- Written by Sílvia
Not all the friendships were long-lasting. The life in Vienna was hard in those years; at first because of the war, while Schubert was at Konvikt, then because of the repression of Klemens von Metternich's government. One victim of that situation was Johann Senn, a fellow student of Franz, who in 1813 lost his scholarship (that's to say, the possibility of study at the board school) because he was part of an intellectual circle and that wasn't very well looked upon. From 1819 intellectuals were harshly repressed: all publications were censored, student associations were banned, there were spies everywhere... Many young men, Schubert and his friends among them, organized themselves in secret societies. Next year Senn was arrested at home, along with Schubert and two other friends; all of them were released except Senn who, after spending fourteen months in prison without preferred charges against him, was banished to Tyrol. Senn and Schubert kept in touch but they never met again; from their relationship we have two lieder, Schwanengesang and Selige Welt.
Ignaz Sonnleithner, unlike those previously mentioned, wasn't an intimate friend of Schubert; when they first met he was an elderly gentleman, a respected lawyer, amateur singer and composer (he was one of the favorite composers of Emperor Joseph II). Joseph von Spaun, who was a fellow student and friend of Sonnleithner's son Leopold, introduced Schubert to him. Herr Sonnleithner led a musical salon, one of the most known and frequented of Vienna; it used to gather more than one hundred people and everybody wanted to be invited. That salon was one of the first places where Schubert's music was played, thanks mainly to the efforts of Leopold; besides, Schubert's friends used to copy and sell among the attendants the scores that publishers had previously rejected. The support of the Sonnleithners was very important to Schubert but if I mentioned them in this list is mainly because Herr Sonnleithner fascinates me: he was friend with Schubert, and with Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Salieri!
Moritz von Schwind was the youngest of the group of Schubert's friends and the next-to-last to join them, he met Franz Schubert in 1821, when he was seventeen. At that time some of the members left Vienna because of their jobs and the core of the group began to disperse; Spaun, for instance, had just moved to Linz. At that time, Schwind was a very good musician and his aim was to become a painter (he succeeded some years later, when he moved to Munich); he deeply admired Schubert ("as Schubert composes, so do I want to paint"), they had similar character and they got on immediately with each other; the boy, who was nicknamed Cherubin, became the confidant of Franz. Thanks to Moritz von Schwind we have some portraits of Schubert, the most famous of which is the drawing of a Schubertiade, from 1868, where many Schubert's friends are portrayed.
The last to join the group of friends was Eduard von Bauernfeld, two years older than his friend Schwind; he got into the group at the end of 1824 and during the las four years of Schubert the three of them and Schober were inseparable. Bauernfeld was one of the most important writers of his time but he devoted mostly to theater, maybe that's the reason why Schubert wrote so few songs from his poems. We know he compose four, two of which got lost. Of the remaining two, one is among the best known Lieder of Schubert, An Silvia. The writer was translating Shakespeare at that time and Schubert knew his work through him, his three lieder with Shakespeare's texts were written in a few days although only one was translated from English by Bauernfeld.
I left out of these long post many friends of Schubert: Anselm and Joseph Hüttenbrenner, Ignaz and Franz Lachner, Leopold and Joseph Kupelweiser, Matthäus von Collin or Franz Grillparzer, but I think that the chosen friends give us an image of that group that began in 1808 and was so important to Schubert. Don't think that they were solemn, wise people; they were wise but, according to their memories, they had a really good time. Neither keep the idea that Schubert was the center of the group, even he's the center for us. He probably was the cohesive element that kept the other united, as Joseph von Spaun said: "we all became friends and brothers together.It was a beautiful, unforgettable time". We, Art Song lovers from the 21th century, owe to those man, in addition to their work with Schubert, their correspondence and their memories; maybe they're softened or inaccurated but they are an essential source of information about Schubert.
I said before that only two Lieder with Bauernfeld's poems survived. We're listening to the second of those songs to close this post, Der Vater mit dem Kind (The father with his child), from 1827. How many lullabies do you know where the father (not the mother) has the child on his lap? Surprisingly at that time, a man twenty-five years old, unmarried and childless, wrote a poem about a father who gets moved by his child asleep in her arms, and a man of thirty, unmarried and childless chose this poem to make a song. We're listening to the song performed by Anthony Rolfe Johnson and Graham Johnson. Fathers who are reading, that's your song!
Dem Vater liegt das Kind im Arm,
Es ruht so wohl, es ruht so warm,
Es lächelt süss: lieb’ Vater mein!
Und mit dem Lächeln schläft es ein.
Der Vater beugt sich, atmet kaum,
Und lauscht auf seines Kindes Traum;
Er denkt an die entschwund’ne Zeit
Mit wehmutsvoller Seligkeit.
Und eine Trän’ aus Herzensgrund
Fällt ihm auf seines Kindes Mund;
Schnell küsst er ihm die Träne ab,
Und wiegt es leise auf und ab.
Um einer ganzen Welt Gewinn
Gäb er das Herzenskind nicht hin.
Du Seliger schon in der Welt,
Der so sein Glück in Armen hält!