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How it looked on the page

One of the perks in using the Bärenreiter Urtext edition of the Schubert songs is that the poetry set by Schubert is printed as Schubert himself would have encountered it. This may seem obvious, but the fact is that some sources, if they print the poetry separately at all, tamper with the intended layout for the purposes of saving space. Consider two versions of the opening verses of Leitner's poem "Des Fischers Liebesglück":

Des Fischers Liebesglück

Dort blinket

Durch Weiden

Und winket

Ein Schimmer


Vom Zimmer

Der Holden mir zu.

Es gaukelt

Wie Irrlicht

Und schaukelt

Sich leise

Sein Abglanz

Im Kreise des schwankenden Sees.

The layout is as Leitner intended. The charm lies largely in the visual impact: three syllables per line, five in the last. Now compare the following version, available on a site devoted to song texts by thousands of poets:

Des Fischers Liebesglück

Dort blinket durch Weiden

Und winket ein Schimmer

Blassstrahlig Vom Zimmer

Der Holden mir zu.

Es gaukelt wie Irrlicht

Und schaukelt sich leise

Sein Abglanz im Kreise

Des schwankenden Sees.

Perfectly logical, but the delicate verse structure is completely destroyed. This editorial sleight of hand is all too common and leads to incorrect outlay in recital programmes and CD booklets the world over. Singers would do well to consult — in the case of German poetry — "Die deutsche GedichteBibliothek,

Or use the Bärenreiter Urtext...

Schubert's sometimes cavalier approach to setting poetry (repetition of lines, changing of words, omission of verses etc. will form the subject of a future blog.

©Conor Biggs


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