Aus 'Heliopolis', I

Franz Schubert

Aus 'Heliopolis', I in E minor

D753, Op. 65/3 • “Im kalten, rauhen Norden”

About this work

Like every child of the cold north, Johann Mayrhofer dreamed of the warm south. But where most northerners are content to take a vacation in Florida or the Côte d'Or, Mayrhofer, being a poet of early nineteenth-century Austria, traveled south in his imagination in a pair of poems entitled Aus Heliopolis I and Aus Heliopolis II (From Heliopolis I & II). In these poems, Mayrhofer mixed his longing for the south with images drawn appropriately enough from Greek mythology, which in turn led the homosexual Mayrhofer to images of Attic love. Mayrhofer dedicated both poems to Franz von Schober, a big, good-looking blond.

Franz Schubert, a friend to both Mayrhofer and Schober, set both Heliopolis poems in April 1822. The first of them (D. 753) starts out with a cold, dry evocation of the cold north in blanched E minor, with piles of dissonant diminished sevenths to add bite to the frigid air. But when the poet speaks of the light and warmth of the sun, the music modulates to E major and the vocal melody becomes long-breathed and lyrical. And the closing verse's description of the virtues of light and love is set by Schubert to music of ravishing beauty, with a radiantly chordal piano accompaniment.