It is the courtly old-fashioned title and some of the language (note how the beloved is addressed as ‘Huldin’ and ‘Gebieterin’, exalted words even by Kosegarten’s eighteenth-century standards) which is the real key to the music. In Schubert’s favourite Kosegarten tonality of E major, the vocal line and the accompaniment are full of the deep bows of obeisance – a distinguished gentleman’s homage to a high-born lady. There is something which suggests the singer is an older man, a Don Ottavio perhaps who is paying formal court to a Donna Anna. The first bar (‘Ganz verloren’) consists of a five-note figure; the second bar (‘ganz versunken’) is a sequence which caps the first phrase, as if the singer were doffing his, and searching for a more extravagant (and thus higher in tessitura) verbal gesture to describe his admiration. This is followed by a two-bar phrase in which the music bows low as it sweeps downwards in an E major arpeggio. The same formula is followed in the next four bars, this time with an even more florid bow as the cadence moves into the dominant. The middle section (from ‘Nichts vermag ich zu beginnen’) consists of another pair of two-bar phrases, each of them ending with a gracious and adoring appoggiatura – yet more obeisances. These cadences which divide the piece into a number of courtly gestures give the piece a somewhat stilted quality, as if it is framed by inverted commas, rather than the real thing; the music seems scrupulously constructed rather than the result of spontaneous passion. Nevertheless the vocal line is extremely grateful to sing and the coda (‘Nichts ist, was das Herz mir füllt, Huldin, als dein holdes Bild’) makes a final dip into the middle of the vocal tessitura, dallies on another appogiatura (supported by a chromatic swoon in the accompaniment under ‘holdes’) before standing tall on the return to the tonic. The piano’s postlude consists of an ingratiating chromatic scale and an exquisite feminine cadence. In this song, which advances on the lady-love in measured steps so as not to alarm her, passion is everywhere moderated by eighteenth-century manners.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994