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The longest song, and other trumpery matters

At 25 minutes 'Adelwold und Emma', a tale of knightly derring-do, is Schubert's longest song, and forms the backbone to our next recital in Dublin on January 15th 2016. There are passages of great beauty, whirling passage work for the piano, and gripping recitatives, enough I think to hold one's interest, even if John Reed snootily writes that 'performances are unlikely, to say the least.' Michel and I have come to the conclusion that the songs that are the most fun to perform, while not necessarily among his best, are these lengthy, sprawling ballads, particularly those inspired by Ossian. This is the blurb I wrote for the NCH flyer:

'Conor Biggs and Michel Stas return to the Kevin Barry Room for their next instalments in the ground-breaking Schubertreise series of the complete Schubert songs. Each recital is presented informally by Conor Biggs. The thirty six-part series continues in 2017 with parts eleven to thirteen.

Schubertreise XI, Sunday January 15th 2017 at 3pm

Adelwold und Emma, D 211

Die Laube, D 214

Kolmas Klage, D 217

Grablied, D 218

Das Finden, D 219

Der Abend, D 221

Lieb Minna, D 222

Idens Nachtgesang, D 227

Von Ida, D 228

Die Täuschung, D 230

Das Sehnen, D 231

Geist der Liebe, D 223

Tischlied, D 234

Adelwold und Emma enjoys the dubious reputation of being Schubert’s longest song, and while not one of his best, there is plenty to enjoy in this gothic tale of betrayed confidence, stubborn chivalry, burning castle, imperiled maiden and tearful reconciliation — with music to match. Die Laube bears a strong resemblance to the beautiful Erster Verlust, and deserves to be better known. Kolmas Klage is one of the better of the Ossian settings; Grablied is a hymnlike tribute to the poet Theodor Körner, who fell in battle against Napoleon, while Das Finden is a celebration of innocence with an ethnic tinge. Der Abend shows Schubert meddling with the poet’s intentions, when he changes the name of the castle from the original Arkona to Temora, to fit in with his Ossian phase. Lieb Minna is pervaded by a tone of sweet melancholy; Idens Nachtgesang displays heartfelt emotion in classical garb, while Von Ida (in Kosegarten’s original Von Agnes, changed by Schubert to Von Ida for singing purposes) is written in three-part counterpoint. Die Täuschung is described by Schubert scholar John Reed as being ‘sweetly tuneful, and grateful to the hands and voice, attractive music for domestic consumption but little more.’ In Das Sehnen the elegant, almost cheerful character of the music belies the grief of Kosegarten’s poetry; In Geist der Liebe we witness a rumpty-tum cheerfulness that cannot hide the banality of the verse, and in Tischlied we are confronted with a drinking song for one person — a contradiction in terms of course, albeit a rousing one.'

"And we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye: at the last —


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