ33009 [2'07] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 21 on CDS44201/40 CD17 [2'07] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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