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Franz Schubert : Ständchen (Schwanengesang, D 957 – no 4)

Schwanengesang (“Swan song”) is the title of a posthumous collection of songs by Franz Schubert.

Unlike the earlier Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, it uses poems by three poets, Ludwig Rellstab (1799–1860), Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) and Johann Gabriel Seidl (1804-1875). Schwanengesang has the number D 957 in the Deutsch catalogue.

The collection was named by its first publisher Tobias Haslinger, presumably wishing to present it as Schubert’s final musical testament to the world.

In the original manuscript in Schubert’s hand, the first 13 songs were copied in a single sitting, on consecutive manuscript pages, and in the standard performance order. Some[who?] claim that the last song, Taubenpost, text by Johann Gabriel Seidl (1804–1875), catalogue number D 965 A, is not part of the cycle as Schubert conceived it. However, it’s not clear that Schubert intended it to be a cycle at all, or if he did, that he completed it before he died. It may have been Tobias Haslinger, Schubert’s publisher, who conceived of it as a cycle, or attempted to finish an incomplete work by adding Taubenpost onto the end. So most people consider Haslinger’s published version ‘the’ version, and that’s how it’s performed today. Taubenpost is considered to be Schubert’s last Lied.

Franz Liszt later transcribed these songs for solo piano.

The source of the first transcription, Ständchen (Serenade), dates from Schubert’s last months. The song, based on a poem by Rellstab, was collected by Schubert’s publisher in the posthumous cycle Schwanengesang.

The text describes a lover’s entreaties to the beloved – a poem of yearning – and the melody is one of Schubert’s most famous creations.

Lyrics : German

“Leise flehen meine Lieder
Durch die Nacht zu dir
In dem stillen Hain hernieder
Liebster komm zu mir
Flüsternd schlanke Wipfel rauschen
In des Mondes Licht
In des Mondes Licht
Willst mein liebend Herz du lauschen
Warte Liebster nicht
Warte Liebster nicht

Hörst die Nachtigallen schlagen
Ach sie flehen dich
Mit der Töne süßen Klagen
Flehen sie für mich

Sie verstehn des Busens Sehnen
Kennen Liebesschmerz
Kennen Liebesschmerz
Rühren mit den Silbertönen
Jedes weiche Herz
Jedes weiche Herz

Lass auch dir das Herz bewegen
Liebster höre mich
Bebend harr ich dir entgegen
Komm beglücke mich
Komm beglücke mich
Beglücke mich”

English

“My songs quietly implore you
through the night;
down to the silent wood
my love, come to me!
The tree tops whisper
in the light of the moon;
Don’t be afraid, my love,
no-one will observe us.

Can you hear the nightingales?
Oh! They implore you,
their sweet lament
pleads with you on my behalf.

They understand the yearning I feel,
they know love’s torture,
with their silvery notes
they touch every soft heart.

Let them touch yours, too,
sweet love: hear my plea!
Trembling I await you,
come, bring me bliss!”