Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Schubert Auf der Donau video

BBC Radio 3's "Spirit of Schubert" week was addictive. Something new to listen to again and again. Like the first ever recording of a song about transvestites! It was written for a club Schubert belonged to. Hear it around 1130 on the Saturday night slot.  Wonderful, too, some of the human stories on the request shows, like Alicia de Larrocha trying out someone's new piano in Zambia.  With such good material, why did they have to go spoil everything with Schubert Lab? We don't need to be treated like morons. At least Schubert Salon had Graham Johnson, who always talks sense. "Classical or Romantic?"  Johnson squelches that. Composers don't think of themselves in categories. Schubert learned from the classics and did his own thing. He helped create "Romantic"  I can't be the only person suffering withdrawal symptoms after this marvellous week. Fortunately some of it can still be heard on repeat for several days.

Above, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Svatoslav Richter in the Napoleon Room of Schloss Ismaning in 1978. The full concert is available on DVD. This excerpt is Auf der Donau D553 (1817). Full text and translation HERE on Emily Ezust's Lieder and Song Texts site, a fantastic resource. A couple are floating down the Danube. The piano part describes gentle waves, the steady movement of oars. But this is a poem by Mayrhofer, for whom water was associated with obliteration. Waves don't keep their shape, they don't stay still.  Then the forceful second strophe, where short, sharp questions cut against the flow. The "armoured strongholds" of men are destroyed in war, but nature (the river)  remains. In the undergrowth (dank, tangled) the boat is becalmed, the men afraid. "Wellen drohn wie Zeiten Untergang" (waves threaten to draw them down, like time has destroyed the castles and towers on the river banks) The word "Untergang" repeated with grave menace. Schubert wasn't to know that Mayrhofer would drown himself in a river years later (The Danube, I think). But even then he didn't set the poem as sunny boat ride.

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