Of the three Leitner sketches, the editors of the Neue Schubert Ausgabe are least convinced by Hoorickx’s suggestion that this is the correct poem for the music. Walter Dürr argues with some justification that the threefold repetition of each of the last lines of the poem’s strophes is hardly typical. On the other hand, in the first verse the crestfallen melodic descent on the two repetitions of ‘ohne der Harfe Sänger nicht sein’ and the final ‘ohne Harfe’ strikes a convincingly rueful note, and one can justify the repetition and ornamentation of ‘Du am Balkone’ in the second verse as an illustration of courtly love. There are further details which seem to fit this text well: if there has to be a sudden high flat in the second verse, where better than for the heroic exertion of ‘Turniere’ (tournaments); the modulation into G major for the alpine breezes of verse 3 seems a breath of fresh air; the mention of water-nymphs and the moonlit sea of the fourth verse coincides with the song’s exploration of its most distant and mysterious flat-key tonalities; the tenorial extravagances of the peroration seem an appropriately dramatic reaction to the ‘hostile hand of fate’. The fact that so many details happily fit the music is unlikely to be merely coincidental. One notices that the poem is a type of compendium of some of Schubert’s favourite imagery: time-travelling in the second verse with its monks, knights and ladies; echoing music for mountain and valley in the third – the dairymaid a sort of ‘Hirt auf dem Felsen’ avant la lettre; and enchanted water-nixies in the fourth which look back to Die schöne Müllerin.
This song has all the ingredients of another Das Lied im Grünen where meandering countryside pathways are replaced by a type of Disneyland crossroads which lead off to various lands of fairytale, each with its own theme. Of course in this version of the song it cannot be denied that there are awkward corners that do not entirely convince. Some of the difficulties lie with the speed of the composer’s mind and the absence of his later revising hand. But only some of them; no one else can be Schubert, and to guess correctly what miracles of harmonic invention the composer had in mind as he sketched this song is beyond mere mortal imagining. Goodness knows what a fabulous song he himself might have made of this had he chosen to spend a few more hours with it! The hugely demanding vocal tessitura suggests Ludwig Titze more than ever. It is perhaps significant that neither Titze’s name nor an unusually high tessitura is associated with the early gestation of Winterreise which was contemporary with these Leitner songs. Although Schubert composed that cycle in tenor keys, Titze was nowhere on hand when the composer sang the music through to his friends at some time during that autumn. This, taken together with the abandonment of these three high-lying Leitner songs, suggests the possibility of a temporary estrangement between singer and composer in the autumn of 1827. Perhaps Titze felt he was being taken for granted. By the beginning of 1828 he was once again involved with the performance of Schubert’s music, including the first song from Winterreise; but if the tenor’s evaluation of Schubert after his death as not really being a great composer is anything to go by, a simmering resentment remained.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000