Taken from the Programme Notes for and CD booklet for

The Captive Nightingale/The Shepherd and the Mermaid

Written by Derek Watson

Introduction to Chamber Music with Obbligato:

Nineteenth century art song was firmly harnessed to the instrument found in every genteel home – the piano.  Other available players were eagerly welcomed to the salon and editions were published with ad libitum or obbligato parts for violin, flute, horn, cello, harmonium, and the instrument outstandingly raised in status by Mozart and Weber, and well suited in range and tone colour – the clarinet.  The winning combination of voice, clarinet and piano delighted intimate gatherings and inspired many lovely works.

Musical history owes much to clarinettists whose talents stimulated a series of compositions: Anton Stadler with Mozart, Heinrich Bärmann with Weber, Richard Mühlfeld with Brahms, and Johann Simon Hermstedt in the case of both Spohr and Andreas Späth.  London-born Henry Lazarus (1815-95), probably the finest English clarinettist of his day and an influential teacher, did much to popularise music with obbligato clarinet.  Clarinets, like pianos, underwent significant technical improvements during the Romantic era.  Domestic circumstances would often prompt the substitution of one ‘obbligato’ instrument for another of similar range: the clarinet taking a violin part for example.

That much of this music was long forgotten is symptomatic of the neglect of this repertory.  A ‘Lieder recital’ gradually established itself in the concert hall rather than the household, predominantly with voice and piano alone, and the twentieth century turned a largely deaf ear to the perceived sentimentality or Biedermeier qualities of ‘salon music’.  Discovering items long overlooked can bring many rewards.  One iconic item for this combination that remained in recital repertoire is Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock, (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen) which has always been admired and performed, and exerted its influence in subject matter and style on others, such as those produced here.

Most of our featured composers held court appointments.  The early nineteenth century Kapellmeister was both court composer and orchestral conductor – the latter still a novel role.  Lachner, Lindpaintner and Proch all had busy careers as conductors both of concerts and in the opera house, and all of them composed operas too.

These songs frequently breathe and exhale pure mountain air. Countless contemporary verses were penned in praise of the Alps:  love or longing for an Alpine homeland, its mountains, streams, woods and valleys, and its denizens – shepherds, milkmaids, the flocks and herds, the tinkling of their bells.  This simple, sunny celebration of nature is occasionally clouded by doubt (the little hesitation in the penultimate line of the first Kalliwoda song), the urge to wander (‘to wander is the Romantic condition’, as Alfred Brendel writes), lovelorn loneliness, or the pain of homesickness.  These emotions abound in the texts set here. Another commonplace of these Romantic lyrics is absence: yearning for a lost home or a distant beloved, or for both.  German composers delighted too in mingling the natural and supernatural worlds both in opera and the Lied: spirits of mountain, of forest, and of the watery deeps, haunt the Romantic landscape.

Swiss melodies of hills and valley’s, Kuhreihen or Ranz des vaches, ideally suited to improved clarinet technique and timbre, became a favourite in opera houses and the home.  From the arpeggios that herald both Der Sennin Heimweh and Der Hirt auf dem Felsen to the joyous piping-in of the spring in the last section of the iconic Schubert song, we hear gentle echoes and sparklingly transfigured forms of yodelling.

About the Composers and works:

Schubert’s friend Franz Lachner (1803-90) hailed from a talented Bavarian family of musicians, completed his studies in Vienna, then began his career as deputy Kapellmeister at the city’s Kärntnerthor Theater, soon rising to principal Kapellmeister (alongside Conradin Kreutzer).  After two years in Mannheim he became Hofkapellmeister at the Munich court (1836) until the advent of Wagner there in the mid-1860s.  (Ironically Lachner’s conducting paved the way for Wagner by improving orchestral standards and introducing Tannhäuser and Lohengrin.)  Greatly respected in his day for his operas, choral works, 8 symphonies and other orchestral pieces, concertos, chamber music, many songs, organ and piano music, the products of this huge industry lay largely neglected for a century after his death.  Lately, there has been a notable revival of interest in his oeuvre.  Influenced much by Schubert, Lachner also had a fondness for the ‘trio’ combination of voice, piano, plus horn or cello or clarinet.  The songs on this disc are from his Frauenliebe und –Leben Op.82 (published 1847), settings of the cycle of poems by Adalbert von Chamisso which Robert Schumann and Carl Loewe also used.



220px-Heinrich_ProchHeinrich Proch (1809-78) was a well-known Viennese conductor and singing teacher; pupils included Materna, Dustmann and Tietjens, and his daughter Louise was a professional singer.  He composed an opera, operettas and over 200 songs.

 Schweitzers Heimweh (Op.38, 1847) again expresses longing for home and gives patriotic voice to a Swiss exile in an uncongenial land.  In Die gefangene Nachtigall (Op.11, 1842) the misery of a caged nightingale pining for forest freedom is characterised by the piteously faltering repeated notes that begin the clarinet’s introduction.

Of the composers represented here most, stylistically, were heirs to Weber.  None more so than Peter Joseph von Lindpaintner (1791-1856), born in Koblenz, conductor at Munich’s Isartortheater from 1812, and Kapellmeister at Stuttgart from 1819, where he gained a fine reputation for his conducting and was ennobled as ‘von’ by the King of Württemberg.  Of his 20 operas, several treat supernatural subjects in the Schauerromantik vein of Weber’s celebrated Freischütz.  Lindpaintner’s Der Bergkönig (1825) and Der Vampyr (produced in the same year – 1828 – as Heinrich Marschner’s opera on the same subject) perfectly illustrate this contemporary fascination with the thrill of the macabre.  Just as songs reflected the agendas addressed on a larger scale in opera, so there are famous examples of the Schauer-Lied: Goethe’s Erlkönig (most famously set by the young Schubert) and Heine’s Die Loreley (as vividly set by Liszt).  As with Schubert’s boy and Liszt’s fisherman, the music leaves no doubt that Lindpaintner’s shepherd is drawn to his doom by enchantment.  In this large-scale virtuoso setting the enticements of the mermaid’s song have a dramatic inevitability: he is lured to the fatal waters.

© Derek Watson 2011