In fact, unlike Erlkönig, it is the velocity and excitement of the ride which denies this song a full measure of expressivity as far as doing justice to the poem is concerned. The text is full of interesting imagery, the detailed depiction of which is sometimes passed over in the interests of the excitement of the whole. The chugging triplets in the piano (easy to play in comparison to Erlkönig) propel the music forward in capital fashion, but the singer has to work at his diction, and retain an element of longing and reverie for the tenderness of the third verse which must not sound rushed. As in An die Entfernte, the song is a clever marriage of aria and recitative. The last one-and-a-half lines of the third verse (‘Ihr Götter! Ich hofft’ es, ich verdient’ es nicht!’) give rise to an extraordinary passage where the singer is stopped in his tracks by the thought of his undeserved good luck in love. Only Schubert could have managed to throw this quixotic wild card into such an aria and successfully recover his momentum for the rousing finale. The form of the song is also a subtle variant of strophic technique. There is nothing obviously strophic about the work except that a certain key phrase (we hear it first at ‘Der Abend wiegte schon die Erde’) is repeated throughout (at ‘In meinen Adern welches Feuer!’ and again at ‘In deinen Küssen welche Wonne!’). Such phrases, planted into the song structure like building struts, give to the work an impression of structural unity.
Schubert originally wrote this song in the key of D major, but it was transposed down to C for the first edition – the tonality of this performance. The difference between the versions is not great; the word ‘doch’ twelve bars before the end is doubled in length in the second version, and it is only in this version that the section beginning at ‘Ich hofft’ es’ is marked ‘Langsamer’. The D major version can be heard on Volume 6.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1997
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