There is nothing wrong with the musical inspiration behind this first attempt to set Schiller's mighty poem, but it is easy to see why the composer loses heart: he is using up too much of the poem too quickly to place the final result on a canvas imposing enough for the song's subject. In the second version Schubert takes 23 bars to reach the point in the poem covered by only 14 here. The harmonic sequence, changing once in each bar, is effective, but it fails to plumb the depths of the Underworld. It is just possible that more of the song existed once and has been lost, but when we compare it with the second version we have every reason to suppose that Schubert knew he could do better.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991