Schober's poem is entitled Vollmondnacht in his collected poems (1842). It is clear that Schubert worked from an earlier version of the text, and that the poet changed more than the title when he came to prepare his works for publication many years after they were written. The words put Schubert in mind of water music, as if the stars swim in a heavenly constellation of seas and lakes. The music is cast as a gentle dance, and is in the same key as that most famous of Schubert's barcarolles, Das Fischermädchen. Another barcarolle comes to mind, the solo setting of Mayrhofer's poem Der Gondelfahrer which is also in hypnotic 6/8 time. Four of the five voice parts are written within the normal range of the male part-song; they provide the pulsating heart of the music. The first of the two tenors echoes and elaborates what his colleagues have sung and is a star in every sense. His role is that of both soloist and commentator: one is somehow reminded of the decoration of the second cello part in the slow movement of the String Quintet. There is no doubt that the composer needed this heady tessitura to paint the ethereal nocturnal textures of such a text (cf. Nachthelle). The runs on 'entfesselt in den Geisterreih'n' (Schober's printed poem has the more prosaic 'Freundenreih'n') seem typical of the somewhat Italianate use of melisma which we find in many songs of the period, although the writing is seldom as florid as this. The piece is full of characteristically Schubertian modulations: the change into A major at 'ein Silbergarten duftumrauscht' is magical, as is the long return to the tonic key of A flat via C flat major in the section beginning 'er trinkt in stiller Schwärmerei'. It is little wonder that Schubert thought this piece worth the sixty florins he asked for it, as opposed to the thirty florins condescendingly offered by Schott.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1996
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