Go to all collections

13 Lieder nach Gedichten von Rellstab und Heine (“Schwanengesang”), D 957

Pieces in this collection


19th October 1815Schubert sets Schwangesang, a poem by Kosegarten
1822Schubert sets Schwanengesang, a poem about a swan’s final song by Johann Chrisostomos Senn
1825Rellstab visits Beethoven in Vienna and they discuss working on an opera together. Rellstab leaves behind some of his poems for Beethoven to set to music
1826First published editions of Seidl’s Dichtungen (not including Die Taubenpost). Schubert sets nine of these poems to music
1826Heine first publishes Die Heimkehr
1827First published edition of Rellstab’s Gedichte
28th March 1827Beethoven dies
2nd October 1828Schubert writes to the publisher Heinrich Albert Probst in Leipzig offering to sell him some recent piano sonatas and ‘several songs by Heine of Hamburg, which pleased extraordinarily here’.
19th November 1828Schubert dies
17th December 1828Ferdinand Schubert (the composer’s brother) writes to the publisher Tobias Haslinger, arranging the sale of ‘Schwanengesang‘, ‘the last thirteen songs’.
20th December 1828In the ‘Wiener Zeitung’ Haslinger advertises the imminent publication of ‘Franz Schubert’s last compositions for voice and pianoforte’, ‘consisting of fourteen as yet wholly unknown songs with pianoforte accompaniment (composed in August 1828)’
May 1829Haslinger circulates 180 copies of ‘Schwanen-Gesang‘ to 158 subscribers, all of which bore a special title page with a vignette of a swan
1853First publication of ‘Die Taubenpost‘ in a collection of Seidl’s poetry (Natur und Herz)
1861Publication of Rellstab’s Autobiography (the main source for the story about him leaving his poems for Beethoven to set)
1951Revised edition of the Deutsch Catalogue of Schubert’s works removes ‘Die Taubenpost‘ from D 957 and enters it as an independent song, D 965A
I have to-day handed to Herr Tobias Haslinger, Art Dealer, the last thirteen songs:

1.	Liebesbotschaft
2.	Kriegers Ahnung
3.	Frühlingssehnsucht
4.	Ständchen
5.	Aufenthalt
6.	In der Ferne
7.	Abschied          poems by Rellstab,
8.	Der Atlas
9.	Ihr Bild
10.	Das Fischermädchen
11.	Die Stadt
12.	Am Meer
13.	Der Doppelgänger          poems by H. Heine,

and the last three grand Sonatas for the pianoforte, composed by my brother Franz Schubert, against a fee of five hundred florins, A.C.

Ferdinand Schubert

English translation by Eric Blom in O. E. Deutsch, Schubert. A Documentary Biography London 1946 page 842
Rellstab had offered his poems, copied out in a beautiful copperplate, to Beethoven, but the master had died without being able to consider them, and Rellstab thought that he had lost all chance of having them set to music. When Haslinger published Schubert's last thirteen songs after his death, however, Rellstab was astounded to find his missing poems among them. He described how his manuscripts were returned to him by Anton Schindler from Beethoven's estate:

A few had pencil marks on them, in Beethoven's own hand; those were the ones which he liked best and which he then passed on to Schubert to be set, because he was himself too ill. These are now among Schubert's best-known songs. I received the manuscripts with some emotion since they had travelled a very strange route before they came back to me - but they had fructified Art on the way.

Whether Beethoven did in fact tell Schindler, his secretary, to pass the poems on to Schubert, or whether the secretary had acted on his own initiative cannot now be established. It is certain however that Schubert wanted to publish the seven songs as part of his next song-cycle. An eighth, wonderfully powerful song with the title Lebensmut (D 937) was to be the opening song, but this remained a fragment.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Schubert. A Biographical Study of his Songs  English translation by Kenneth S. Whitton Cassell London 1976 pages 276-277 
The Heine settings do not appear in Schwanengesang in the order decreed by the poet himself, and if Heine's order were to be restored the resulting sequence of songs would be: Das Fischermädchen, Am Meer, Die Stadt, Der Doppelgänger, Der Atlas. It is possible, in this order, to discern a narrative thread of sorts, and since Schubert was generally sensitive to a poet's intentions one may well ask whether the published order carries his authority. It is an established fact that it was the publisher, Tobias Haslinger, who lumped the Rellstab and Heine settings together and gave them their fancy overall title, although Schubert had been thinking of issuing two separate collections, one of Rellstab and one of Heine. It is not impossible that Haslinger stretched his licence to the extent of playing free with Schubert's order for the Heine settings.

Brian Newbould, Schubert. The Music and the Man Victor Gollancz London 1997 pp. 314-315
The year of Schubert's death is particularly notable on account of his creation of many beautiful works.

He laboured incessantly at a grand Mass in E flat, one of his most profound and perfect works.

The following compositions belong to that same year: a Quintet for 2 violins, 1 viola and 2 cellos, the three grand pianoforte Sonatas (which he wished to dedicate to Hummel, the same which, recently printed, were dedicated to Herr R. Schumann by the publishers, Herren Diabelli & Co.), many songs by Rellstab, by Heine and Seidl, the second part of the 'Winter Journey' (the proof correction of which was the last stroke of his pen) (Haslinger), a Duo in A minor for pianoforte, a pianoforte Sonata in E flat minor for 4 hands, a Fugue for 4 hands in E minor, the 'Hymn to the Holy Ghost' for 8 male voices and wind accompaniment ad libitum, a 'Tantum ergo' in E flat and a tenor aria with chorus.

from Ferdinand Schubert's obituary of Franz Schubert in the Leipzig 'Neue Zeitschrift für Musik', April - May 1839  English translation by Eric Blom in O. E. Deutsch, Schubert. A Documentary Biography London 1946 page 919
Haslinger's grouping creates a different kind of "song cycle" without the obvious narrative cohesion of the earlier Müller cycles. Schubert did not intend the sentimental title, or the inclusion of Die Taubenpost, but he apparently wanted the seven Rellstab and six Heine settings to be grouped according to the poet. Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860), a music critic who lived in Berlin, visited Vienna in 1825, and met Beethoven, with whom he discussed the possibility of collaborating on an opera. He sent Beethoven handwritten copies of unpublished poems, which Schindler allegedly handed over to Schubert after Beethoven's death. According to Rellstab, Schindler returned the poems to him with pencil marks in Beethoven's hand indicating "the ones he liked best and the ones he had given Schubert to compose at that time, because he himself felt too unwell".

Schubert set only six poems by his exact contemporary, the outstanding poet and critic Heinrich Heine (1797-1856). All six are drawn from the untitled poems in Heine's collection Die Heimkehr, written in 1823-24 and published two years later in the first part of his Reisebilder. Haslinger added Die Taubenpost, set to a poem by the young Viennese writer Johann Gabriel Seidl (1804-75), perhaps because thirteen songs would have been too unlucky a number for this posthumous collection or more simply because the song was apparently Schubert's swan-song. (The other candidate is Der Hirt auf dem Felsen.) A recently discovered letter reveals that a Schubertiade was held at Spaun's home on 23 December 1828, just over a month after Schubert's death, at which "Vogl sang Schubert's final, as-yet-unknown compositions from the months of September and October, including the last song composed before his death, 'Die Brieftaube' [Die Taubenpost], one of the most delightful of his songs, and another, Der Doppelgänger, one of the blackest night-pieeces among his songs."

Christopher H. Gibbs, The life of Schubert Cambridge University Press 2000 page 164

Schubert’s other settings of Seidl:

D 865Widerspruch
D 866/1Die Unterscheidung
D 866/2Bei dir allein!
D 866/3Die Männer sind mechant!
D 866/4Irdisches Glück
D 867Wiegenlied
D 870Der Wanderer an den Mond
D 871Das Zügenglöcklein
D 878Am Fenster
D 879Sehnsucht
D 880Im Freien
D 892Nachthelle
D 893Grab und Mond

Schubert’s other settings of Rellstab:

D 937Lebensmut
D 943Auf dem Strom
D 945Herbst