The second version owes a lot to the first, above all in its constant, restless movement and the similarity of the prosody. Both works have a key-signature with four sharps, but the tenor version starts rather gently with bubbling triplets in E major while the second is in a much more ominous C sharp minor. In 1817 Schubert had taken the opening words about the joyful stream at face value, but there is much more of a sense of drama in the second version. Schubert was not of the generation which remembered the danger that Austria had faced with Turkish invasion, but by 1821 his knowledge of history would have been much more sophisticated (probably thanks to his sojourn with Mayrhofer). There is in this second song a sense of momentous happenings, with threatening implications for the West. From this point of view the earlier song had begun much too genially, but that fragment stays the course much longer precisely because the composer does not play his hand all at once. Goethe’s admiration from fifty years earlier for Mahomet as a great historical figure has here been tempered by a Viennese historical viewpoint, and in the song recorded here we hear a stream of violence and inherent danger rather than a merry little brook. The most interesting music in this fragment is for ‘Jünglingfrisch tanzt er aus der Wolke’ where Goethe develops the same theme (in miniature) already familiar from Gesang der Geister über den Wassern (Vol 24) – that of water coming from the skies above, and returning there as part of a great natural cycle. The idea of youthful energy is appropriately reflected in a bouncing hunting-horn motif in the left-hand accompaniment; and the phrase ‘Jauchzet wieder Nach dem Himmel’ climbs the stave (the song is written in the bass clef) propelled upwards by relentless pianistic fingerwork which, crab-like, traverses the keyboard in an impressive, if somewhat mechanical, manner. It seems that as soon as he saw that that he was trapped into writing such clichés, the composer retreated, for it is here that the music breaks off.
Reinhard Van Hoorickx has brought this fragment to a close by returning to the opening music to make a four-bar postlude. This leaves everything that Schubert himself wrote intact, and takes us back to the dramatic mood of the Vorspiel in C sharp minor.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997