Mozart/Haydn — Lieder

About Mozart’s Lieder

In Mozart’s oeuvre the Lied got allocated a modest place. Yet Mozart has written a lot for the voice, e.g. the brilliant concert aria’s for Aloysia, his wife Constanze’s sister, as well as several operas.

Given the number of Lieder compositions, Mozart’s role in the rich European art song tradition is of little significance. Nonetheless, his German contemporaries C.P.E. Bach, C.F. Zelter, J.F. Reichardt, J.A.P. Schulz and others have devoted themselves diligently to this music form.

Like his contemporaries, Mozart worked in close collaboration with some leading poets, although he frequently adapted the libretti for his operas, much to the chagrin of the librettists.

A lot of this probably has to do with the prevailing Italian influence on contemporary Vienna. In those days the audience was completely under the spell of the radiant, sunny opera melodies, and the charming, bright instrumental music that the Italian Viennese had to offer them. The ‘folk song’ was something altogether different…

In his 34 Lieder, Mozart essentially uses lyrics of less famous authors. His sublime music adds tremendous value to the innocent lyrics. Or, in his own words: “It’s indispensable that poetry is the obedient daughter of music.”

It’s brilliant what Mozart has done with the poem “Der Zauberer”, in which a girl tells us how she seduces. As the emotional tension at the end of each stanza rises, the vocal capacity also increases and the harmony becomes more adventurous. This proves that Mozart knew very well how to handle a text.

“Die Zufriedenheit” and the moralizing song “Die betrogene Welt” were also created in 1785. The masterpiece from this period is undoubtedly “Das Veilchen”, on a text by the great poet Goethe. As Mozart very often did (he could not resist adapting lyrics to his music – not even those of great poets and librettists) he added, somewhat shamelessly, an extra line: “Das arme Veilchen, es war em herzigs Veilchen”. Nonetheless, this shows Mozart’s unsurpassed sophistication and emotional profundity and proves that he did not fail to notice the deeper meaning of Goethe’s poem.

Intense emotion lies at the base of the impressive “Abendempfindung” (1787) as well. Simplicity, equanimity, suggestive piano accompaniment, identification with the first-person narrator, … every ingredient of the Schubert Lied is already present in this one. Other masterpieces from the productive year 1787 are “Als Luise die Briefe”, a rather dramatic opera recitative (with strong contrasts and orchestral piano accompaniment) and the lovely “An Chloe”.

Jan Vermeulen / luk Callens

8 oktober 2006