Transcript: Susan Youens on Shubert. | Mar 03, 2001

A slate with two Doric columns reads "Susan Youens. University of Notre Dame. 'Ego, ehrgeiz, and the lied: Contexts around a late Schubert song.'"

[applause]

Susan Youens stands behind a wooden lectern in a university auditorium. Behind her, large chalkboards with empty pentagrams hang from a wall.
Susan is in her late fifties, with chin-length straight gray hair. She's wearing a black dress.

She says ONE SINGER, OPERATIC
VOCAL HEFT NOT REQUIRED.
ONE PERSON AT THE PIANO, AND
MUSIC WHICH COMPACTS MAXIMUM
NUANCE INTO MINIMUM SPACE.
THESE ARE THE INGREDIENTS OF
19th CENTURY GERMAN SONG
OR LIEDER.
SONG CONSTITUTES ONE OF THE
RICHEST MUSICAL REPERTORIES
OF A MUSICALLY RICH CENTURY.
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF
SONGS WERE COMPOSED, OF
WHICH ONLY A FRACTION TODAY ARE
HEARD ON RECITALS AND ON CDs.
IN 1885, A MAN NAMED ERNST
SCHALLIER COMPILED A LIEDER
CATALOGUE, AND HIS BOOK OF
LISTS RUNS TO 1,382 PAGES OF
EYE-STRAIN INDUCING
FINE PRINT.
THIS WILL GIVE YOU SOME IDEA
OF THE STAGGERING QUANTITY
OF SONGS PUBLISHED IN
LESS THAN 100 YEARS.

A caption appears on screen. It reads "Susan Youens. University of Notre Dame. 'Ego, ehgreiz, and the lied: Context around a late Schubert song.'"

Susan continues THERE ARE MANY REASONS FOR
THIS PHENOMENON, FOR THE
EXPLOSION OF SONG
COMPOSITION.
FOR EXAMPLE, THE CULTURAL
ASPIRATIONS OF THE RISING
MIDDLE CLASS, WHAT GERMANS
WOULD CALL THE BILDUNG
STEIGENDEN ARE ONE FACTOR.
ALL OF US WHO GREW UP WITH A
PIANO IN THE LIVING ROOM AND
OUR PARENTS' EXPECTATIONS
THAT WE SHOULD TAKE MUSIC
LESSONS ARE INHERITORS OF THIS
LONG-LIVED EUROPEAN TRADITION.
MUSIC COMPOSITION ALWAYS
TRACES VERY CLOSELY THE
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN
INSTRUMENT MANUFACTURE, SO
THE AVAILABILITY OF
RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE PIANOS
TO MORE HOUSEHOLDS IS ANOTHER
FACTOR IN THE RISE OF SONG.
FURTHERMORE, 19th CENTURY
COMPOSERS BELIEVED THAT THEY,
TOO, COULD BECOME DICHTER,
POETS, BY MOLDING THE
ELEMENTS OF THEIR MUSIC,
HARMONY, RHYTHM, MELODY,
TONALITY, ETC., TO THEIR
READING OF A LYRIC POEM.
THERE IS AN ENDLESS
FASCINATION IN COMPARING
SETTINGS OF THE SAME POETIC
WORK BY DIFFERENT COMPOSERS,
BECAUSE NO TWO MUSICAL
MINDS EVER READ A POEM
IN THE SAME WAY.
IN ADDITION TO THE DOUBLED
DELIGHTS OF TRACING THE
DIALECTIC BETWEEN POETRY
AND MUSIC, I AM ESPECIALLY
INTRIGUED BY THE STUDY OF
SONGS AS CULTURAL DOCUMENTS.
UNPACKING JUST A FEW PAGES
OF MUSIC, ONE FINDS A SERIES
OF RIPPLES SPREADING OUTWARDS
FROM THE SMALL ARTIFACT.
WAVES OF HISTORY, LITERARY
FASHION, POLITICS, ART,
PEDAGOGY, MYSTICISM,
THEOLOGY, BIOGRAPHY,
AUTOBIOGRAPHY, MUSICAL
INFLUENCES, POETIC ANCESTORS
AND ALWAYS SOCIETY'S
CULTURAL PROPOSITIONS.
CULTURAL FORCES SHAPE THE
CREATION OF LIEDER AND
COMPOSERS IN TURN SHAPE
THEIR CULTURE WHEN THEY SEND
MESSAGE-BEARING MUSIC
OUT INTO THE WORLD.
WHEN PRESENT-DAY LISTENERS
KNOW SOMETHING OF THE FORCES
AT WORK WITHIN A SONG,
WE HEAR IT DIFFERENTLY.
I WOULD ARGUE IN A
FULLER, RICHER WAY.
THE EXPANDED FRAME OF
REFERENCE BECOMES EVEN
LARGER IF ONE TAKES INTO
CONSIDERATION, AND ONE MUST,
THE INTERPLAY BETWEEN
THREE DIFFERENT CULTURES.
THAT OF THE POET, OF
THE COMPOSER AND OF THE
INTERPRETER, WHOSE
SUBJECTIVE WORLD IS ALWAYS
DEEPLY IMPLICATED IN
THE INTERPRETATION.
IN THIS LECTURE, I WOULD
LIKE TO DISCUSS TWO EXAMPLES
OF SONGS BY THE EARLY 19th
CENTURY AUSTRIAN COMPOSER
FRANZ SCHUBERT.
SONGS WITH ESPECIALLY
VIVID, EVEN LURID CONTEXTS.
IN A MERE 17 YEARS, FROM
1811 UNTIL HIS DEATH AT AGE
31 ON 19 NOVEMBER 1828,
SCHUBERT COMPOSED WELL OVER
600 SONGS.
AND THE ELEMENTS THAT WENT
INTO THE CREATION OF THIS
REPERTORY ARE FAR MORE
NUMEROUS AND COMPLEX THAN
I COULD HAVE IMAGINED WHEN I
BEGAN STUDYING LIEDER SOME
20 YEARS AGO.
ONE OF SCHUBERT'S MOST
POWERFUL SONGS IS THE
BALLAD
DER ZWERG, THE
DWARF, PROBABLY COMPOSED IN
1822 OR 1823, TO A BIZARRE
POEM BY A MAN NAMED MATTHAUS
VON COLLIN, AN OLDER VIENNESE
CONTEMPORARY OF SCHUBERT'S.
THE TWO MEN KNEW ONE
ANOTHER, AND I LIKE TO THINK
THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE
COLLABORATED ACTIVELY ON
THE CREATION OF THIS SONG.
A DRAMATIST, LITERARY
CRITIC, AND EDITOR, COLLIN
WAS ALSO ONE OF THE COURT
TUTORS CHARGED WITH THE
DE-FRENCHIFICATION OF
NAPOLEON'S HALF-AUSTRIAN SON,
THE DUKE OF REICHSTADT.
COLLIN WAS NOT A GREAT, OR
EVEN A GOOD POET, BUT HE WAS
AN EXTREMELY THOUGHTFUL
PERSON, TRAINED IN PHILOSOPHY,
AND EAGER TO EXPERIMENT
WITH THE NEW CONCEPTS
PROPOSED BY THE
GERMAN ROMANTICS.
HE WAS CLOSE FRIENDS WITH
LUDWIG TEAK, NOVALIS, THE
SCHLEGEL BROTHERS, ALL OF
THE IMPORTANT FIGURES OF
GERMAN ROMANTICISM.
DER ZWERG
IS ONE OF THOSE
EXPERIMENTS, AN EXERCISE IN
THE AESTHETIC CATEGORY
OF THE GROTESQUE.
THAT IS, THE JUXTAPOSITION OF
SEEMINGLY INCOMPATIBLE ELEMENTS.
THE MONSTROUS AND THE
SUBLIME, FOR EXAMPLE.
IN ORDER TO PROBE THOSE
THINGS REASON CANNOT
EXPLAIN, COLLIN USES
GROTESQUERY IN THIS BALLAD
IN ORDER TO EXPLORE THE
PARADOXES OF INFINITE
DESIRE, LEADING INEVITABLY
TO THE COMPULSION EITHER TO
KILL OR TO BE KILLED.
IN THIS INSTANCE, BOTH.
HERE, A YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL
QUEEN HAS BEEN THE LOVER OF
A DWARF OBSESSED BY
HER, AND SHE BY HIM.
AS PUNISHMENT FOR HER
PERFIDY IN BETRAYING HIM FOR
THE KING, OF WHOM WE HEAR
NOTHING ELSE, THE DWARF
KILLS HER BY MYSTERIOUS
MEANS, AND LOWERS HER BODY
INTO THE SEA.
BEFORE I PLAY THE SONG FOR
YOU IN A PERFORMANCE BY THE
TENOR, IAN BOSTRICH, AND
THE PIANIST, JULIAN DRAKE,
LET ME READ THE ENGLISH
TRANSLATION OF THE POEM,
WHICH IS GIVEN IN EXAMPLE
ONE ON YOUR HANDOUT.
SOME OF YOU WILL NOTICE
THAT COLLIN USES A GERMANIC
VERSION OF THE TAUT SAREMA
VERSE FORM OF DANTE'S
DIVINE COMEDY.
THIS IS ONE ELEMENT IN THE
MAKING OF A GROTESQUE.
IN THE GLOOMY LIGHT, THE
MOUNTAINS ALREADY FADE.
THE SHIP DRIFTS ON THE SEA'S
SMOOTH SWELL, WITH THE QUEEN
AND HER DWARF ABOARD.
SHE GAZES UP AT THE HIGH,
ARCHING VAULT, UP TO THE
BLUE DISTANCE INTERWOVEN
WITH LIGHT, STREAKED WITH
THE PALE MILKY WAY.
NEVER, NEVER HAVE YOU LIED
TO ME, STARS, SHE CRIES.
SOON NOW, I WILL DIE.
YOU TELL ME SO, YET IN
TRUTH, I WILL GLADLY DIE.
THEN THE DWARF COMES TO THE
QUEEN, BEGINS TO TIE THE RED
SILK CORD AROUND HER NECK,
AND WEEPS AS IF HE WOULD
GO BLIND WITH GRIEF.
HE SPEAKS.
YOU, YOURSELF, ARE TO BLAME
FOR THIS ANGUISH, BECAUSE
YOU HAVE FORSAKEN
ME FOR THE KING.
NOW YOUR DEATH ALONE
CAN REVIVE JOY IN ME.
THOUGH I WILL HATE MYSELF
FOREVER FOR HAVING BROUGHT
DEATH TO YOU WITH MY OWN
HAND, YET NOW YOU MUST PALE
TO AN EARLY GRAVE.
SHE LAYS A HAND ON HER
HEART, FULL OF YOUTHFUL
LIFE, AND HEAVY TEARS RUN
FROM THE EYES SHE RAISES
PRAYERFULLY TO THE HEAVENS.
MAY YOU REAP NO SORROW
FROM MY DEATH, SHE SAYS.
THEN THE DWARF KISSES HER
PALE CHEEKS, WHEREUPON HER
SENSES FADE AWAY.
THE DWARF LOOKS AT THE
LADY IN THE GRIP OF DEATH.
HE LOWERS HER DEEP INTO THE
SEA WITH HIS OWN HANDS.
HIS HEART BURNS WITH SUCH
LONGING FOR HER, HE WILL
NEVER AGAIN LAND
ON ANY SHORE.
THE SCORE OF SCHUBERT'S
SETTING IS GIVEN IN EXAMPLE
TWO, FOR THOSE AMONG YOU WHO
MIGHT LIKE TO FOLLOW ALONG
WITH THE MUSIC.

An oil portrait of a man in his late thirties appears briefly, followed by music scores.

Classical music plays.

[Der Zwerg sung in German]

People in the classroom follow the music as they read sheets of paper with scores.

The piece includes piano and singing.

Clips show other oil portraits and drawings in pencil.

It ends.

Susan says THERE ARE SO MANY CULTURAL
REFERENCES AT WORK IN THIS
SONG THAT ONE HARDLY
KNOWS WHERE TO BEGIN.
FIRST OF ALL, DWARVES HAVE
A SPECIAL PROMINENCE IN
TEUTONIC LORE, BOTH THE
FICTIVE VARIETY WITH
SUPERNATURAL POWERS AND REAL
DWARVES, OCCURRING IN THE
HUMAN POPULATION
THROUGHOUT HISTORY.
SCAPEGOATS FOR THE
GROTESQUERY, SO-CALLED
NORMAL HUMANITY WISHES TO
DISAVOW, THEY MAKE VISIBLE
THE INELUCTABLE SENSE OF
ALIENATION THAT IS PART
OF THE HUMAN CONDITION.
IN MEDIEVAL AND RENAISSANCE
ART, HOFZWERGE OR COURT
DWARVES, ARE THE
EMBODIMENTS OF EVIL.
SPIRITUAL DEFORMITY MANIFESTED
AS PHYSICAL DEFORMITY,
AND THEY ARE OFTEN ASSOCIATED
WITH EROTIC MATTERS.
THERE IS AN ANTIQUE LINK
BETWEEN DWARVES AND SEXUALITY,
AND THIS LINK LIES AT THE
VOLCANIC CENTRE OF
DER ZWERG.
SO DOES HISTORY.
COLLIN WAS AN ARDENT
AUSTRIAN PATRIOT WHO WROTE
HISTORICAL PLAYS AND
BALLADS, DRAWN FROM MEDIEVAL
AUSTRIAN HISTORY, IN ORDER
TO INSTILL NATIONALISTIC
SENTIMENT DURING THE
YEARS OF STRUGGLE AGAINST
NAPOLEON'S DOMINATION.
AND HE INCORPORATES MULTIPLE
COVERT HISTORICAL REFERENCES
INTO THIS BALLAD.
THERE WAS, FOR EXAMPLE, A
ONCE YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL
QUEEN, WHO FAMOUSLY HAD
SOMETHING HAPPEN TO HER
NECK, NOT LONG BEFORE
THIS BALLAD WAS WRITTEN.
AND MARIE ANTOINETTE WAS, OF
COURSE, THE AUSTRIAN BORN
DAUGHTER OF THE EMPRESS
MARIA THERESA, AS WELL AS AN
ILL-FATED QUEEN
OF THE FRENCH.
THE RED SILK RIBBON TIED
AROUND THE BALLAD QUEEN'S
THROAT IS AN ECHO OF THE
SO-CALLED BAL DE VICTIME,
OR VICTIM BALLS OF
THE MID-1790s.
GHOULISH ENTERTAINMENTS,
WHERE GUESTS WHOSE FRIENDS
OR RELATIVES HAD PERISHED
DURING THE REIGN OF TERROR
TIED RED SILK CORDS AROUND
THEIR NECKS, AND GREETED
EACH OTHER A LA VICTIME BY
IMITATING THE SUDDEN DROP OF
THE HEAD AS IT
IS LOPPED OFF.
FURTHERMORE, AUSTRIANS
READING THIS POEM WHEN IT
WAS FIRST PRINTED IN 1813,
MIGHT WELL HAVE SEEN THE
DWARF AS A GROTESQUE
PERSONIFICATION OF NAPOLEON,
WHO WAS OFTEN CARICATURED
AS A DWARF BECAUSE OF
HIS SMALL STATURE.
I'VE REPRODUCED ONE OF THE
HUNDREDS OF SUCH CARICATURES
IN EXAMPLE THREE.
GROTESQUES, ONE REMEMBERS,
ARE CONCOCTED FROM A
DELIBERATE JUMBLE OF
INGREDIENTS, A STEW OF
DISPARATE ELEMENTS.
COLLIN ALSO BORROWS FROM
THE GENRE OF THE SHIKSAL'S
TRAGERDIA OR FATE TRAGEDY,
POPULAR AT THE TIME, FOR
THIS BALLAD, IN WHICH THE
STARS HAVE FORETOLD THE
QUEEN'S DESTINED DEATH.
FOR SCHUBERT, DESTINY WAS IN
CONSIDERABLE MEASURE, HIS
PROXIMITY TO LUDWIG
VON BEETHOVEN.
THEY LIVED IN THE SAME CITY.
THEIR LIVES OVERLAPPED, AND
BEETHOVEN'S MUSIC HAUNTS
THAT OF SCHUBERT.
THE RHYTHMIC PATTERN
THROUGHOUT
DER ZWERG
IS
FAMOUSLY THE RHYTHMIC
PATTERN OF THE SO-CALLED
FATE MOTIF AT THE BEGINNING
OF BEETHOVEN'S FIFTH
SYMPHONY, OPUS
67 IN C MINOR.
YOU CAN SEE THE INITIAL
MEASURES OF BEETHOVEN'S
FIFTH SYMPHONY IN EXAMPLE
FOUR, AND JUST TO GIVE YOU A
LITTLE REMINDER, WHAT YOU
HEAR IN THE BASS AT THE
BEGINNING OF THE BALLAD,
INSISTENTLY, OVER AND OVER IS...

She walks over to a grand piano and plays a chord.

She says ANYBODY WHO KNEW...

She plays a famous Beethoven chord.

She continues WOULD NOT MISTAKE THE
REFERENCE FOR ANYTHING ELSE.
TO FIND SUCH BLATANT
REFERENCES TO ONE OF
BEETHOVEN'S MOST FAMOUS
SO-CALLED HEROIC SYMPHONIES
IN THIS CONTEXT OF LOVE AND
HATE, OF DWARVES AND DESIRE
AND MURDER, IS ENOUGH
TO MAKE ANYONE BLINK.
AND LET ME POINT OUT THAT
SCHUBERT'S BALLAD WAS
PUBLISHED IN VIENNA IN APRIL
OF 1823, WHEN BEETHOVEN WAS
STILL VERY MUCH ALIVE.
WHETHER OR NOT ONE
WISHES TO PLUNGE INTO THE
SHARK-INFESTED WATERS OF
PSYCHOANALYTIC SPECULATION
AND FANTASIZE ABOUT
SCHUBERT'S FEARS OF BEING
DWARFED NEXT TO BEETHOVEN,
WHOM HE BOTH LOVED AND
WISHED TO SURPASS, KILL, THE
WHEELS OF IMAGINATION TURN
AT BREAK-NECK PACE WHEN
ONE HEARS THE MOST FAMOUS
RHYTHMIC PATTERN OF
ALL IN THIS BALLAD.
FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE, AS I
DO, THAT A SONG COMPOSER'S
CHOICE OF POETIC TEXTS, AS WELL
AS HIS RECOURSE TO BORROWED
ELEMENTS ARE NEITHER
DISINTERESTED NOR DIVORCED
FROM HIS LIFE,
DER ZWERG
IS
AN INTRIGUING CASE HISTORY.
AT THE MOMENT, I AM WORKING
ON A BOOK ABOUT THE SONGS
SCHUBERT COMPOSED IN THE
LAST SIX YEARS OF HIS LIFE.
THAT IS, AFTER THE DIAGNOSIS
OF TERMINAL ILLNESS AT AGE 25.
MANY OF THESE SONGS WERE
CLEARLY THE OCCASION FOR
SCHUBERT TO MEDITATE ON WHAT
CONSTITUTES A GOOD LIFE AND
A GOOD DEATH.
ON DEPARTURE FROM LIFE'S
BEAUTY AND FROM THOSE ONE LOVES.
THE POETS IN THIS BOOK
ALL HAILED FROM THE
AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN EMPIRE AND
ARE LITTLE KNOWN NOWADAYS,
BUT I'VE FOUND THEM
TO BE A CURIOUS LOT.
THEY INCLUDE A MAN NAMED
JOHANN ANTON FRIEDRICH REIL,
WHO WAS A LEADING ACTOR
AT THE ROYAL THEATRE.
SCHUBERT, FOR MUCH OF HIS
LIFE, HAD MANY FRIENDS FROM
THEATRICAL
CIRCLES IN VIENNA.
ANOTHER IS AN ARISTOCRAT
NAMED KARL GOTTFRIED RITTER
VON LEITNER, WHOSE EARLY
CONFLICTS WITH THE
CENSORSHIP BUREAUCRACY TELL
US MUCH ABOUT LIFE FOR
ARTISTS IN
POST-NAPOLEONIC AUSTRIA.
SCHUBERT, BY THE WAY, ALSO
TANGLED WITH THE CENSORS.
AND ANOTHER ONE OF THESE
CHARACTERS IS AN ARCHBISHOP.
THE LATTER IS PARTICULARLY
COLOURFUL, AND IT IS HIS
EGO, HIS LUST FOR LITERARY
ACCLAIM THAT ARE EMBLAZONED
IN THE TITLE FOR THIS TALK.
LET ME JUST GIVE YOU A
VERY BRIEF INTRODUCTION.
IN AUGUST OF 1825, SCHUBERT
WENT ON A RARE VACATION TO
WELT BAD GASTEIN, THE
FAVORITE SUMMER HAUNT OF ONE
JOHANN LADISLAUS PYRKER, WHO
FOUND IN GASTEIN'S MEDICINAL
WATERS AND BEAUTIFUL SCENERY
SOME MEASURE OF ALLEVIATION
FOR THE PHYSICAL ILLS WHICH
PLAGUED HIM, AND MORE
IMPORTANT, ACCESS TO
THE HIGH NOBILITY WHOSE
APPROBATION HE CRAVED
ABOVE ALL THINGS.
YOU CAN SEE, TOO, DEPICTIONS
OF PYRKER, IN EXAMPLE FIVE.
ACCORDING TO ONE WITNESS,
SCHUBERT TREASURED THE
ENCOUNTER AS ONE OF THE MOST
INSPIRING MOMENTS OF HIS
LIFE, AND WE OWE TWO OF HIS
MOST MONUMENTAL SONGS TO
THIS OCCASION.
DAS HEIMWEH, HOMESICKNESS,
THESE ARE THE ONLY SCHUBERT
SONGS ON TEXTS BY PYRKER,
BUT THEY ARE OF A
COMPLEXITY TO COMMAND CLOSE
EXAMINATION, ESPECIALLY
WHEN ONE REALIZES HOW MANY
IRONIES ARE ATTENDANT
ON THE TALE.
THE LARGEST IRONY OF ALL IS
THE FACT THAT POSTERITY NOW
REMEMBERS PYRKER PRINCIPALLY
FOR TWO SONGS BY SOMEONE HE
KNEW BUT DOES NOT MENTION
IN HIS NAME DROPPING,
SELF-SERVING MEMOIRS
COMPLETED SHORTLY BEFORE
HIS DEATH IN 1847.
THIS MAN IS A FASCINATING
CASE STUDY IN THE HISTORY OF
FAME, BECAUSE OF THE UTTER
FRENZY WITH WHICH HE PURSUED
IT, AND HIS UTTER FAILURE
TO UNDERSTAND ITS NATURE.
FOR HIM, FAME
HAD NO PARADOXES.
FOR THE MORE PERSPICACIOUS,
IT IS RIDDLED WITH THEM.
A SELF-MADE MAN, WHOSE
ACHIEVEMENTS WERE FORGED IN
ADVERSITY, PYRKER SOUGHT
BY MEANS OF TIRELESS
SELF-PUFFERY TO ERASE THE
DISPARITY BETWEEN THE VALUE
HE ASSIGNED HIMSELF AND THE
VALUE ACCORDED HIM BY THE
WORLD, WITHOUT EVER
REALIZING THAT THIS
DISPARITY IS ABSOLUTE.
THE WORLD'S APPROVAL
CAN NEITHER MATCH AN
INDIVIDUAL'S SELF-APPROVAL
NOR MAKE UP FOR ITS ABSENCE.
I KNOW POSTERITY WILL ACCORD
ME FIRST PLACE AMONG THE
GERMANS, PYRKER SAID, BUT
HE CHOSE AS HIS MEDIUM THE
ALREADY ANTIQUATED GENRE
OF THE HEROIC EPIC POEM IN
HEXAMETERS, BELIEVING THAT
HE WOULD THEREBY BECOME THE
NEW VIRGIL OR HOMER,
AND HE WAS WRONG.
HE WOULD NOT WELCOME WHAT I
HAVE TO SAY ABOUT HIM, AND
THE INDISPUTABLE FACT OF
SCHUBERT'S PRIMACY WOULD
HAVE MADE HIM BURN
WITH RESENTMENT.
DANTE HAD PLACES IN HELL
RESERVED FOR THE LIKES
OF THIS MAN.
BUT DESPITE HIS SOPORIFIC
POEMS... AND I KNOW, I HAD TO
READ THEM... HE IS FASCINATING
TO CONTEMPLATE, BECAUSE HE
WAS A BIT PLAYER IN
IMMENSE HISTORICAL DRAMAS.
AND BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH
A TWISTED CREATURE, HIS
PSYCHOLOGICAL TORTUOUSNESS
IS AS OUTSIZED AS HIS
INTERMINABLE POEMS.
FROM POVERTY-STRICKEN
ORIGINS IN HUNGARY, HE
BECAME A CISTERCIAN MONK AT
THE ABBEY OF LIEDENFELT IN
LOWER AUSTRIA, NOT BECAUSE
HE HAD A SPIRITUAL VOCATION...
HE DIDN'T... BUT BECAUSE
MONASTIC LIFE WAS MORE
CONDUCIVE TO HIS LITERARY
AMBITIONS THAN LIFE IN THE
ARMY, A CAREER HE WOULD
OTHERWISE HAVE PREFERRED.
DRAWN TO ABSOLUTE POWER,
AS IF BY IRRESISTIBLE
GRAVITATIONAL FORCE, PYRKER
IDOLIZED EMPEROR FRANZ THE
FIRST OF AUSTRIA AND
WAS ONE OF THE CHIEF
PROPAGANDISTS FOR THE
HABSBURG MYTH OF A
BENEVOLENT FATHER EMPEROR
AND HIS HAPPY, OBEDIENT,
CHILD-LIKE SUBJECTS.
PYRKER'S ASSIDUOUS
SYCOPHANCY AS IS SO OFTEN
THE CASE, WORKED, AND HE WAS
USHERED UP THE LADDER OF
CHURCH STATE PRIVILEGE UNTIL
FIRST ILLNESS, THEN DEATH
PUT A STOP TO HIS RELENTLESS
PURSUIT OF PROXIMITY TO THE
HAUKEDELEGA, THE
HIGH NOBILITY.
IN 1820, FRANZ THE FIRST
NAMED PYRKER TO A POST AS
PATRIARCH OF VENICE.
QUITE A PROMOTION.
IN THE KINGDOM OF LOMBARDY,
VENETIA, UNDER AUSTRIAN RULE,
VENICE HAD CEASED TO
BE A REPUBLIC IN 1797,
THE YEAR OF SCHUBERT'S BIRTH.
IT IS IN VENICE FROM 1821 TO
1827, THAT THE POCKMARKS ON
PYRKER'S FLAWED AND LIVID SOUL
BECAME PARTICULARLY EVIDENT.
AT A TIME WHEN 40 PERCENT
OF THE ADULT POPULATION OF
VENICE WAS ON THE ROLLS
OF THOSE NEEDING PUBLIC
ASSISTANCE TO STAVE OFF
STARVATION, PYRKER AMASSED A
FIRST-RATE ART COLLECTION OF
350 FINE PAINTINGS, NOW IN
THE HUNGARIAN NATIONAL
MUSEUM IN BUDAPEST.
FOR WEALTHY MEN IN A
SUBJUGATED CITY, THE
PICKINGS WERE RIPE AT HAND.
HIS ROLE IN THE TORTURE OF
AN ITALIAN VILLAGE PRIEST
ACCUSED OF ASSOCIATION
WITH THE CARBONARI, THE
UNDERGROUND ITALIAN
REBELLION AGAINST FOREIGN
DOMINATION, WAS DESPICABLE,
AND SO, TOO, WAS HIS BIT PART
IN THE SCANDAL-RIDDEN
DIVORCE OF LORD BYRON'S LAST
MISTRESS, TERESA GUICCCIOLI.
BUT FRANZ THE FIRST, AWARE
OF VENETIAN OPPOSITION TO
PYRKER, TRANSFERRED HIM
TO HUNGARY IN 1827,
THE LAST PLACE ON
EARTH HE WANTED TO BE.
AND LIFE THEREAFTER DARKENED
FOR THE HOMER OF THE HABSBURGS.
WHEN THE EMPEROR DIED IN
1835, PYRKER WAS DEVASTATED.
FRANZ HAD BEEN THE ONLY
PERSON HE HAD EVER REALLY
LOVED BESIDES HIMSELF.
THE FOLLOWING YEAR, HE FELL
PREY TO TICHTREIRHER, A RARE
FORM OF FACIAL NORALGA,
WHICH PRODUCES CONVULSIVE
FACIAL TWITCHING
AND UNBEARABLE PAIN.
IF IT IS TRULY A DREADFUL
THING TO SUFFER FROM SUCH AN
ILLNESS, IT MUST HAVE BEEN
PARTICULARLY TERRIBLE FOR
SOMEONE WHO DEPENDED UPON
SYCOPHANTIC CHARM FOR THE
STATUS THAT WAS SO
IMPORTANT TO HIM.
THERE'S SOMETHING GILBERT
AND SULLIVAN-ESQUE, A
PUNISHMENT TO FIT THE CRIME,
IN PYRKER CONTRACTING A
MALADY WHICH MADE HIM UNABLE
TO ATTEND EVENTS AT COURT.
SHORTLY BEFORE HIS DEATH
FROM HEART DISEASE 11 YEARS
LATER, HE EVIDENTLY FELT THE
NEED TO EXPLAIN HIMSELF TO
SOMEONE, AND CONFIDED IN HIS
SECRETARY, THE HUNGARIAN
POET BELA TARKANI, IN WHOSE
DIARY WE FIND THE FINAL
IMAGES OF THIS DRIVEN,
AVARICIOUS MAN.
OVERWEENING VANITY,
PURSUIT OF TRIVIALITIES,
NICHTIGKEITEN, AND MAD
LUST FOR FAME, IS HOW THE
DISMAYED TARKANI SUMS UP
PYRKER'S ESSENTIAL NATURE.
AND ANYONE WHO HAS EVER
PEERED BEHIND THE SCENES OF
THIS MAN'S LIFE
WOULD HAVE TO AGREE.
BUT HE DID GIVE SCHUBERT THE
WHEREWITHAL FOR TWO GREAT
SONGS, AND FOR THAT,
WE MUST THANK HIM.
THE TEXT FOR DAS HEIMWEH,
WHICH IS GIVEN IN EXAMPLE
SIX ON YOUR HANDOUT, COMES
FROM CANTO 6 OF PYRKER'S
FIRST HEROIC EPIC,
ENTITLED
TUNISIUS.
BASED ON A HISTORICAL
INCIDENT IN 1535, WHEN THE
HABSBURG HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR,
CHARLES V, SAILED TO
NORTH AFRICA TO DO BATTLE
WITH THE FORCES OF KERADIN,
RULER OF ALGIERS AND TUNIS.
THE LINES WHICH BECAME
DAS HEIMWEH TELL OF THE
HOMESICKNESS WHICH BEFALLS
A TYROLEAN REGIMENTAL
COMMANDER IN THE WAKE OF
THE FIRST BATTLE BY NIGHT
ON AFRICAN SHORES.
HERE, PYRKER WAS INVOKING A
HISTORICAL PHENOMENON THAT
HIS READERS AND SCHUBERT
WOULD HAVE KNOWN.
THE DEFINITION OF HOMESICKNESS
AS LONGING FOR THE ALPS.
THE WORD HEIMWEH HAD BEEN
IN USE SINCE AT LEAST 1569,
WHEN A HISTORIAN RECORDED
THAT A SWISS SOLDIER, AT THE
BATTLE OF JAUNEQUE, NEAR
AUNGOLEM IN FRANCE WAS
GESTORBEN VON HEIMWEH... DIED
OF HOMESICKNESS, AND IN
1688, A YOUNG SWISS DOCTOR
NAMED JOHANN HAUFER WROTE AN
INFLUENTIAL TREATISE IN
WHICH HE CLAIMED RECOGNITION
OF HEIMWEH AS A LEGITIMATE
ILLNESS, ITS PRINCIPAL
SUFFERERS BEING MERCENARY
SOLDIERS AND YOUTHS LIVING
AWAY FROM HOME.
BY THE EARLY 19th CENTURY,
HEIMWEH HAD BECOME AN
ESSENTIAL ELEMENT OF WHAT
SOME SCHOLARS CALL THE SWISS
MYTH, THE VENERATION OF ALL
THINGS HELVETIC, FROM ITS
MOUNTAIN LANDSCAPES TO ITS
RUSSO-INSPIRED SIMPLE,
VIRTUOUS VILLAGERS, WITH
THEIR DEMOCRATIC FORM OF
GOVERNMENT, THE ENVY OF
LIBERALS ELSEWHERE IN EUROPE.
TRAVELLERS FROM OTHER
COUNTRIES WHO ACTUALLY
TOURED SWISS MOUNTAIN
HAMLETS OBSERVED CONDITIONS
THAT WERE OFTEN QUITE AT
ODDS WITH THE MYTH, SUCH AS
A STATISTICALLY ASTONISHING
PERCENTAGE OF IMBECILES DUE
TO INBREEDING.
BUT FICTION WAS STRONGER
THAN REALITY FOR A WHILE.
IN EXAMPLE SEVEN ON YOUR
HANDOUT, YOU CAN SEE ALMOST
EVERY COMPONENT OF THE SWISS
MYTH DEPICTED IN THE TITLE
PAGE ENGRAVINGS FROM A
COLLECTION OF SWISS FOLK
SONGS PUBLISHED IN 1818.
YOU WANT TO NOTICE IN
PARTICULAR THE LEDERHOSEN
WEARING, ALPHORN
PLAYING COW HERDER.

A close-up shows a black and white reproduction of a painting on a book. The painting features a scene of men herding cows on a mountain.

Susan continues THE MUSIC OF ALPINE COW
HERDERS, THE SO-CALLED RANZ
DES VACHES, WAS THE
TRADITIONAL CATALYST FOR
ATTACKS OF HOMESICKNESS,
EXEMPLIFIED IN THE FAMOUS
POEM
DER SCHWEITZER, THE
SWISS SOLDIER, FROM THE FOLK
POEM ANTHOLOGY,
DAS KNABEN
WUNDERHORN, THE YOUTH'S
MAGIC HORN, WHICH WAS
PUBLISHED IN 1808 AND IS ONE
OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL
BOOKS OF GERMAN POETRY
THROUGHOUT THE
ENTIRE 19th CENTURY.
I'VE GIVEN THE TEXT OF DER
SCHWEITZER IN EXAMPLE EIGHT.
THE PERSONA OF THIS POEM
IS A YOUNG SWISS MERCENARY
SOLDIER, WHO HEARD THE RANZ
DES VACHES, AND ATTEMPTED TO
SWIM HOME ACROSS THE RIVER
UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS, ONLY
TO BE CAPTURED AND SENTENCED
TO DIE BY FIRING SQUAD.
THE COMPILERS OF DAS KNABEN
WUNDERHORN, BY THE WAY, TOOK
AN OLDER FOLK POEM, SIMPLY
ENTITLED
THE DESERTER, AND
ADDED THE NEWLY FASHIONABLE
MOTIFS OF THE ALPS AND HEIMWEH.
I DON'T HAVE TIME TO PLAY
THE LATE 19th CENTURY
COMPOSER, GUSTAV MAHLER'S
WONDERFUL SETTING OF THIS
POEM, BUT PERHAPS THOSE OF
YOU WHO DON'T KNOW IT
CAN SEEK IT OUT LATER.
IT'S MARVELLOUS LIED.
DOZENS OF OTHER POETS
AVAILED THEMSELVES OF ALPINE
HEIMWEH FOR THEIR POEMS AND
SONGS, INCLUDING PYRKER, WHO
PUT TOGETHER A TRAVEL POSTER
COMPOSITE OF COZY CHALETS,
GREEN MEADOWS, MAJESTIC
PEAKS, DARK EVERGREEN
FORESTS, SHEER ROCK CLIFFS,
ROSY SUNSET, COWS MOOING,
COWBELLS TINKLING, SHEPHERDS
CALLING, AND THE OBLIGATORY
MILK MAID YODELLING.
THERE ISN'T A SINGLE
INGREDIENT LEFT OUT.
THE LIST OF ALPINE SIGHTS
AND SOUNDS IN DAS HEIMWEH
CULMINATES IN IMMENSE
LONGING, NOT TO BE
WITHSTOOD, AND BORROWED FROM
A MUCH BETTER POET, GOETHE.
THE LAST LINE OF THE
SONG IS PYRKER'S STILTED
EXCLAMATION:
[speaking in German]
AH, HE IS DRAWN THERE
WITH IRRESISTIBLE LONGING.
THIS IS AN INSTANTLY
RECOGNIZABLE VARIATION ON
GOETHE'S FAMOUS POEM,
ENTITLED
SEHNSUCHT, OR
LONGING, WHICH BEGINS
WITH THE LINES:
[speaking in German]
WHAT TUGS AT MY HEART SO,
WHAT DRAWS ME OUTSIDE.
I'VE GIVEN THE FIRST STANZA OF
GOETHE'S POEM IN EXAMPLE NINE.
SCHUBERT, ALIVE TO LITERARY
NUANCE AS FEW COMPOSERS HAVE
BEEN, SEIZED UPON THE
GOETHIAN MOMENT IN THE TEXT
FOR DAS HEIMWEH, CRACKING
THE SONG OPEN INTO IMMENSITY
AT THAT POINT.
BEFORE I PLAY THE SONG FOR
YOU, IN A PERFORMANCE BY
PETER SCHREIER AND GRAHAM
JOHNSON, LET ME DIRECT YOUR
ATTENTION IN PARTICULAR TO
THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE
THIRD AND FOURTH SECTIONS
OF SCHUBERT'S EPISODIC
SONG STRUCTURE.
I'VE PRINTED THAT PORTION OF
THE TEXT IN BOLDFACE TYPE IN
EXAMPLE SIX, AND I WILL
ALERT YOU TO EACH OF THOSE
SECTIONS AS THE
MUSIC IS PLAYING.
WHAT I WANT YOU TO HEAR IS
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE
FOLK-LIKE TOURIST MUSIC IN
THE THIRD SECTION AND THE
DARKER, MORE COMPLEX MUSIC,
MORE CHARACTERISTIC OF
SCHUBERT, IN THE
FINAL SECTION.
LET ME READ THE ENGLISH
TRANSLATION OF THOSE TWO
PORTIONS OF TEXT, AFTER WHICH
I WILL PLAY THE ENTIRE SONG.
FOR THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE THE
MUSIC, THE SCORE IS GIVEN IN
EXAMPLE TEN, AND OTHERS CAN
FOLLOW ALONG WITH THE WORDS
IN EXAMPLE SIX.
THE THIRD SECTION BEGINS, HE
LISTENS ANXIOUSLY, HE THINKS
HE HEARS AGAIN THE LOWING OF
CATTLE IN THE NEARBY COPSE.
AND I'M SORRY TO HAVE TO
TELL YOU THAT YOU WILL HEAR
COWS MOOING IN THE BASS LINE
OF THE MUSIC AT THIS POINT.
THE LOWING OF CATTLE IN THE
NEARBY COPSE, AND LITTLE
BELLS TINKLING
HIGH IN THE ALPS.
HE THINKS HE HEARS THE
SHEPHERDS' CALLS, OR THE
SONG OF THE MILK MAID,
WHO WITH YODELLING VOICE,
JOYOUSLY SINGS HER MELODIES TO
THE ECHOING ALPINE MOUNTAINS.
ALWAYS, IT SOUNDS
IN HIS EARS.
AND THESE ARE THE WORDS OF
THE FOURTH AND FINAL SECTION.
THE CHARM OF THE SMILING
PLAINS CANNOT BIND HIM.
ALONE, HE FLEES THE CITY'S
CONSTRICTING WALLS,
AND LOOKS UP, WEEPING,
FROM THE HILLS TO HIS
NATIVE MOUNTAIN HEIGHTS.
AH, HE IS DRAWN THERE WITH
IRRESISTIBLE LONGING.

[Das Heimweh plays.]

Black and white reproductions of oil portraits flash by, followed by scores. People in the room listen carefully and examine the scores.

Susan says NEXT SECTION WILL FEATURE FAKE TYROLEAN FOLK MUSIC.

The piece continues, with more dramatic tones.

Susan continues NOW THE MUSIC DARKENS AND
IT'S ABOUT TO BREAK OFF
INTO SILENCE.
FINAL SECTION.

The piece continues and ends.

Susan continues IN THE THIRD SECTION,
SCHUBERT HEEDS EVERY CUE
FOR SOUND EFFECTS THAT
PYRKER GIVES HIM.
MOOING, YODELLING, BELL
RINGING AND SINGING.
WHILE THE PIANO IS
ROLLICKING AWAY TO AN
IMITATION FOLK TUNE, THE
SINGER IS GIVEN A MELODY OF
BLOCK-LIKE SQUARENESS,
CLIMBING UP AND DOWN BROKEN
CHORDAL OUTLINES AS IF THEY
WERE MOUNTAIN ROCK FACES.
THERE IS A PROFOUND TRUTH
AT WORK IN THIS SIMPLICITY,
WHAT WE MISS MOST WHEN
AWAY FROM HOME, THIS MUSIC
SUGGESTS, ARE THE
OBVIOUS THINGS.
THE TRITE THINGS.
TWO-DIMENSIONAL
RECOLLECTIONS, WITH NOTHING
OF REALITY'S COMPLEXITIES.
BUT THROUGHOUT THE PIANO
INTERLUDE BETWEEN THE THIRD
AND FOURTH SECTIONS, THE MUSIC
DARKENS AND THE BRIGHTNESS
OF ELEMENTAL HARMONIES IS
BANISHED FOR GLOOMIER REALMS
BEFORE THE PASSAGE
BREAKS OFF ALTOGETHER.
THE TWO MEASURES OF SILENCE,
A REAL SCHUBERTIAN HALLMARK,
TELL US THAT MEMORY CANNOT
LAST AND DOES NOT SATISFY.
THAT IT ALWAYS BRINGS WITH
IT AWARENESS OF A VOID.
PYRKER'S WORDS AT THE
BEGINNING OF THE FINAL
SECTION, THE CHARM OF THE
SMILING PLAINS CANNOT KEEP
HIM, HE FLEES THE
CONSTRICTING WALLS OF THE
TOWN, DID NOT PARTICULARLY
ENGAGE SCHUBERT, WHO FITS
THEM ADROITLY TO THE RETURN
OF THE G MINOR HOMESICKNESS
FROM THE BEGINNING
OF THE SONG.
BUT WHAT FOLLOWS
IS ANOTHER MATTER.
WHAT DRIVES THE PROTAGONIST
ONWARD IS UNWIEDERSTEHNLICHE
SEHNSUCHT, AND ABYSSES
SUDDENLY OPEN UP BENEATH
THOSE WORDS.
IT IS A FEATURE OF SOME OF
SCHUBERT'S BOLDEST SONGS
THAT LISTENERS SUDDENLY
FIND THEMSELVES IN A TONAL
NO-MAN'S LAND.
ONE FALLS INTO THESE
PASSAGES UNAWARE.
THE PREVIOUS MUSICAL
PREPARATION DELIBERATELY
NEVER SUFFICIENT TO WARN
OF US OF CHASMS TO COME.
THE HEADLONG DIVE OF THE
BASS LINE, AS IF INTO THE
DEPTHS OF A RAVINE, TELLS
OF GIGANTIC DESPERATION IN
WHICH THE PROTAGONIST
STRUGGLES TO ESCAPE THE
HATED G MINOR TONALITY OF
HIS PRESENT SURROUNDINGS, BUT
CANNOT SUCCEED, DESPITE EXERTING
EVERY OUNCE OF STRENGTH.
DEFEAT AND COLLAPSE BACK
INTO THE KEY OF EXILE
FOLLOW, AND THE TRAGEDY OF
THAT DEFEAT IS COMPOUNDED
BY REPETITION.
DESPERATE, DETERMINED, THE
PERSONA TRIES AGAIN AND IS
DEFEATED AGAIN.
SCHUBERT, WE REMEMBER, KNEW
BY 1825 WHAT IT WAS TO LONG
IN HELPLESS DESPERATION FOR
WHAT COULD NEVER BE RECLAIMED.
HEALTH, HOPE FOR A LONG
LIFE, AND HAPPINESS
UNHAUNTED BY INTIMATIONS
OF MORTALITY.
IN THIS SONG, HE FASHIONS A
POWERFUL ENACTMENT IN MUSIC
OF ONE DARK FACET OF
THE HUMAN CONDITION.
SO ONE THROWS OUT A NET FROM
THE VANTAGE POINT OF A SONG,
AND DRAWS IT BACK, FILLED
WITH ALL MANNER OF THINGS.
SCHUBERT, WE NOW KNOW, WAS
NOT THE CHILD-LIKE NAIF
PORTRAYED IN 19th CENTURY
MYTHMAKING ABOUT COMPOSERS.
HE WAS ONE OF THE MOST
VORACIOUS READERS IMAGINABLE.
HE WAS EDUCATED
CLOSE TO THE COURT.
HE WAS A PARTICIPANT IN THE
POLITICAL LIFE OF THE TIMES,
AND HE HAD A CIRCLE OF
HIGHLY CULTIVATED FRIENDS
FROM VARIOUS WALKS OF LIFE.
THERE IS A CHINESE CURSE
THAT SAYS MAY YOU LIVE IN
INTERESTING TIMES, AND
SCHUBERT'S KEEN AWARENESS
OF EVERYTHING INTERESTING
AROUND HIM IS ENCODED
IN HIS MUSIC.
FOR ME, IT IS A MARVELLOUS
PARADOX OF MUSICOLOGY, THAT
WHEN WE IDENTIFY THE SOCIAL
AND HISTORICAL FORCES AT WORK
IN A PIECE OF MUSIC, WE DO NOT
THEREBY LIMIT OUR EXPERIENCE
OF THE PIECE, BUT RATHER
MULTIPLY IT EXPONENTIALLY.
THE MORE WE KNOW ABOUT DER
ZWERG AND DAS HEIMWEH,
THE MORE AWE-INSPIRING
SCHUBERT'S ACHIEVEMENT SEEMS.
AND ONE CAN REPLICATE THIS
PROCESS OF DISCOVERY FOR
EACH OF HIS 600-PLUS SONGS,
INDEED, FOR ALL MUSIC.
THANK YOU.

Classical music plays as the end credits roll.

Comments and queries, email: bigideas@tvo.org

Telephone: (416) 484-2746.

Big Ideas, TVONTARIO, Box 200, Station Q, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. M4T 2T1.

Producer, Wodek Szemberg.

Associate Producer, Mike Miner.

Sound, Maurice Dalzot.

Executive Producer, Doug Grant.

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 2001, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Susan Youens on Shubert.