Commercially Available CDs

Franz Schubert: Schwanengesang (Swan Song), D957; Robert Schumann: Dichterliebe (The Poet’s Love), Op. 48

Max van Egmond, baritone; Kenneth Slowik, fortepiano

Musica Omnia 0102

In antique myth, swans—those most beautiful of birds—sing their only song just before dying, and their last utterance is of unearthly beauty. Two of many who made use of this symbolic lore to hymn the final achievements of great artists were the Viennese publisher Tobias Haslinger and Ferdinand Schubert, Franz Schubert’s older brother, in whose cramped apartment in the house dubbed “Zur Stadt Ronsperg” Schubert died on 19 November 1828. On 17 December 1828, Ferdinand sold a manuscript containing seven songs on texts by Ludwig Rellstab and six on texts by Heinrich Heine, as well as the manuscripts of the last three piano sonatas, to Haslinger for some 500 florins; an unrelated song, “Die Taubenpost,” dated “October 1828,” was sold to the same publisher shortly thereafter. The day following the sale, on 18 December 1828, Haslinger published an announcement in the Wiener Zeitung to say that he “had purchased as his legal property Franz Schubert’s last compositions for voice and piano from the estate of the recently deceased, incomparable composer,” fourteen songs in all. On 31 January 1829, he announced in the same periodical the impending appearance of the Schwanen-Gesang: “Under the above title are offered to the numerous friends of the composer’s classic muse, the last blossoms of his noble spirit. These are the compositions he wrote in August 1828, shortly before he left this world, works which proclaim in the most definitive manner the consummate nature of his mastery.”

                                                                                  —from Susan Youens’ liner notes

Van Egmond and Slowik at the Smithsonian’s ca. 1830 Graf fortepiano
Van Egmond and Slowik at the Smithsonian’s ca. 1830 Graf fortepiano

 

Lyrics to “Der Doppelgänger”

Der Doppelgänger

Still ist die Nacht, es ruhen die Gassen,
In diesem Hause wohnte mein Schatz;
Sie hat schon längst die Stadt verlassen,
Doch steht noch das Haus auf demselben Platz.

Da steht auch ein Mensch und starrt in die Höhe
Und ringt die Hände vor Schmerzensgewalt;
Mir graust es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe—
Der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt.

Du Doppelgänger, du bleicher Geselle!
Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid,
Das mich gequält auf dieser Stelle
So manche Nacht, in alter Zeit?

The Ghostly Double

Still is the night, the streets are at rest;
In this house lived my sweetheart.
She has long since left the town,
But the house still stands on the very same place.

There too stands a man, staring up
And wringing his hands in anguish;
I shudder when I see his face—
The moon shows me my own form.

 

 You ghostly double, you pale companion!
Why do you ape the pain of my love
Which tormented me on this very place.
So many a night in days long gone?

 

Listen to “Doppelgänger” from Schwanengesang

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Max van Egmond, very ably seconded by American fortepianist Kenneth Slowik, conveys both the inner kernel of each song’s meaning, and an entirely appropriate nostalgia: the light and flexible sounds call up beautiful memories, of which nowadays you hear much too little, while his more somber moments are almost craggy in their intensity. Beautifully done.

 

—Tijdschrift oudemuziek (Amsterdam)
On this album: 

[1]–[14] Franz Schubert: Schwanengesang, d957

[15]–[30] Robert Schumann: Dichterliebe, Op. 48