The text is a translation by Heinrich von Collin from Metastasio's Artaserse. Schubert's achievement (and how clever he has become during the progress of the year in handling verse of every metrical kind) is that the song seems to be a single flowing unity despite the fact that the three verses of the poem are all different—in anapaestic, dactylic and iambic rhythm respectively. Of course this is water music, and very charming it is too; we have the feeling that the vocal line is charting the course of the river, sometimes flowing in a straight line (and thus remaining on one note) and sometimes moving in a more circuitous course. In this way the song is comparable to Der Strom where the vocal line stays on the same note as the river flows through the quiet valley and the green fields, but elsewhere rises and falls with the terrain. Much of Leiden der Trennung is built around repeated Ds in the vocal line; one is reminded here of the phrase 'Nachtigall, ach' (also repeated Ds in G minor) in An die Nachtigall composed a few weeks before. As soon as the sea is mentioned in the last verse the intervals in the voice widen and plunge ever onwards; only at the end where the river expires in a type of Liebestod in finding its source at last, does the music move into the quietus of the relative major. These last bars are exceptionally beautiful.
This song also carries the inscription 'At the house of Herr von Schober' and it seems no less a philosophical statement on Schubert's part than the Matthisson Lebenslied. Metastasio's little poem must have appealed to the young men in the composer's circle because it spoke of the elective affinities which brought them together, and of the forces of nature and justice which could not be suppressed by tyrants, whether parental or political. The whispering streams and murmuring brooks are voices of dissension which even the most stringent efforts of the police state will fail to silence.
This is the sole performable setting by Schubert of the poetry of Heinrich von Collin. He was the elder brother of Matthäus von Collin, whose five Schubert settings are all masterpieces and who played an important part in the composer's life as friend and patron. Schubert never met Heinrich, who died in 1811 at the age of forty when the composer was still a schoolboy.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993
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