Schubert Lieder with their piano accompaniments arranged for guitar by Napoléon Coste (TECLA 391/2)

edited and with an introduction by Brian Jeffery

The beginning of the introduction

This is the beginning of the introduction to this book.  For the main page for this book, click here.


These Schubert songs with their piano accompaniments arranged for guitar by Napoléon Coste were first published in Paris in the 1830s.  Schubert’s songs had just made a sensation there, as Ernest Legouvé wrote in the Revue et gazette musicale de Paris on 15 January 1837:

“Voilà trois ans que ses mélodies ont paru chez nous, et ce n’est guère que depuis quelques mois que son nom se répand hors du cercle de ceux qui l’aiment” (“It is three years now since his songs first appeared among us, but it is only in the last few months that his name has become known outside the circle of his admirers”).  Enthusiastic, he writes: “Schubert est un homme de génie” and “Schubert est un de ces heureux esprits qui attachent de nouvelles cordes à la lyre du coeur” (“Schubert is a genius . . . Schubert is one of those fortunate creators who add new strings to the lyre of the heart”).  He writes of “les soixante mélodies qu’a publiées M. Richault” (“the sixty songs which M. Richault has published”).

The publisher Richault did indeed publish Schubert’s songs in Paris in the 1830s, with new French words not German, mostly with their original piano accompaniments but also some of them with guitar accompaniment.  It appears that it was to the young Napoléon Coste that he entrusted the task of arranging the piano accompaniments for guitar.


This book

This present book includes all of the thirteen Schubert songs with guitar accompaniment published by Richault of which copies are so far known to have survived.  It should be clearly understood that Coste wrote his guitar accompaniment to the French text and that in this edition we have newly underlaid the German text to his guitar accompaniment, for the convenience of those performers who may wish to sing these songs with the guitar with the original German text.  Those who wish to sing them with French words can find them at the Tecla site www.tecla.com.

They will be a good addition to the guitar repertory, not only for their quality but also because they come from a time very close to Schubert’s own, in which the romantic age in which they were composed had not yet come to an end and in which sensibility was still not far away from Schubert’s.

The opportunity has been taken also to publish separately the song “Adelaide” by Beethoven with its piano accompaniment arranged by Coste for guitar.


Napoléon Coste and his guitar accompaniments 

All the thirteen Schubert songs from the Richault guitar series except two bear the words “Accompagnement de guitare par Nap: Coste”.  Coste at the time was in his late twenties or early thirties, having been born in 1805.  He had come to Paris in about 1830, where he studied with Sor.  Later he composed many works for guitar.  The story of his early years in and near Amondans in the Doubs in France and of his career in general, is told in the book Napoléon Coste Compositeur by Noël Roncet, curé of Amondans, written for the Coste bicentenary in 2005 and now republished by Tecla both in French as Napoléon Coste Compositeur and also in English as Napoleon Coste Composer.

If we look at his guitar accompaniments for the Schubert songs, we can see that they are simple, limpid, perfectly suited to the instrument.  I wonder whether perhaps the young Coste showed them to his teacher Sor, and whether the teacher’s influence is to be seen in them?


[The introduction continues, with more on the French words, on bibliography, plate numbers and dating, and notes on the songs themselves in this version.]

Brian Jeffery

Tecla main page.

Copyright 2011 by Tecla Editions. Errors and omissions excepted.