The majority of the song is underpinned by Schubert's favourite dactylic rhythm, as if to underline that the creature is driven by instinct: his behaviour can be no other than it is, and it would be as futile to blame the stars for shining, as to expect anything else from him. What makes the accompaniment special are the deliciously weaving semiquavers played by the inner fingers of the pianist's right hand; the effect is of a fluttering of wings. At 'Immer schöner glänzen meine bunten Flügel' the right-hand thumb provides the suggestion of a chromatic scale which paints the image of glistening wings perfectly - we are reminded that one of the meanings of the word 'chromatic' is many-coloured. Capell (who follows Mandyczewski and erroneously places this among the 1815 songs) says that the butterfly's ramblings take rather a square form, but this is not always so. In the poem's first four lines the two-bar phrases begin with an upbeat, and end with the stress on an important verb or noun: 'Wie soll ich nicht tanzen? / Es macht keine Mühe und/reizende Farben'. This may be square, but deliberately so, like a square-dance. For the next two lines there is no upbeat, but the same rules of accentuation apply. When we come to the seventh line the ear expects to hear 'Immer süsser hauchen / alle kleinen Blüten'. Instead Schubert dislocates the rhythm by elongating the 'im' of 'immer' to a dotted crotchet, and makes the word 'süsser' take up a whole bar; this means that all the remaining words in the two-line phrase come together in eight tripping quavers, the speed of the syllables on the tip of the tongue making the flowers sound ever smaller, even more sweetly vulnerable to the butterfly's advances. In accenting the first word of each bar and changing Schlegel's prosody we get 'Immer süsser / hauchen alle / kleine Blüten'; the word 'Blüten' seems carelessly thrown away, and the adjective 'kleine' (small) is emphasised. The tiny piano interlude strikes a note of triumph in a fanfare which betokens the butterfly's work successfully accomplished before the strophe continues to its end with a varied recapitulation of the opening material. (There is something more abrasive here than we find in Goethe's Gleich und gleich which describes the meeting of flower and bee as a much more affectionate encounter between two creatures made for each other.)
The song is a purely strophic one, and the second verse provides no new surprises. The tune continues to be delightful of course, and the chromatic accompaniment at 'Wenn der Abend säuselt' is highly effective. At 'Wenn die Lüfte golden scheint die Wiese grüner' we hear the same capricious dislocation of the rhythm of the words. All in all there is a Cherubino-like charm to this music with an appropriately Mozartean response from Schubert. The butterfly loves the flowers, of course, but he also exploits them. As he is only fulfilling his destiny according to nature he is not to be blamed. If he were human his adventures would perhaps be excusable, like Cherubino's, on account of his youth. An older philanderer, judged in human terms, would deserve to be run through with a lepidopterist's pin.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996
|Schubert: The Complete Songs|
'This would have been a massive project for even the biggest international label, but from a small independent … it is a miracle. An ideal Christ ...
'Please give me the complete Hyperion Schubert songs set – all 40 discs –and, in the next life, I promise I'll "re-gift" it to Schubert himself … ...» More
|Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 27 – Matthias Goerne|
'Another jewel in the Schubert Edition crown' (BBC Music Magazine)
'A most valuable addition to the series, one of the most important achievements in the history of recording' (Classic CD)» More
'Graham Johnson once again demonstrates his skill in programme-building in this latest anthology of his, an ingenious collection of songs about the an ...» More