Der Doppelgänger

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Der Doppelgänger is one of the six songs from Franz Schubert's Schwanengesang that sets words by Heinrich Heine for piano and tenor voice. It was written in 1828, the year of Schubert's death.

Text[edit]

The title "Der Doppelgänger" is Schubert's; in Heine's Buch der Lieder the poem is untitled, making the ending a surprise.

Still ist die Nacht, es ruhen die Gassen,
In diesem Hause wohnte mein Schatz;
Sie hat schon längst die Stadt verlassen,
Doch steht noch das Haus auf demselben Platz.

Da steht auch ein Mensch und starrt in die Höhe,
Und ringt die Hände, vor Schmerzensgewalt;
Mir graust es, wenn ich sein Antlitz sehe -
Der Mond zeigt mir meine eigne Gestalt.

Du Doppelgänger! du bleicher Geselle!
Was äffst du nach mein Liebesleid,
Das mich gequält auf dieser Stelle,
So manche Nacht, in alter Zeit?

English Interpretation[edit]

(see also footnote 1)

The night is quiet, the streets are calm,
In this house my beloved once lived:
She has long since left the town,
But the house still stands, here in the same place.

A man stands there also and looks to the sky,
And wrings his hands overwhelmed by pain:
Upon seeing his face, I am terrified--
The moon shows me my own form!

O you Doppelgänger! you pale comrade!
Why do you ape the pain of my love
Which tormented me upon this spot
So many a night, so long ago?

Context[edit]

Heine's Buch der Lieder is divided into five sections; all the poems set in Schwanengesang are from the third, Die Heimkehr ("The homecoming"). In Schwanengesang, this song stands at the end of the Heine songs, although Heine's order is different and it has been argued that the sequence works better dramatically when the songs are performed in their order of appearance in the Buch der Lieder.

Music[edit]

Der Doppelgänger is through-composed; each stanza's setting is different. But not altogether different: the song is a kind of passacaglia on the theme of the first four bars of the piano part; this simple harmonic progression, with the piano part consisting almost entirely of block chords, dominates the song and does much to give it its feeling of inexorability, and its brief abandonment (displaced by a succession of increasingly dissonant chords) at the climax of the song signals the frantic horror of the poet.

The song is 63 bars long, and in a typical performance lasts between 4 and 5 minutes. It is in the key of B minor, the same as Schubert's Unfinished symphony.

References[edit]