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Fischerlied, D351

First line:
Das Fischergewerbe
First version. 1816 (?); published in 1895
author of text

Schubert, the only great composer to be born in Vienna (as distinct from making a home there), was an inveterate town dweller. He loved the amenities that only a town could offer, and became rather bored in the country; on one country holiday, according to his friend Stadler, he preferred to stay in bed in the morning rather than go walking. It is true that the dramatic countryside of the Salzkammergut, which he visited with the singer Vogl in 1825, moved him to write rapturous letters home, but most of his songs about nature were written in urban surroundings. Distance lends enchantment, and like many of the poets of his day (the pastoral tradition was old-fashioned but by no means dead) Schubert idealised the country and the people who lived and worked in it. Just as Shakespeare plays have interludes in which rustics bring a change of colour and pace to the proceedings, Schubert's output is sprinkled with Singspiel songs worthy not only of Mozart's Papageno but also of the Bard's clowns and gravediggers. Almost all of Schubert's Viennese friends were would-be intellectuals and artists and if anyone was cast as the clown of the group it was the composer himself whose nickname was 'Little Mushroom'. But in Schubert, as in Shakespeare, clowns and rustics are often saner and truer men than the great and mighty who have lost touch with real life.

It is little wonder that the composer empathised with the miller and the hunter, the fisherman and poacher, the carpenter and goldsmith, and depicted them all affectionately in song. The apotheosis of this deceptively simple music is Die schöne Mullerin where a front of genial working class equanimity is slashed to reveal the profound personal crisis of a hyper-sensitive soul. In that cycle Schubert blurs the boundaries of comedy and tragedy: he alone of his contemporaries brings universal significance to Biedermeier tableaux in the same way that Shakespeare could animate temporal Tudor political propaganda with immortal verbal music. There is much of the humanity of the miller's music in many of the 'work songs' from Schubert's earlier years. This Fischerlied, for example, is sung by a spirited and lifelike character and has a wonderful swing to it. The strength and simplicity of this type of melody was often imitated by that ardent Schubertian, Arthur Sullivan. Unlike later settings of the poem (one on this disc and another for men's chorus, D364) each of the verses ends with jolly 'tra la las' which are the composer's invention, not the poet's. The key is D major which seems to suggest to Schubert the activity and preoccupations of working folk, particularly when water is part of the picture (Fischerweise, Schlegel's Der Schiffer, and Schober's Jägers Liebeslied come to mind). The poem has eight verses of which we perform 1, 4, 6and 7.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1988


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 2 - Stephen Varcoe


Track 1 on CDJ33002 [2'22]
Track 10 on CDS44201/40 CD13 [2'22] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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