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Hermann und Thusnelda ("Ha, dort kömmt er"), song for voice & piano, D. 322
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Kom, athm', und [ruh hier Aus] 2 in meiner Umarmung, [Von der zu schrecklichen] 3 Schlacht! Fliehend blieb ich, und sah dir Schon die Unsterblichkeit an, Die nun dein ist!
Hermann und Thusnelda | Oxford Lieder
Liegt nicht der stumme Todte Vater vor uns? In der Kortenschen Buchhandlung; Leipzig: This website began in as a personal project, and I have been working on it full-time without a salary since Ha, here he comes, covered with sweat, with the blood of Romans, Covered with the dust of battle!
This is the most beautiful Hermann has ever been! This is the first time His eyes have been ablaze like that.
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Hermann survived a later defeat by Germanicus his wife Thusnelda was taken to Rome in captivity, however and continued to rule until his assassination in AD His exploits were celebrated by German writers Ulrich von Hutten and Daniel von Lohenstein in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries but the middle of the eighteenth century saw a real revival of interest in this historical episode thanks to a play by J E Schlegel, and above all to Klopstock who penned not only this poem but also a trilogy of plays dealing with different episodes in the life of Arminius.
Such writers as C D Grabbe and Otto Ludwig continued to embroider the Hermann theme until the middle of the nineteenth century. The song opens with a long bar prelude, a triumphal march for the victor of the battle in the Teutoburger Wald. The ceremonial key of E flat is used, which the composer seems to favour for pagan or Ossianic ritual.
Hermann und Thusnelda, D.322 (Schubert, Franz)
Dotted rhythms and anacrustic triplet semiquavers suggest trumpets and drums. An adventurous shift to C flat major introduces a surging quaver figuration which culminates in a return to the second inversion of E flat; a B flat in the treble rises to B natural and then C at the top of an A flat chord.
This effectively depicts an overflowing of joy and happiness on the part of the onlookers, Hermann's wife Thusnelda among them. The earlier setting by Christian Gottlob Neefe sets the whole of the poem with the exception of Strophe 6 as a military march, but as usual Schubert has something more elaborate in mind. The first verse of the opening is an unmeasured recitative for Thusnelda, punctuated by fragments of the march tune as if offstage.
It is not enviable for any singer to start a song with the word 'Ha', but it gives us some idea immediately about Thusnelda's character. One of its least attractive sides is her bloodthirsty enjoyment of all the evidence of carnage, her seeming indifference to the death of Hermann's father, and the fact that she admits to feeling more attracted than ever to Hermann in his bloodstained state. This gruesome model of the ideal German woman fit for the Third Reich in 'total war' mode is probably derived from the stories of the women of Sparta who preferred their loved ones to return dead on their shields rather than alive and defeated.
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Thusnelda's outpourings become more lyrical, and the composer employs arioso marked Im Takte - 'In time' which has the melodic curves of aria whilst retaining the function and feeling of recitative. At 'Komm, o komm, ich bebe vor Lust' we are still in the home key of E flat with flowing quavers underpinning the vocal line as the right-hand crotchets echo the singer's words.
Directly after 'Ich bebe vor Lust' for example, the tremblings of pleasure seem to jump off the page as the piano part twitches in immediate response to these words. For the third verse we modulate to A flat.
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The restful tenderness of 'Ruh' hier' lasts only for a few lines. After six relaxed and tender bars the music becomes agitated again and opens out into a veritable paean of passionate adoration; this reaches its climax as it veers into an elaborate cadence in G flat for 'so hat dich niemals Thusnelda geliebt. She here admits that she went with him willingly, having glimpsed his future greatness.
The transformation between then and now is admirably conveyed by the long note on 'die nun dein ist' accompanied by staccato chords. The seal of immortality is the florid setting of 'dein', ornamented in the voice and accompanied by a mighty A flat 7 chord. We are certainly in the presence of a formidable character from German folklore, a precursor of Wagner's Ortrud or the Valkyries.
This section is in D flat major marked Etwas langsam, mit heiligem Jubel.
Once again we are denied real aria in favour of arioso. The accompaniment, one of the composer's most distinguished ostinato inspirations, was recycled ten years later as the basis for Ellen's first song Ellens erster Gesang from The Lady of the Lake settings.
In that remarkable rondo the King of Scotland, disguised as a hunter, is serenaded to the words 'Raste Krieger, Krieg ist aus'. The accompaniment is there marked piano and seems expressive of a battle in the far distance, or even the distant elfin horns of an enchanted forest.
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Here the writing is forte, but the theme in common between the two works concerns the majesty of kings in ancient kingdoms and the role of women in administering post-battle comforts. It was unusual for the composer at the height of his maturity in to lift an idea intact from his earlier work, but it is not surprising given this motif's buoyancy and its happy combination of pomp and tenderness.
Needless to say the beautiful counter-melody which Schubert invents for Ellen is far superior to Thusnelda's arioso. Hermann himself now speaks at last, and with a certain amount of impatience, although without the heroic distinction which we might have expected from the build-up given him by his wife.