Auf dem Strom

Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)
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Composer: Franz Schubert (b. 1797 - d. 1828)

Performance date: 27/06/2022

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1828

Duration: 00:09:07

Recording Engineer: Simon Cullen, Ergodos

Instrumentation: T-solo, pf, hn

Instrumentation Category:Vocal Ensemble

Artists: Nicholas Mulroy - [Tenor]
Julius Drake - [piano]
Alec Frank-Gemmill - [Horn]

Franz Schubert [1797-1828]

Auf dem Strom (On the River) [1828]

This rarely heard, extended song was first performed on 26 March 1828 exactly a year after Beethoven’s death. The occasion was the only concert in his lifetime that was dedicated entirely to Schubert’s own music and he took the opportunity to pay homage to his great predecessor in a subtle and self-effacing way. The rest of this self-promoted programme was made up from recent compositions, but Auf dem Strom was the only work especially composed for that concert. The unusual scoring with a virtuoso obbligato horn is unique amongst Schubert’s Lieder, thus the rare performances. Early publishers realised this immediately and the first publication already had an alternative scoring with cello. 

The text is a poem of farewell by Ludwig Rellstab and Schubert envisages Beethoven as the singer who leaves his beloved behind on the shore before sailing down the river to an unknown destination. The poem has five stanzas and in the even-numbered verses Schubert unmistakably quotes from the Marcia funebre of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, whose eventual dedication was to the ‘memory of a great man’. This poem of farewell has added poignancy for us as we know Schubert himself would also have embarked on the same journey a mere eight months later. The singer is heralded by a 17-bar introduction led by a noble and consoling theme from the horn over rippling piano triplets. This instrumental section returns in various guises between each stanza. The song itself blends memories of a blissful past with dread of the moment when the grey angry sea blots out all sight of the shore with only the gentle radiance of the stars to guide him. 

Francis Humphrys