The composer Benjamin Britten used to 'orchestrate' the accompaniments he played — mostly just in his head, but sometimes with pencilled instrumental cues on the printed music itself. Here we have the sole instance of Schubert doing the same on one of his manuscripts — the opening pianoforte ritornello, prompted by the opening words of the poem, is marked with the word 'flute' in brackets (Flöte). The introduction is nevertheless wonderful piano music with a touch of Mozartian drama and rhetoric. The song is marked 'restlessly and plaintively' and the key of E minor is often associated with dejection and unhappiness in Schubert's music. One is tempted to regard the passionate melismatic semiquavers and triplets of the vocal line as Italian in inspiration. The inspiration of the poem is certainly from the warm south of classical times: Karoline Pichler's 135-verse 'Idylle', a dialogue between Alexis and Mycon, is set in pastoral Greece and seems to be a type of Chanson de Bilitis
of its time. The song dates from the same time as another Pichler setting — Lied
(D483), which opens Volume 5.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990