Capell is right to call the music for this piece 'formal and stately.' No music of the common people this, and even Lied form seems inappropriately domestic. This is an aria for doomed royalty, and it rolls with a dignity denied the love stories of mortals. Schubert has discovered a vein of (what was one day going to be known as) Italian grand opera style for Andromache's opening utterance. In the introduction, pregnant and pulsating F minor chords seem to ache to support a bel canto imprecation, and they are not disappointed; the opening vocal lines look forward to the young Verdi in their portent. The idea of the little boy to be orphaned brings a flute or oboe solo in the relative major, and again the formulae of Italian opera seem to suit the grandiose formality of ancient times—as Bellini, for example, was soon to demonstrate in Norma. Hector's music is less inspired, as if he had other things on his mind than trying to placate the wife. A sudden change of harmony (with 'Teures Weib', optimistic sharps replacing underworld flats) ushers in music of heroic resolve with the type of rising sequences used to greater effect elsewhere in the mythological songs. Pergamus, the citadel of Troy, fails to sound redoubtable, but then it was on the verge of annihilation anyway. Hector repeats his words and, the second time round, his vocal line bathes itself even deeper in the Stygian stream with a mordent shudder. Andromache now has an aria in A minor ('Nimmer lausch ich') most remarkable for the modulations in the repetition of its last line ('deine Lieb' im Lethe stirbt') where Hector's love suffers an audible sea-change in the modulating waters of Lethe. His closing aria ('All mein Sehnen') is as much a cabaletta as Andromache's opening has been cavatina. It is a generously open-hearted tune with a clever chromatic descent on 'in des Lethe stillen Strom versenken' and the obligatory recitative to mark the tumult outside, but Schubert was much happier with Andromache's wifely grief. Schiller's words do not enable the young composer to cut the son of Priam—and Troy's greatest hero—down to size and invest him with believable human feelings. If you have too much to do with Olympus you are scarcely human after all—and larger-than-life characters made out of marble can sometimes fail to touch us. The statue of Memnon, in the next song, is the great exception to that rule.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991
Other albums featuring this work