A morning missive - Joseph Leempoels
A morning missive - J. Leempoels
We get some posts about Schubert every year; he's the apple of my eye. Today, as we did last year and the year before, we are dedicating this post to him, as an homage in his death anniversary, 19th November 1828 (this year, the date happens to meet my posting day). I kept a subject for today, Schubert's “year of miracles”, 1815, during which he wrote 145 songs.

Elisa Rapado gave me the idea some months ago when she blogged about the Annus Mirabilis; she invited singers, pianists and people keen of Schubert to celebrate the 200th anniversary of that year. I'll try to post some songs from 1815 during next year, but as I only post once a week and I already have two ongoing series, it might not be that wise to promise a new one. For now, this post will be the opening of our commemoration.

On 19th October 1814, at seventeen, Schubert composed Gretchen am Spinnrade, which marks the “official” birth of Romantic Lied. Until then, Schubert had written about thirty songs. In 1815, he wrote, as I said before, 150, besides two symphonies, two masses, four works for stage and several choral works, it was his most prolific year. He was just beginning to compose and among this production, there were simple songs, experimental works, several songs from the same poem, masterpieces... a little bit of everything. His pace of composition was frantic: on October 19th, for example, he wrote nine songs; on 15th he wrote eight, and we could go on with many dates in which he wrote more than one work.

What was it? Why was that year so prolific? There might be a number of influential factors. Schubert was in his first year as a teacher at the school that his father was the principal; he was in charge of the youngest students. He didn't like it, he wasn't right for the job. Children made him anxious and music could have become a refuge to him; in fact, his most fertile composing time matches those two years he was teaching at the school. In 1816, he wrote a hundred lieder. In addition, he had a piano, a gift from his proud father after the premiere of his Mass in F. He also had new friends who joined those from Konvikt (the school where he studied music); now, Körner, Stadler, Holzapfel, Spaun, Mayrhofer, Hüttenbremer, all of them educated and interested in Arts, mostly musicians and poets themselves, formed his circle. Also, we shouldn’t forget that Schubert fell in love with Teresa Grob, the singer who sang that Mass and had inspired him Gretchen am Spinnrade. So, there are many circumstances that could have influenced the surprising emergence of the young man; do you know any other composer with such a huge work at eighteen?

I checked how many lieder written by Schubert in 1815 I have already posted and I found six: Abends unter den Linden, Der Jüngling an der Quelle, Die Mainacht, Erlkönig, Meeres Stille and Nähe des Geliebten, the last three with poems by Goethe. I could have chosen another famous song from 1815 to share with you in this post, but instead I chose a little-known one that I heard for the very first time not long ago.

Do you remember that some weeks ago I talked about the Oxford Lied Festival? Eventually I was able to organize a city break and I attended a recital in Oxford. The calendar chose for me and it happened to be a recital full of surprises because I only knew five songs out of 30 that were listed. That evening the songs were about "Der Göttinger Hainbund"(Grove League of Göttingen) a literary group founded in 1772 at the University of Göttingen by some students whose poems inspired Schubert; roughly, a third of the performed songs were composed in 1815.
Among them, the lieder with poems by Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, the literary reference of the group of Göttingen; Schubert wrote eight lieder with his poems between 12th and 15th of September. Among them there's the well-known Dem Unendlichen, but I'm sharing a small song, Furcht der Geliebten (Fear for the beloved). Written in 1752, the poet tells his beloved Cidli (Margareta Moller, whom he married in 1754) that she shouldn't worry about him because he is certain God will protect him. There are only two stanzas; Schubert composed a strophic Lied that reminds of a chorale, tender and loving as will be (differences aside) some years later, Du bist die Ruh. It is performed by Simon Keenlyside and Graham Johnson.
Furcht der Geliebten 

Cidli, du weinest, und ich schlummre sicher,
Wo im Sande der Weg verzogen fortschleicht;
Auch wenn stille Nacht ihn umschattend decket,
Schlummr' ich ihn sicher.

Wo er sich endet, wo ein Strom das Meer wird,
Gleit ich über den Strom, der sanfter aufschwillt;
Denn der mich begleitet, der Gott gebot's ihm.
Weine nicht, Cidli!


(if you need an English translation please follow this link)

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