Notes and Editorial Reviews
Schubert never finished his opera “Der Graf von Gleichen” after a libretto by Eduard Bauernfeld. On the occasion of the Styriarte Graz 1997, Richard Dünser completed the work, which is presented on this CD as a live-recording of the ?rst performance of the concert version from 2003, performed in the Festspielhaus Bregenz.
The exact origins of the bizarre story of the “Count von Gleichen” have still not been conclusively proven. In any event, it seems that the legend was first recorded by Hessian landgrave Philipp the Benevolent, who introduced it as a “precedent” when he went to Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon with the request to marry a second time. The first name which emerges for this mythical count is ‘Ludwig’.
A Count von Gleichen with this name was in the retinue of Emperor Friedrich II in a 13th century crusade to Palestine. In other versions of the legend, however, the count’s first name is Sigismund or Siegfried. In 1786, Johann August Musäus began his fifth volume of German fairy tales with the saga Melechsala oder die Sage vom Grafen Ernst zu Gleichen und seinen zwei Frauen [Melechsala or the legend of Count Ernst zu Gleichen and his two wives]. Musäus embellished his sources richly, with the results becoming the actual basis for Eduard von Bauernfeld’s libretto. The friendship between Schubert and Bauernfeld, which had existed since February 1825, led one month later to Schubert’s request that Bauernfeld send him a text for an opera. About this, the latter commented on in his diary: “He – Schubert – wants a libretto from me, and suggested the Bezaubernde Rose [Enchanting Rose]. As for me – a Graf von Gleichen is going through my head.” Bauernfeld was able to convince Schubert about the Graf and hurriedly began bringing it to paper in May 1826. In July 1826, he was able to hand over the completed text – which he had only worked on for a total of eight days – to Schubert, who immediately started composing, even though censors had forbidden the text the previous October. It is not entirely clear when Schubert began; the only date in Schubert’s handwriting is July 19, 1827. What can be established, however, is that Schubert worked on this text until his death.
The degree of completion (or in this case: lack of completion) varies. The score contains everything from one-line melodies (imagine if only the melody of Winterreise had come down to us) to melodies with bass, implied intermezzi and written-out ensembles. Most of this material is only sparingly sketched out; sometimes one can no longer follow what Schubert wanted. Some material – even with the most painstaking care – remains illegible and inexplicable. But we do have sketches for 26 numbers in the opera. For the finale, however, there is nothing!
This opera torso remained untouched for decades, until the “Styriarte” festival commissioned Richard Dünser to finish it on the occasion of the Schubert anniversary year 1997.
Why did Dünser take on the challenge of “completing” this work in the first place? When first asked to do so, Dünser was highly skeptical. Not, however, after looking at the existing music. The parts Schubert did compose are some of his greatest works – they are among his last pieces – the time of his last symphonies, chamber music works, Lieder, etc.
Dünser did not – as he himself says – orchestrate the work like Schubert, but as he would have if he had composed this opera for a modern orchestra today. The original is almost never a real short score, i. e. a piano score noting which instruments are meant for which lines; Schubert rarely provided such information. No, Richard Dünser composed a great deal of his own music into this opera.
He completed all numbers for which Schubert’s sketches exist “as [he] imagines Schubert himself, also changing, shortening or expanding the music – [resulting in] a Schubert heard through the compositional, tonal and listening experiences of the 20th century.”
Dünser found it the most difficult to write the finale, because Schubert did not write a single note of it himself. Should he imitate Schubert, or compose his own music ‘pure’?
Torn between these extremes, Dünser found both to be impossible, unconvincing or simply unsuitable, and thus decided on a sort of “unfinished” synthesis comprised of various fragments. Schubert’s world continues to sound on, but in the course of the intensifying and ever stranger plot, this world is confronted by the “strange”, the “contemporary” – which superimposes itself on the “old” and shows it in a completely different light. A fragmentary quote from Winterreise helps to structure the end of the opera. Schubert himself borrowed music from this song cycle for the opera (2nd act duet between the count and countess) and literally quoted Nebensonnen, but he interwove and extended these quotes with new material.
Works on This Recording
Der Graf von Gleichen, D 918 by Franz Schubert
Florian Boesch (Baritone),
Cornelia Horak (Soprano),
Letizia Scherrer (Soprano),
Kurt Sternik (Voice)
Bregenz Festival Chorus,
Vorarlberg Symphony Orchestra
Written: Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 04/22/2003
Venue: Live Festspielhaus, Bregenz, Austria
Length: 106 Minutes 55 Secs.
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