This is one of no fewer than eight songs that Schubert wrote on this eventful day in October 1815. Of these, only one, Hektors Abschied
(Schiller), was not a setting of Kosegarten. Perhaps the story of Hector and Andromache put the composer in the mood for tackling the verse forms of the ancients. The two An Rosa
poems have a most complicated metre – Asclepiadic, much favoured by Horace though unheard-of in English poetry, and consisting of spondee, two or three coriambs and one iamb. This does not bend easily to musical treatment. The composer chooses a 3/4 time-signature for this music (marked Mässig, lieblich) which works surprisingly well apart from moments where unimportant words are stressed on the strong first beat of the bar ('Warum bist du nicht hier' at the beginning for example, or the word-ending ste' in bar 4). On the other hand 'dass mich mein Händedruck labe' is more than acceptable and the bar stresses here even add to the sense of longing, like gentle squeezes of the hand. The key is A flat which according to Reed is expressive of 'secret happiness and private joy, and with a secure and reciprocated love'. This astute observation links the Rosa songs with other romantic and intimate Lieder written in the same period and in the same tonality; one is reminded of certain Klopstock settings like An Sie
as well as Das Rosenband
written a few months earlier. Without achieving the fluency and memorability of that masterpiece (probably because of the intractable metre) the composer has recaptured something of the same tender sweetness. The four-bar postlude is particularly affecting: heartbeats depict the 'schlagendes Schwesterherz' in semi-staccato quavers, first in the right hand and then empathetically echoed in the left, the whole making a tender little colloquy in two parts which melt together for the final cadence.
Kosegarten actually wrote four poems entitled An Rosa. The first is tremendously long, as is the fourth, and Schubert did not attempt to set these. It was the second and third much shorter poems which were chosen to be put to music.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994