Schubert's achievement in this music is to marry a Mozartian elegance with moments of real romantic sensibility. These two styles alternate here with great charm. For example the first three lines of the poem are set with courtly dotted rhythm and a euphonious success of parallel sixths, but the words 'und Daphne's Bild darin' plunge us into a watery world of romantic longing: repetition of the words makes a heartfelt sequence, the accompaniment's answering triplets making the point that a musical echo is an ideal analogue for the nymph's reflection. The setting of 'so schön' is masterly: Schubert takes these two words out of their metrical place in the line and turns them into a spontaneous exclamation. 'O wenn sie sich noch mal am Ufer sehen lässt' returns us to the jaunty and good-humoured world of the dotted rhythms of Beethoven's Minuet in G. Eric Sams sees in this phrase the prototype of the timid violinist's tune in No XI of Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch. On the other hand the furtive rising chromaticism of 'Ich schleiche heimlich' which suggests the excitement of ungallant voyeurism (for it is not only the face of the bathing Daphne which the river will reflect) could be found in no song of the galant age. We then return to the music of an earlier convention; when he is face to face with Daphne he can only speak in the stilted language of formality. Thus purity and refinement stands side by side with passion and lust in this song, just as the male protagonist veers between idealism and earthiness, and the composer stands on a bridge beneath which flow the convergent streams of classicism and romanticism.
The introduction was taken directly from the postlude and published posthumously by Diabelli. Although it may seem to be a liberty for the publisher to have done this (and Diabelli is responsible for some horrors) it was common practice for songs without a printed introduction to have one improvised by the accompanist – almost certainly including Schubert himself. It is possible that he would have used the postlude in this manner, or perhaps improvised another which, like the music improvised for the pleasure (and dancing) of his friends, evaporated and vanished into the night.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994