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  • Writer's pictureWalter

Schubert - Abschied

Schubert, Schwanengesang, "Abschied"


"Abschied" is the final setting of a Rellstab poem in Schubert's Schwanengesang (for an introduction to Rellstab and Schwanengesang, please see this previous post). In this text the singer calls out a collection of farewells to a place that holds many happy memories, but that he must now leave behind.

With each verse (there are six in this poem) we clearly see time passing as day turns to night, and with each verse we see the poet becoming more melancholy and sentimental as the objects of his goodbyes become increasingly salient.

Underneath the text, the piano embodies a character in the world of the singer (just as it did in "Liebesbotschaft"). In this case, the piano plays the role of the singer's horse, as it carries him away on "happy foot." The accompaniment jauntily gallops nonstop from beginning to end, never letting up as the horse carries its rider along. Unlike in "Liebesbotschaft," however, in this song the piano guides the singer along. Each key change and scene change is navigated first by the piano, anticipating the upcoming sentiment of the verse. Perhaps this suggests that the singer is experiencing his emotions only as the horse carries him along from place to place. The singer takes in each scene as it goes by, and explores the sentiments and memories he carries from each.

At the start, the singer calls farewell to this happy town. He addresses the town, the trees, the gardens, and a river; recalling that none have ever seen him sad or heard a sad song from him. The times spent here were happy ones. He says goodbye to the friendly maidens, smiling at him from their homes. "As always," the singer says, "I greet you and look back, but never will I turn my horse back." Past flirtations and temptations are remembered that maybe captured his attention, but did not change his course.

The sun sets, and now we see a window. It glows, "cozily," and the window seems to invite him in. Here we see our protagonist at his most sentimental as he seems to drawn to the window and, more to the point, what or who lives inside. The romantic in me believes that perhaps here resides a lover left behind, and he mourns that he will never see her (or her window) again.

Finally, as he rides out of the town, his attention turns to the stars guiding him forward. Their shine could never match the glow of the window left behind. Bitterly he asks the stars, guiding him away from this happy place, "what help can you offer?" "Since I cannot stay here, since I must move on, what help is it if you follow me so faithfully?"

But the horse continues onward.

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