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Thekla 'Eine Geisterstimme', D73

First line:
Wo ich sei, und wo mich hingewendet
First setting; published by Wilhelm Müller in Berlin in 1868
author of text

At the end of Schiller's trilogy Wallenstein, the fate of the eponymous hero's daughter Thekla was left in the balance. In answer to the public's enquiries, Schiller wrote this poem in which Thekla, now a voice from another world, ties up the loose ends of the story. Schubert set the poem twice - the second time in 1817 (D595). In the later version the melody is in hypnotic 3/4 time, alternating between major and minor; the vocal line imprisoned within the compass of a fourth. A seance-like intensity is built into that hushed music whereas in D73 the pacing and shaping of Thekla's answers are left more to the fantasy of the singer. Schubert seems to have taken as a key to this setting Schiller's second-last line 'Wage du zu irren und zu träumen'. The composer does indeed dare to wander, and the performers must dare to dream. The music paints a wraith slipping in and out of focus: she speaks from limbo in the recitatives and reassures us about her new home in more anchored arioso. The grandeur of Thekla's background and story are wonderfully conveyed, yet the commentators, who are unlikely to have heard this song performed, have all found it hardly worthy of notice. It is true that playing this music through at the piano gives no idea of the power it can attain when the notes are filled out with the vibrations of human vocal chords which in turn produce colours summoned up by a singer's response to the words. In some of Schubert's more enigmatic creations, the very sound of the voice brings passages to life which seem static at the keyboard. Singers can sometimes reveal secrets locked away from even assiduous scholars.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1988


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