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RIP Walther Dürr

Walther Dürr, the editor of the complete Schubert songs for the Bärenreiter edition, died last February. He did not live to see the completion of this great project, since his last work was on volume nine (there are thirteen volumes.) He was an engaging individual, who visited Belgium towards the beginning of the now-abandoned Schubertreise series in Bever, where he gave an impromptu talk on publishing. He admitted to me that Schubert wrote too many songs for his own good, and as the series progresses I find myself agreeing with him, not because there are many bare patches, but because the best songs tend to push the not-quite-masterpieces into oblivion. The sheer volume of songs composed in 1815, for instance, adds considerably to the total tally (mine is 577), although this should be set against the fact that in later years he wrote comparatively few songs, being much taken up with operatic production. (Schubert was presumably too disorganized to destroy his works — or perhaps he kept them in order to harvest ideas for other works.) This is as good a place as any to point out that the songs he had published in his lifetime eventually found their way into the Peters Edition, volumes 1-3 — and since these three volumes were made available to high, medium and low voice (out of a total of seven volumes), they are by and large the songs regularly performed. Many, though not all, are masterpieces. A few perplex us: did he really think that 'Der Liedler' was good enough to be published? Apparently he did, and we should bear in mind that the awful poem was very popular in its day. But many songs dating from the later years are true masterpieces, and deserved to be published far earlier: 'Grenzen der Menscheit' and 'Prometheus', for instance, two majestic songs for bass voice. These, and roughly two-thirds of his output, had to await posthumous publication, and some of them are being published by Bärenreiter for the first time. Our grateful thanks to Walther Dürr.

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