The key is F major and the time signature 3/4. The piece is in the mood of a stately minuet. The mood of the poem where a male lover reassures his troubled paramour is strongly reminiscent of the same poet's Furcht der Geliebten where it is Cidli who is enjoined not to weep. The melody is a touching one, rather in the baroque mood of a song like Bist du bei mir. The music is written in Schubert's antique style which is usually his means of acknowledging that the poem he is setting is not a `modern' one. Selmar sings his strophe first, and Selma's music is an exact repeat. This is different from Christian Neefe's lovely setting of 1776 where the first verse is in the major and the second in the minor.
John Reed finds it puzzling that this version of the song should be marked Etwas geschwind ('rather fast'). In Schubert's first version (identical to the second apart from the brief two-bar introduction in the version recorded here) the tempo marking is Etwas langsam, innig. Reed finds this preferable for a 'solemn hymn-like setting'. Performers of Schubert songs learn, however, that the composer's tempo markings are never to do with a song's mood but rather (in the old-fashioned Italian manner taught by Salieri) to do with pulse. Thus a song may seem fast (as in the case of Liebesbotschaft from Schwanengesang) but have a slow background pulse and marking – Ziemlich langsam. In that case the basic unit of the crotchet is slow within 2/4, despite the demisemiquavers which fill out the beats to depict the glittering water. Selma und Selmar is an example of the converse: the crotchets glide by rather quickly when measured by the metronome – try beating them in three and the tempo will indeed be Etwas geschwind. Because there are no semiquavers, however, the effect is of a slow song. The original marking of Etwas langsam probably encouraged the song's earliest performers to essay too slow a tempo where the four-bar phrases were unsingable in a single breath. The composer's second thoughts are comprehensible when seen in this light.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994