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There is great strength and resolve in this music; it is in C major but it is actually full of chromatic highways and byways as wide-ranging as Matthisson's ambitions and sentiments. There is a mood here of resolute chorale, sometimes cheerful and optimistic but hijacked by doubts from time to time; if Herbstlied is about the resolve of working folk, Lebenslied is a similar charter for the thinkers and creators. The vocal line is doubled by ominous octaves at 'Armuth und Fülle, Verödung und Pracht'. The repeat of the phrase 'wechseln auf Erden wie Dämmrung und Nacht' is masterfully done: the first time the dark suspensions depict the uncertainty of the half light leading to a cadence in E flat, but the second moves triumphantly back into C major with the feeling of an answered question and a solved riddle. The five bars of postlude are of the utmost determination. They stride forward, a rising phrase in the piano's left hand, with the air of a man with a mission. This little known song has been neglected by singers and scholars alike. It shares something of the mood of the Senn setting Selige Welt, even to the extent of a verse which mentions a ship coming into a harbour. It is one of those relatively rare works which reveal to us the underlying philosophy of the Schubert circle. Lebenslied no doubt reflects the content of the idealistic conversations of the composer and his friends as they talked far into the night, Schubert delighting in his new-found freedom.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993
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