Franz Grillparzer (1791-1872) was best known for his dramas, but in music, he provided the texts for a few of Schubert’s songs. He’s also known for writing the funeral oration for Beethoven. His poem, Ständchen (Serenade), was set by Schubert for voice and chorus, giving a very different effect to the song than his normal voice and piano settings. Here, the chorus echoes the voice, gradually growing in intensity. The song is not only a serenade, but a kind of audible setting up of a serenade, beginning with the lover creeping up to his beloved’s doorway in the opening, ‘zögernd leise,’(hesitantly softly). There’s the light knock on the door, leise, leise, pochen wir (softly, softly, we knock), and then ‘the voice of love speaks,’ and the true serenade begins. The serenade begins at 01:34 (Sucht’ ein Weiser (A wise man)) and tells of the value of friendship: how much rarer than gold are those people we like? The song closes with the ensemble creeping away again, softly, softly.
Schubert: Ständchen, D. 920b (Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo-soprano; Capella Bavariae; Erik Werba, piano)
The song was written by Schubert for the birthday of one of the pupils of his friend Anna Frölich and remains unique in Schubert’s repertoire.
Ignaz Franz Castelli (1781 – 1862) was another dramatist on the Vienna scene. His poem, Das Echo, tells the simple story of a girl who has been observed by her mother kissing Hans and seeks to explain it as the fault of the echo. He had asked her ‘….tell me, am I welcome?’ to which the echo says ‘…come!’ (sagt, bin ich dir willkommen? / “kommen!”). The echo gets her into more trouble by agreeing to his kisses. The girl tells her mother that if she disapproves the match, then to blame it on the echo; however, if she approves the match, then her mother should tell Hans that it was the girl speaking, not the echo. It’s a lovely little game of words.
Schubert: Das Echo, D. 868 / D. 990c (Daniela Sindram, mezzo-soprano; Ulrich Eisenlohr, piano)
Eduard von Bauernfeld (1802-1890) was known for his witty and elegant comedies. One of his most famous poems set by Schubert was his translation of Shakespeare’s “Who is Sylvia,” from the play Two Gentlemen of Verona. The song, An Sylvia, was supposedly written by Schubert after he saw a book of Shakespeare in a beer garden and, begging paper and a pencil from his friends, wrote down the melody on the spot. From 1825 until Schubert’s death in 1828, the composer and poet were good friends.
Schubert: Gesang, Op. 106, No. 4, D. 891, “An Sylvia” (Who is Sylvia) (Simon Keenlyside, baritone; Malcolm Martineau, piano)