Gretchen am Spinnrade
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Gretchen am Spinnrade (Gretchen at the Spinning Wheel), Op. 2, D 118, is an 1814 song by Franz Schubert based on a text from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust. It was Schubert's first successful Lied. A challenging work for both pianist and singer, Schubert's setting for soprano voice has been transposed for mezzo-soprano voice as well.
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This song is in rondo form (ABACADA).
Gretchen is singing at her spinning wheel while thinking of Faust and all that he promises. The accompaniment mimics the spinning-wheel in constantly revolving semiquaver figurations in the right hand, the foot treadle back and forth in the left — speeding up and slowing down in response to the text, to show Gretchen's excitement or distraction. At the same time, the accompaniment serves as simple word painting, the right hand reflecting Gretchen's restlessness ("Meine Ruh ist hin") and the left hand her beating heart ("Mein Herz ist schwer"). At the climax of the piece, the piano stops as Gretchen becomes overly distracted by the thought of Faust's kiss, and then only hesitatingly begins again as she realizes she has forgotten to keep spinning. Schubert ingeniously uses the piano to imitate the rhythmic repetition of the spinning wheel, perhaps mirroring either the hypnotic effect of temptation and the devil and/or love. The constancy of Gretchen's infatuation is alluded to not only by constancy of the spinning, but also by the repetition of the first stanza periodically throughout the song.
Gretchen's beginning words are:
Notable recordings include those by
- Elly Ameling and Jörg Demus
- Elly Ameling and Dalton Baldwin
- Barbara Bonney and Geoffrey Parsons
- Janet Baker and Gerald Moore.
- Nina Hagen, Street CD, 1991, titled 'Gretchen'
- Anne Sofie von Otter, Schubert Lieder with Orchestra CD, accompanied by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe led by Claudio Abbado.
Other notable recordings include those by Kathleen Ferrier, Renée Fleming, Christa Ludwig, Gundula Janowitz, Jessye Norman, Irmgard Seefried, Elisabeth Schumann, Lotte Lehmann, Rosette Anday, and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.
- Gretchen am Spinnrade: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- German text and English translation The Lied, Art Song and Choral Texts Archive
- Recording by Jeannine Altmeyer with Val Underwood, piano
- Full score and MIDI file at Mutopia
- Link to recitation of poem for study Bergen Bel Canto Studio