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Common sense/upcoming programme

When I began the Schubertreise series in Bever, my idea was to follow the Bärenreiter edition more or less as the thirteen volumes appeared, which is to say volumes one to four (the songs Schubert had published or intended publishing), followed by the remaining songs in chronological order, with the exception of Die Schöne Müllerin, a perfect curtain-raiser, and ending with Winterreise, indisputably his masterpiece. But with the launching of two further series in Jodoigne and Dublin respectively, I found myself preparing two, sometimes three programmes simultaneously, too taxing by far. Starting with the next recital in Jodoigne, I intend performing the same programme concurrently in the three venues, while respecting the numbering system I have been using. Thus "Schubertreise III" in Jodoigne on September 18th is actually the programme I am preparing for Bever on October 5th, the real "Schubertreise XIII". Ceci n'est pas une pipe. You still get to hear all the songs, of course!

This is as good an opportunity as any to announce this programme, which deals exclusively with songs that exist in different versions, based on the same poem. By this I don't mean minor variants (as happened sometimes when Schubert wrote out a song from memory for a friend), but songs that are significantly different from each other. In most cases the final version was the one that he had published, but not necessarily the best. It is fascinating to compare the two versions of "Wer sich der Einsamkeit ergibt", the second of the "Gesänge des Harfners" cycle. The first is beautiful in its own way, polished and poignant, but the second is a masterpiece, a true communion between voice and piano. For Mignon's song "Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt" there are no less than five versions. All are good — I'm not even convinced that the one he chose for publication is the best. Very confusingly the title of the fifth version is "Lied der Mignon", number 4 of the Gesänge aus "Wilhelm Meister", and the confusion is compounded by the different titles given to "Mignon I" and "Mignon II".

In the case of "Des Mädchens Klage", the first version is one of the first songs he wrote, in 1811 at the age of fourteen. It is good enough, with here and there problems with the part-writing and occasional clumsiness in the word setting, hiccups that you would expect to find in a student effort. The later two settings are both very fine, with very little to choose between them. "Sehnsucht "(Schiller: "Ach, aus dieses Tales Gründen") exists in two versions, the first a very early song, demonstrating the beneficial influence of Salieri on Schubert's song style, the second a mature masterpiece. Schubert recycles material from the end of the first song very effectively, something which he didn't do very often, as far as I am aware.

Why did Schubert not destroy these versions? Had he an eye on possible publication? We know that Brahms destroyed much if not all of his juvenilia. It says much for Schubert's self-confidence... or maybe he never got around to it. But the fact that he recycled material from his early setting of Schiller's "Sehnsucht" after a gap of twelve years suggests that his attitude was something of the hoarder: keep it, you never know when it might come in useful. (My attic bears vivid testimony to this philosophy.)

Programme for Schubertreise XIII

Jägers Abendlied, D 215 (erste Bearbeitung)

Jâgers Abendlied, D 368, op 3/4 (zweite Bearbeitung)

Harfenspieler, D 325 (erste Bearbeitung)

Gesänge des Harfners, "Wer sich der einsamkeit ergibt", D 478, op. 12/1 (zweite Bearb.)

Gesang des Harfners (no Deutsch number), zweite Bearbeitung

Gesänge des Harfners, "Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass", D 478, op. 12/2 (zweite Bearb.)

Sehnsucht ("Ach, aus dieses Tales Gründen"), D 52 (erste Bearbeitung)

Sehnsucht, D 636, op. 39 (zweite Bearbeitung, dritte Fassung)

Des Mädchens Klage, D 6 (erste Bearbeitung)

Des Mädchens Klage, D 191, op. 58/3 (zweite Bearbeitung, zweite Fassung)

Des Mädchens Klage, D 389 (dritte Bearbeitung)

Sehnsucht,"Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt", D 310 (erste Bearbeitung, erste Fassung)

Sehnsucht, D 310 (erste Bearbeitung, zweite Fassung)

Sehnsucht, D 359 (Zweite Bearbeitung)

Sehnsucht, D 481 (dritte Bearbeitung)

Gesänge aus "Wilhelm Meister", D 887/4 (Lied der Mignon)

Mignon I, D 726 (erste Bearbeitung)

Gesänge aus "Wilhelm Meister, D 887/2: Heiss mich nicht reden (zweite Bearbeitung)

Mignon II, D 727 (zweite Bearbeitung)

Gesänge aus "Wilhelm Meister", D 887/3 (dritte Bearbeitung)

Note: Bearbeitung means arrangement, Fassung means setting or version.

©Conor Biggs

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