In this autograph we have the opportunity to see one of the composer’s very early reactions to a text; manuscripts of this type were mostly destroyed when the song reached a later form. It seems certain that Schubert tidied up such details as vocal practicalities and refinements of prosody at a later stage of revision – what was important was to put down on paper his initial response to a poem – warts and all. For example, there are rather too many plodding crotchets in this sketch to have survived in a later Fassung; Schubert would probably have varied the declamation to make it more subtle, at the same time as keeping the best aspects of the felicitously shaped melody.
That this unquestionably authentic link between Schubert and Leitner should have its awkward, even intractable, corners adds weight to Hoorickx’s other suggestions concerning the texts of the Wolke und Quelle and Sie in jedem Liede. It would seem that Schubert was far from the sort of composer who was able as a matter of course to jot down a work in a perfectly finished state. It is more than likely that he did much more revision and polishing than his reputation for easy spontaneity would suggest. The only certainty is that he alone had the ability to move the music into its next stage of sophistication and perfection; the hands of anybody attempting a completion or realisation are tied. They have to stick scrupulously to the very imperfections which the composer himself would have brushed aside at the next stage of revision. This is probably the most enlightening aspect of having songs such as this left to us in such a rough-and-ready condition. The chances are that we would be appalled (fascinated? delighted?) to see the very earliest sketches of numbers from Winterreise, songs which we might have imagined were written in a single and infallible coup de foudre, but which probably started life in a similarly embryonic state.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000