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Der Berghirt

First line:
Wenn auf dem höchsten Fels ich steh’
author of text

Jeannette must have realized that ageing singers, like her sister, tend to recycle their former successes. Anna’s most famous role in Weigl’s Die Schweizerfamilie included a certain amount of quasi-yodelling—in particular in the Cavatine with clarinet obbligato entitled ‘Wer hörte man jemals much klagen?’. In September 1812 Zelter noted ‘a kind of Swiss sturdiness in her singing, most naively expressed’. In 1823 Anna had commissioned Carl Blum to write her a Swiss scena entitled Gruss an die Schweiz (Goethe). When exactly did Jeannette provide her sister with Der Berghirt to a text of Wilhelm Müller—perfect mountain music this with a faux-suisse accent? Or did Schubert come first in 1828? Because he had seen Anna as Emmeline in Die Schweizerfamilie, it is likely that he dreamed up the idea of a Shepherd on the Rock, with clarinet obbligato, and cast in the same B flat major tonality as the Weigl Cavatine. But it remains possible that Anna Milder suggested this text to Schubert only because it had already been set by her younger sister, and she found that its subject matter resonated comfortably with her distinguished operatic past. In November 1830 Zelter wrote to Goethe of Milder’s ‘temper, caprice and bad behaviour … she likes having her own way’. He nevertheless adds that ‘her voice is even now a work of god’. From these words we can infer that the first performance of Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (in Riga, March 1830) was beautifully sung.

comparative Schubert listening:
Der Hirt auf dem Felsen D965. October 1828

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006


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