Who and what am I thinking of? The six hundred some lieder (songs) of Franz Schubert that somehow he found time to write even while writing loads of symphonies, quartets, piano sonatas and other things. And still dying at thirty-one years of age! How does one write a thousand pieces of music from age seventeen to age thirty-one? Not even Mozart did that. So let's have a brief look at some of those songs.
|Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)|
Here is the Wikipedia entry for Franz Schubert. Here is a website that has all the texts, original languages plus translations when available for all Schubert's lieder. In addition to myriads of individual songs and small groups of songs, Schubert wrote three major song cycles that not only created the form, but essentially established Schubert as the inventor of what we now call the "art song". The only challenger to this title is Beethoven who wrote one song cycle, An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant Beloved) just a bit before. But frankly, the voice was really not Beethoven's ideal medium and the ones by Schubert are much better.
The three song cycles composed by Schubert are Die Schöne Müllerin, Die Winterreise, and Schwanengesang, but only the first two were intended by Schubert as cycles. The third, "Swansong" was assembled after his death. Die Schöne Müllerin was written when Schubert was twenty-six on poems by Wilhelm Müller. There are twenty songs in total and a performance takes a bit more than an hour. The cycle is a narrative of a young man falling in love with a miller's daughter. Though the ending is ambiguous, the implication is that the young man despairs of attaining his love and drowns himself in the stream. There are many recordings, of course. But this one, dating from 1961 with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, includes the score. There is a brief prologue by the poet that is read before the music starts.
Schubert's second great cycle, Die Winterreise, is also on poems by Wilhelm Müller. There are twenty-four songs in two sections. The two sections were composed in 1827, the year before Schubert's death. This is a darker cycle than the previous one, a dramatic monologue on disappointed love set in a bleak, winter landscape. The Wikipedia article I linked to above has a summary of the text of each song.
Here is a 1962 recording, with the score, also by Fischer-Dieskau and Moore:
So this is the crême de la crême of the enormous body of lieder by Franz Schubert. If you are inspired to listen to all of his lieder, Fischer-Dieskau and Moore recorded them all and they are available from Amazon. Six hundred songs for under $100 seems a pretty good deal.