This is a song of the purest, albeit modest, enchantment. Who but Schubert could have written it—except perhaps Mozart? If Papageno had been a slightly more literate creature and had been gifted with a more reflective nature he might have sung this (in the Zauberflöte
key of E flat) to describe his dream of a perfect wife. The poem (written in 1789) is contemporary with Mozart, and Reed points out it is an early version of the pervasive 'Ich denke dein' theme in German poetry of the period. The song's rhythm is a flowing 6/8, and the accompaniment ripples along in even triplets except for some semiquavers at the end. A note of longing and melancholy, no more than a soupçon
, is injected into the song almost at the very beginning by the addition of a passing D flat into the harmony which temporarily pulls the song into a darker, flatter tonal region in the first full bar. Note the pretty little modulation on 'Morgengold
es' in the middle section (an A natural instead of an A flat in the piano part allows in a beam of morning light). The setting of 'umschwebst du mich' is also masterly. In the vocal line, flowing quavers give way to four dotted crotchets poised high and low on the stave ('umschwebst' is set on two notes a drop of a seventh apart) as if to trace the flight path of the floating vision. This is followed, almost in the Italian style, by a veritable stream of non-stop quavers (on 'o holdes, geliebtes Traumgesicht', repeated) which paints the ecstasy the singer feels in fancying that he sees love's apparition. Simplicity and unanswerable charm are hallmarks of the Salis-Seewis settings of which this song is a fine example. On the grounds of its purely musical merits one can see why J P Gotthard, its first publisher, succumbed to the temptation to issue Der Entfernten
as a piano piece.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995