Die frühe Liebe, D430

First line:
Schon im bunten Knabenkleide
May 1816; first published in 1895 in the Gesamtausgabe
author of text

There is something fragrantly delightful about the Hölty settings of 1816 of which this is a fine example. Perhaps Schubert did return to this poet in 1816 (as John Reed suggests) because of Spaun's plan to publish songs grouped by their authors, but there is nothing forced or dutiful about these settings. Reed's contention that they lack the freshness and spontaneity of those from 1815 seems unfair. Certainly the 1816 songs are less well known and among their number there is nothing like the famous An den Mond. Nor are there experimental songs like An die Apfelbäume or the frankly over-the-top Die Nonne. By 1816 Schubert seems to have decided what he likes about this poet. There are some melancholy settings (not at all inferior to anything in 1815 e.g. Klage an den Mond and An den Mond II) but, by and large, Schubert was drawn to Hölty's pictures of youth and domesticity, happiness and hard work which idealise the German way of life. Freshness and spontaneity are exactly what these songs have in abundant quantity.

This little song bubbles with childlike high spirits as if the composer is laughing at one of his younger brothers, or indeed himself. The piano writing in a bustling 2/4 is laid out like the sort of Clementi sonatina which a boy of this age would be playing in his piano lessons; the hands are close together without leaps and jumps but there is a roguish complicity between the various strands of melody. In the manner of a Haydn song the voice part doubles the piano's right hand except at the final cadence where it is freed for a final flourish. The song sounds likes an apology for over-amative behaviour ('I can't help it - I was always like this since I was a boy') and Schubert takes great delight in this little Don Juan in the bud. The key of the song is E major, the quintessential Hölty tonality for scenes in field or garden which are flooded with sunlight from a happier, less complicated time. In that sense the song is nostalgic like many of this poet's settings.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 23 – Christoph Prégardien
CDJ33023Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 15 on CDJ33023 [1'36] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 8 on CDS44201/40 CD14 [1'36] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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