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Hermann Prey: Louis Spohr SCHWERMUTH Op.94 No.5

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Published on Mar 24, 2013

Louis Spohr "Schwermuth" Op. 94 No. 5
Hermann Prey, baritone -- Michael Krist, piano.
The poet August Mahlmann (1771--1826) lived mainly in Leipzig. From 1805--1816 he was the chief editor of the "Zeitung für die elegante Welt". In 1810 he leased the "Leipziger Zeitung" and took charge as senior editor, which resulted in a prison sentence for him at the fortress in Erfurt in 1813 due to an "anti-French attitude".
His poems were set to music by such composers as Johann Rudolf Zumsteg, Friedrich Methfessel, Carl Loewe, Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf and Paul Hindemith.
"Schwermuth" is a text full of melancholy thoughts about life and death.
Motives of resignation and despair are found often in Mahlmann's poetry.
The pain of losing a loved one could have induced him to these texts. The poet finds comfort only in the faith of eternal life after death. He looks at death as liberation, as redemption.
That Spohr chose for this text precisely a 6/8 meter can be understood if one examines his syllabic method of setting the text. The seemingly hopeless despair in the text is resolved not with lyrical melismas, but inexorably a word for word, tone for tone design for the consciously experienced reality. The tempo indication Allegretto seems strange at first glance. It can be understood as one of the concerns of the composer that interpreters of his Lieder showed a general tendency of dragging the tempo, especially with the temptation of a melancholy text. The tempo indication Allegretto should be noted with this in mind: not too fast, but expressly not too slowly, sentimentally or even wailing.
The Lied begins in E major; after happy memories of past youth and love the text suddenly erupts in the desperate knowledge "Ach, hin ist hin, und todt ist todt!"
(trans. Ah, gone is gone and dead is dead!) and the key changes to e minor, relating to the text. Only at the fourth verse does the composer allow for a somewhat slower pace, as the vision of his own tomb appears to the poet: "suche dir Frieden im Reiche der Schatten!" (trans. search for your peace in the realm of shadows).

See also: The first complete and critical Edition of Louis Spohr's LIEDER in 12 vols., edited by Prof. Susan Owen-Leinert and Michael Leinert with the Publisher Dohr, Cologne, Germany: "Schwermuth" in vol. 5 E.D. 29955.

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