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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUBERT: Lieder (Schwarzkopf) (1952-1954)
Although best remembered in the operatic rôles of the Marschallin (Der Rosenkavalier), Countess Madeleine (Capriccio), Fiordiligi (Così fan tutte), the Countess (Le nozze di Figaro) and Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni), Elisabeth Schwarzkopf also enjoyed a highly distinguished parallel career as a Lieder singer, both in the concert hall and on record, a field to which she turned increasingly following her retirement from the stage.One of the greatest of Schubert Lieder interpreters, Schwarzkopf is heard on these recordings in her absolute prime. Her radiantly beautiful voice and prowess as an interpreter are further illustrated on this re-issue in the two Beethoven arias, neither of which she sang on stage or in the concert hall.
By David Denton
In the early part of the 1950’s the German-born soprano, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, had reached a high point of a distinguished career.
Though today remembered for her recordings of opera, she was also one of the outstanding lieder singers of her generation. Making a first visit to London in 1947 with the Vienna State Opera, it was to bring an offer to become a member of the fledgling Covent Garden Company. It was fortuitous as it also marked the beginning of her recording career for the Columbia label, going into the Abbey Road studio in 1952, with the pianist Edwin Fischer, to place on disc this group of Schubert lieder. In style it was a throwback to the days of Elizabeth Schumann, and like Schumann she employed a different voice to that which she used in opera. There were those little slids between notes she carried over from the yesteryears, while songs were characterised in an obvious way that was fashionable at the time. She chose an extremely popular programme that included, An die Musik, An Silvia, Im Fruhling, Nachtviolen and Gretchen am Spinnrade. At times Fischer has to clip notes to retain an immaculate ensemble with Schwarzkopf, but together they make a persuasive presentation of the music, and well able to hold a place against any in the catalogue. To the original LP release, Naxos have added two further songs with Gerald Moore as accompanist, and, rather incongruously, Beethoven’s Ah, perfido and an aria from Fidelio with the Philharmonia under Karajan. Fine singing, excellent playing.
Great Singers: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006)
SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Lieder • BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) Arias
Franz Schubert (1797-1828) wrote in excess of 600 hundred Lieder. The genre covers the entire period of this composing life from 1810 until his death. These include the song cycles Die schöne Müllerin, Winterreise and the posthumous arranged collection Schwanengesang.
The concept of the German Lied (or Song) grew from the arietta of Haydn and Mozart the form of which was predominately strophic. Beethoven in his early years continued in a similar manner until he composed the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved). This setting covered a wider arc than hitherto, through changing moods and episodes before returning to the original melody followed by an attractive coda. Then there were the influences of lesser composers such as Johann Friedrich Reichardt (1752-1814) and Karl Friedrich Zelter (1758-1832), who wrote many popular songs. A greater influence on Schubert possibly was Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg (1760-1802), whose musical style and language is apparent in the young Schubert’s music. Schubert, however, was far more innovative and significantly developed the genre of the Lied into the nineteenth century
An die Musik (To Music) is a setting of a text by Franz von Schober (1796-1882). Dating from March 1817, it recalls how a poet’s life has been enriched by the language of music. Im Frühling (In Springtime) dates from March 1826 and is a setting of a poem by Ernst Konrad Friedrich Schulze (1789-1817) in which the season of spring and young love are depicted. The poet recalls the happiness of love that has gone, leaving just love itself, and sadness regained. With its gentle flowing movement it remains one of the finest of all Schubert songs. Wehmut (Melancholy), to a text by Matthäus von Collin (1779- 1824), dates from 1822-23. Note the major and minor clash at the words “so wohl, so weh” (so happy, so sad). The song ends in a breathtaking stillness. The setting is a splendid example of Schubert expressing mingled joy and sadness. Ganymed takes a text by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) and was composed in March 1817. This is another setting which is imbued with the feelings of youth and spring.
Das Lied im Grünen (the Song of the Greenwood) sets a text by J.A. Friedrich Reil. Written in June 1827 in between the first and later parts of the cycle Winterreise which occupied Schubert in the spring and autumn of that year, the Lied is a tribute to the season of spring and its unfailing ability to heal and renew. The piano part plainly explains that the song is about the stream and water. Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning-wheel) is a setting of a text by Goethe and dates from October 1814. Its lyrical nature characterizes well Schubert’s early period and the song can be claimed to be an example of the composer’s first truly Romantic Lied in which the lyrical and dramatic elements are intertwined. Note how cleverly the composer changes the melody and harmonies at the beginning of each stanza. Nähe des Geliebten (Nearness of the Beloved) is another Goethe setting, dating from February 1815. The subject is love and sunlight.
Die junge Nonne (The Young Nun) takes a text of Jakob Nikolaus Reichsfreiherr Craigher de Jachelutta (1797-1855), which Schubert set in early 1825. It is in the form of a dramatic monologue. Schubert employs a dark almost storm-like mood and the inclusion of convent bell sounds only heightens the atmosphere. An Sylvia (Who is Sylvia) is a German translation by Eduard von Bauernfeld (1802-1890) of a song by Shakespeare from his Two Gentlemen of Verona, dating from July 1826. This simple almost improvisatory setting is one of the composer’s most touching. Auf dem Wasser zu singen is a memorable setting of a text by Friedrich Leopold, Graf zu Stolberg- Stolberg (1750-1819) and was composed in 1823. The distinguished German singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau considers this “perhaps the most telling of Schubert’s water-studies” (Schubert’s Songs – a biographical study. New York, 1984). The piano writing aptly justifies this comment.
Nachtviolen (Dame’s Violet) dates from April 1822 and is a setting of a text by Johann Mayrhofer (1787- 1836). It recalls the difficult friendship between composer and poet. Der Musensohn (Son of the Muses) sets a poem by Goethe and was written in December 1822. Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen (Litany for the Festival of All Souls) employs a text by Johann Georg Jacobi (1740-1814) that dates from August 1816. It is a very exacting song for the singer’s technique, demanding the ability to spin out an endless legato. The nine verses pose many problems of interpretation for the singer. Ungeduld (Impatience) comes from Die schöne Müllerin, a cycle of twenty poems by Wilhelm Müller (1794-1827), composed during October and November 1823.
Beethoven wrote his concert aria Ah, perfido! in 1796 (to a text by the Roman poet Pietro Trapassi) for the soprano Josepha Duschek for whom Mozart had written earlier his concert aria Bella mia fiamma, K528. Whilst the older composer’s vocal piece may have served as a model, Beethoven’s concept is most definitely that of the nineteenth century. The work was not published until 1805 so that the opus number does not relate to the period of composition. The text of Ah, perfido! Spergiuro, barbaro traditore, tu parti? (Ah, unfaithful liar! Vile deceiver, you leave me?) conveys the cry of a young woman who has been betrayed in love. The music is dramatic in its message. Initially she pleads for the gods to punish him, but the mood softens as her feelings change to one of mercy, even offering to die for him. The music sounds more Mozartian in this section. The tensions rise once again as the soloist furiously denounces her fate at the hands of her cruel lover.
Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio is drawn from the drama Léonore, ou l’amour conjugal by Nicolas Bouilly, based on a true event in the author’s native Tours during the Jacobin Terror in France. Earlier settings of this story had been made by Pierre Gaveaux in 1798, Ferdinand Paër (1804) and Simon Mayr (1805). Beethoven’s opera was originally called Leonore (a three-act opera) but after an unsuccessful première in Vienna in November 1805, he reluctantly changed the name but tightened and revised his score into two acts. This was slightly more successful but it was not until the final revision of 1814 that the opera appeared in the form we know today. In it the heroine Leonore masquerades as a male called Fidelio so that secretly she can discover where her husband Florestan is being held in solitary confinement in prison. She later overhears the evil prison governor Don Pizarro explaining that before the expected ministerial visit the following day Florestan must be murdered. Left alone, Leonore/Fidelio denounces Pizarro as a monster, a man impervious to any form of human decency. In the recitative and following aria she invokes rage and the spirit of hope and love, determined to enter her husband’s cell and save him. The aria begins with the words “Komm, Hoffnung” (Come, Hope) culminating in a horn-led coda imbued with true Beethovenian fervour.
The German soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915- 2006) studied at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik and later with the soprano Maria Ivogün, before making her début as one of the Flowermaidens in Parsifal with the Städtische Oper, Berlin in 1938. Originally a lyric soprano she undertook rôles such as Adele in Die Fledermaus, Musetta in La Bohème and Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxoswhen she joined the Vienna State Opera under Karl Böhm in 1943. Her first overseas appearance was with this company on their visit to London in 1947, when she sang Donna Elvira and Marzelline in Fidelio. She then joined the fledgling Covent Garden Company, where for five seasons she sang a variety of rôles, mostly in English, including Manon, Madama Butterfly and Violetta in La Traviata. Alongside these appearances, Schwarzkopf sang at the Salzburg Festival (1946-1964), at Teatro alla Scala, Milan (1948-1963), San Francisco (1955-1964) and, finally, the Metropolitan in New York in 1964. She was greatly admired in the rôles of the Marschallin, Fiordiligi, the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro and Donna Elvira. Schwarzkopf also created Anne Trulove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in Venice in 1951. She also enjoyed a highly distinguished parallel career as a Lieder singer in the concert hall, a field to which she turned increasingly following her retirement from the stage. In her later years she was renowned for the quality of her series of master-classes. She was the wife of the impresario and recording producer Walter Legge, whom she married in 1953. Her prowess as an interpreter is justly illustrated by her performances of the two Beethoven arias here, neither of which she sang on stage or in the concert hall.
FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
An die Musik, D547 Im Frühling, D882
Das Lied im Grünen, D917
Gretchen am Spinnrade, D118
Nähe des Geliebten, D162
Die junge Nonne, D828
An Silvia, D891
Auf dem Wasser zu singen, D774
Der Musensohn, D764
Edwin Fischer, piano
Recorded 4 - 7 October, 1952 in EMI Abbey Road Studio 1A, London
First issued on Columbia 33CX 1040
FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797-1828):
Litanei auf das Fest Allerseelen, D343
Die schöne Müllerin, D795
Gerald Moore, piano
Recorded 9 and 10 January, 1954 in EMI Abbey Road Studio 1, London
First issued on Columbia 33CX 1044
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827):
Ah, perfido! – Concert Aria, Op. 65
Fidelio, Op. 72: Act I
Philharmonia Orchestra • Herbert von Karajan
Recorded 20 September, 1954 in Watford Town Hall
First issued on Columbia 33CX 1278 and *33CX 1266
Producer and Audio Restoration Engineer: Mark Obert-Thorn
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SCHUBERT: Lieder (Schwarzkopf) (1952-1954)