Die Wallfahrt was probably not considered by Schubert to be worth preserving. All the other Rückert songs (Lachen und Weinen, Du bist die Ruh, Greisengesang, Dass sie hier gewesen!, Sei mir gegrüsst – only the last of these not to be heard on this disc) have love as their raison d’être. Mention of the ‘temple of Beauty’ hints at a futile love-related pilgrimage, but the sombre mood of the words does not seem truly to have inspired the composer. If it had, this song might have turned into a Schubertian equivalent of Schumann’s Aus den hebräischen Gesänge, a resemblance suggested by the song’s lachrymose opening bars. But the poem is a short one, and thus also the song; this is no fragment, and its effect is limited by the brevity of its text. The simplicity on the page might well have been reworked into a more sophisticated form (like the first version of Greisengesang, initially without any of its enlivening coloratura) if Schubert had been bothered. What we have is more like a sketch for bass voice, simple and noble, though hardly memorable. It must be admitted that the composer, with very few notes at his disposal (the accompaniment remains confined to semibreves and minims until the crotchets and quavers of the song’s closing bars) somehow conjures a middle-eastern atmosphere in this music, as if appropriate to intone from a minaret.
The poet’s mention of the Ka’bah (the very sacred small temple of stone at the centre of the Great Mosque in Mecca and the goal of all Islamic pilgrims) is typical of Rückert’s oriental learning, although the fanciful image of a ‘Kaaba der Schönheit’ would not appeal to a devout Muslim. Schubert, attracted to medieval imagery involving the crusades, is a dab hand at pilgrimages, and often manages a tone of holy consecration. We can see the beginning of something of the like here; but a song like the Leitner setting Der Kreuzzug from 1827 is a fully realised (and western) version of a similar idea.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000
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