Illustration of Schubert: Du Bist die Rüh [You Are Repose]

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You Are Repose is the third of 4 late songs, Op. 59, written by Schubert in 1823. No. 4 is called Laughter and Tears, summarizing perhaps the emotional scale of Schubert’s enormous compositional output. By 1823, Schubert was already ill and he died 5 years later in December 1828, aged 31. He was buried in the Währing cemetery in Vienna, three graves away from, and only 20 months after the death of his ‘idol’, Beethoven.

Born in 1797, Schubert was the twelfth of fourteen children, nine of whom died in infancy. He sang as a boy soprano and chorister in the Court Chapel in Vienna, living through Napoleon’s invasion and occupation of Vienna in 1805 and 1809. Composing quartets, quintets, symphonies, piano works, Schubert is perhaps best known for his Lieder. Between 1810-1828, Schubert composed more than 630 lieder, setting to music the words of the greatest poets of his age. These songs are full of joy and grief, serenity and sorrow. He wrote: ‘For many and many a year, I sang songs. Whenever I attempted to sing of love, it turned to pain. And again, when I tried to sing of pain, it turned to love. Thus were pain and love divided in me.’

Du Bist die Rüh, from the poem by Friedrich Rückert, is a prayer dedicated to undivided love and devotion. You are the rest and gentle peace, my eyes and heart are your dwelling place. Come in to me and gently close the gates behind you, driving out all pain from this breast. The musical instructions in the first half of Liszt’s transcription ensure that the quiet, gentle mood of the song is sustained. The tempo is ‘Lento sostenuto’; steady directions are interspersed throughout – molto espressivo ma simplice, sempre dolce e legato, senza agitazione - reining in, as it were, the romantic inclinations of the performer. Dischords and agitato instructions accompany the words ‘herz’ (heart) and ‘schmerz’ (pain), but the sempre dolce tone of the song resumes until the point when all pain has been driven out. Then the mood changes dramatically: ‘Full be this Heart of love for you. The domes of these eyes are filled only by your radiance’. In the last two pages of the score, soaring chords reflect the ecstasy described in the final lines of Rückert’s poem: ‘Oh fill it bright, O fill it full, O fill it whole.’ The piece ends with a disappearing (perdendosi) statement of the opening dolce semplice theme.

The soft blues and horizontal lines of the illustration are quiet. The circular, domed eyes are placed at the top, shining down and drawing in the radiance from below. The domes are taken from cupolae of mosques in Iran and Turkey as well as modern buildings such as the Reichstag in Berlin. Other contemporary architectural sources are the Wall of Peace in Paris, the Gates of Peace in Hiroshima as well as mirrored interiors of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. In contrast to the restful, upper part of the painting, the lower third is painted in dark blues and somber greys, representing the pain that has been driven out from the domed eyes and heart. Using mournful images from the 9/11 memorial in New York City, tears and waterfalls fall into sharp rectangular pools of infinite darkness.