This aria stems from the purest Schubertian inspiration, as natural and inevitable as the flowing of water and the blossoming of wild flowers beside the brook. This is all the more remarkable because the dilettante Schober's verses lack the originality and deep feeling of Mayrhofer's and veer dangerously towards sentimentality. The song's beautiful melody and seasonal radiance are initially in the major key, but like that other great spring song Im Frühling
the smile in the music is heard through a gentle veil of tears—the vernal glories of nature only serve to emphasise the lover's pain. It is no doubt for this reason that Schubert conceived this 'blue' song for the bass voice. If it were transposed upwards it would be full of brighter sounds, but the low tessitura plays a large part in tugging at the heartstrings. A voice singing in this range has the quality of autumn in springtime, as if chastened by experience and suffering. A high vocal line energises a song, but here the mood is one of the deepest introspection and contemplation. How different this is from Auf dem Flusse
where the stream's icy covering has not yet yielded to spring sunshine and the lover has not come to terms with his grief. The conventional triplet accompaniment for an italianate aria here also serves to suggest water, until at the phrase 'der Erde allgemeine Blute' words and music flower together—as if to create a herb to heal the lover's wounds. A measured recitative ends with arpeggiated chords in which the pianist's hands ripple through undergrowth in search of the solitary blue flower. This leads to a da capo in which it is up to the performers to demonstrate that in a song like this there is no such thing as mere repetition. In the slow movements of the late piano sonatas or the String Quintet the disquiet of the middle section lingers into the recapitulation; here only a change of vocal colour can suggest deepened awareness and introspection.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1988