FRANZ SCHUBERT (1797–1828) was a prolific composer of songs, setting the poetry of Goethe (1749–1832), Heine (1797–1856), Müller (1794–1827), Schiller (1759–1805), Schlegel (1767–1845) and many others, mostly for voice with piano accompaniment.
Although there are some depictions of Schubert with a guitar in hand and his connection with the guitar still much debated*, what is undeniable is how well his songs work when they are transcribed for the guitar. One collection of transcriptions made by his contemporary, Franz von Schlechta (1796–1875), has now been published in a limited edition, high-quality facsimile reproduction by Les Éditions des Robins.
The facsimile of the 39 songs with guitar accompaniment copied by Franz von Schlechta take up 150 pages of this 192-page book, printed in landscape format on high quality paper. Many of the accompaniments are copied from published editions but for a number of them, the source of the transcription is still unknown – they might have been transcribed by Schlechta himself. Franz von Schlechta first met Schubert when they were students at the Imperial College and he was a part of Schubert’s close circle of friends, and also wrote poetry which Schubert set to music.
There is much pleasure to be had in playing through the 39 pieces, particularly because of the attractive and varied approach to the voicing of the chords. It is easy to play from the facsimile, although it is a facsimile of a handwritten manuscript.
There are Notes by Stefan Hackl for each of the songs, including the details of bars missing from the facsimile manuscript, the original key of the song, and information about other arrangements and versions of the song which were published; he also states when these published editions are quite unconnected to the Schlechta version. What is more, the Schlechta manuscript is the only source for Schubert’s Die Nacht. The manuscript includes the song, but the poetry for each song is also printed in the reference section. The Foreword to this beautifully presented edition is in German and English – translated by Simon Palmer and Erik Pierre Hofmann.
Stefan Hackl is a guitarist, researcher and editor, who is a specialist in historical instruments. He teaches at the Mozarteum in Salzburg and at the at the Tiroler Landeskonservatorium. Erik Pierre Hofmann is an instrument-maker and restorer with extensive knowledge and experience with historical instruments. Fortunately, both are dedicated to sharing their knowledge and experience through their publications. The Schlechta manuscript was found among the effect of the Viennese guitarist and pedagogue Karl Scheit (1909–1993), who had acquired them from an antiquarian bookshop in Vienna.
*The Appendix provides excerpts from some of the debates about Schubert’s relationship with the guitar, those of Richard Schmid (1918) – ‘Schubert as a guitarist’ and Otto Erich Deutsch (1928) – ‘Schubert without guitar’.
I really recommend this publication, as well as another outstanding publication by Les Éditions de Robins: Stauffer & Co.: The Viennese Guitar of the 19th Century by Erik Pierre Hofmann, Pascal Mougin and Stefan Hackl, published in French, German and English, and beautifully illustrated with an extensive collection of photographs of instruments from the period and lithographs. Visit.
© Thérèse Wassily Saba 2015