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Music Text

Franz Schubert (G)


2S,A,CT,T,2Bar,B (singers also perc); fl(=picc,bfl).cl(=cl in C,bcl,dbcl)-hn-perc-pft(=BD)-accordion-vla.db

Abbreviations (PDF)



This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Stiftskirche, Stuttgart
Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Ensemble Varianti / Manfred Schreier
Composer's Notes

‘Schubert’s Dream’, subtitled ‘Still Life With Inferno’, is a recitation composed for eight singers and eight instruments. The piece is based on a diary entry by Franz Schubert, a description of a dream which combines in light colours the unrelievable distress of his existence as an artist with a remote vision of salvation. There may be various ways to interpret this dream; however, we can recognize the shadow of a dominant father who stands in sharp contrast to the deprivation of motherly love. The unfulfilled longing for an emotional and spiritual home is transcended into the archetype of a garden in heaven where the limitations of earthly constraints are lifted and where, on the other hand, the misery of everyday life is only a dream (or nightmare) within a dream. The infernal ignorance of fellow human beings is outweighed by the light of comfort.

Schubert’s text follows the classical fairy-tale theme of initiation. In analogy to this, my music meanders between repetitions and transformations of motivic variants. Its development is a mere sham, though; rather than referring to outward metamorphosis, the changes only represent changing views on constellations that otherwise remain identical. The romantic treatment of sound is integrated as a stylistic paraphrase, making an impromptu (composed at the beginning, just as Schubert used to do) the starting-point for all further musical constructions. A harmonic and melodic analysis of this sequence provided all the derivations which unfold during the course of the work. The tempo proportions of the musical form are based, according to the dream vision, on the ‘perfect number’ 28 (the sum of all its divisors equal the number itself). The piece is divided into five sections: Impromptu, Journey, Moments Musicaux 1, German Dance Piece, Moments Musicaux 2. The events of the rustic, aggressive sections are gradually undermined by snapshots of mere illusion.

The piece is an exploration of the ambivalence in the Romantic understanding of harmony, of the search for and at the same time the escape into darkness, the fear of contact. The more concrete the context of Schubert’s setting, the setting of a transfigured past, becomes, the more indirectly it can be seen. The image of the promised garden remains suspended, just as Schubert’s text and music can only become clear from an increasing distance to its stylistic identity, like an echo of a clear but unattainable goal.

© Johannes Kalitzke (Translation: Andreas Goebel)

Press Quotes

‘The piece arouses sensations listeners usually only experience when dreaming.’ (Oliver Hasenzahl, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 14 May 1999)



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