Franz Schubert (1797–1828) Rosamunde – Entr'actes D 797 Nos. 1, 3a and 5 [from Op. 26]
Urtext edited by Peter Hauschild [orch]
188.8.131.52. – 184.108.40.206. – timp – str
In Alfred Einstein's words, "If anywhere, then it is here that we find the connecting link between the Unfinished and the C major Symphony." This is how Einstein assessed the first and lengthiest of the three entr'actes.
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Concert practice continues to reaffirm this judgment to this day, for it is impossible to envision the symphonic repertoire without these three orchestral works not only because of the first piece, which happens to be in B minor, the key of the "Unfinished," but also because of the Andantino, which boasts one of Schubert's most famous melodies. The new Urtext edition based on the autograph will be welcomed by musicians everywhere, especially since the performance material can now be purchased in its entirety.
"Mit der vorzüglich gestochenen Partitur ist erstmals käufliches Aufführungsmaterial erschienen." (Michael Kube, Schweizer Musikzeitung)
Through the intermediary of his friend Josef Kupelwieser, who was temporarily employed as secretary at Vienna’s Kärntnertortheater until October 1823, Schubert was commissioned by the directorship of the Theater an der Wien in early November 1823 to compose incidental music to the stage play Rosamunde, Fürstin von Cypern [Rosamunde, Princess of Cyprus]. The play’s author, Helmina von Chézy, had made a name for herself with her libretto to Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Euryanthe, which was given its first performance in Vienna on 10 October in the present of Chézy and the composer. A drama was now requested, and she fulfilled this request so quickly that Schubert became pressed for time. He wrote altogether ten numbers to the specifications of the play, including a short instrumental piece (No. 6 Shepherd’s Melody), a solo song (No. 3b Romance), three choral pieces (No. 4 Ghosts’ Chorus, No. 7 Shepherds’ Chorus, No. 8 Hunters’ Chorus) and two ballet pieces. He enhanced the ensemble by inserting the three entr’actes presented here (Nos. 1, 3a and 5). Time pressure may also have prompted Schubert to borrow the overture from an earlier work, his opera Alfonso und Estrella D 732, which had not yet been performed and was thus unknown by the public. It is possible, however, that he later replaced this overture with that of the first act of the play Die Zauberharfe [The Magic Harp] D 644 of 1819/20.
At the performance on 20 December 1823, it was above all Schubert’s music and its melodic richness that provoked the audience’s cheers. “Schubert’s wonderful music was honored and rewarded with rapturous applause. The play was not really at its place, however, for the Theater an der Wien has its own public.” Indeed, due to its weak plot the play was pulled off stage two days later, after its first repeat performance.
With its 383 measures, the entr’acte No. 1 is much more than twice the length of the second entr’acte (No. 3a: 55 measures) and the third (No. 5: 95 or 111 measures). Indeed, one could interpret this B minor piece as an overture in disguise, a conjecture underscored in particular by the traditional, introductory character of the six unison measures heard only at the beginning. It is also 84 measures longer than the overture to Alfonso und Estrella, which was borrowed for the first performance. The piece, cast in a modified sonata form with elements of a fantasia, is characterized by the avoidance of all literal repetitions of formal sections, which are thus embedded in a continuous flow of ceaseless changes and modulations. We encounter the main themes and their respective successive reshapings in retrogressive harmony: 1st theme in B minor mm. 7ff., 2nd theme in B major mm. 30ff., 1st theme in F sharp minor mm. 134ff., 2nd theme in B major mm. 210ff., 1st theme in B minor mm. 321ff. The piece also leaves the framework of incidental music far behind it with its scoring for large orchestra, including three trombones. Alfred Einstein appositely remarked: “If anywhere, it is here that we find the connecting symphonic link between the ‘Unfinished’ and the C major Symphony.” At a performance of the B minor Symphony at London’s Crystal Palace on 19 March 1881 under the direction of August Mann, this movement was appended to the ‘Unfinished’ as a finale on the basis of a recommendation by the music scholar George Grove.
Framed by D major measures at the start and the close, the second entr’acte again picks up the B minor harmony of the first entr’acte. The tight time schedule could be an explanation for the fact that Schubert borrowed motifs from an earlier song, Der Leidende D 432, for this piece. With alternating wind chords against a string tremolo and pulsating eighth-note basses, its darkly tragic atmosphere glows with an intensity that foreshadows Bruckner.
In the B flat major Andantino of the third entr’acte we find one of Schubert’s most famous themes here for the first time in his œuvre. It recurs in the Andante of the String Quartet in A minor D 804 of 1824 and, in a modified form, in the Variations of the Impromptu in B flat major D 935 of December 1827.
The autograph served as the sole authentic source for the preparation of this new edition. The “Kritischer Bericht” provides information about specific details in the readings as well as about peculiarities of Schubertian notation and how they were handled here.
Leipzig, Spring 2008
We offer a PDF of the complete text with all notes for download.