This little song is a triumph of tuneful simplicity. Much less well-known than, say, Heidenröslein, the music has the same catchy inevitability that distinguishes the composer’s folksong-like Lieder. Schubert has scanned through the words of the first verse and found two images which are the clues to the character of the setting – ‘rennen’ (running) and ‘jagen’ (chasing, or literally, hunting). Accordingly the music runs in delightful ascending flights of fancy (not only in the tripping vocal line but also in the piano; note the little interlude after the first ‘Verbesserung’) and the chase after happiness is suggested by the accompaniment’s hunting horns echoing in alternating thirds and sixths, particularly in the penultimate bar of the postlude. For all its charm, however, this song is perhaps a little too lightweight to match the universal scope of Schiller’s sentiments. Schubert must have thought so too; he returned to the poem at a later date and made another setting of greater harmonic complexity (D637) which is less carefree and optimistic, more evocative of impossible dreams and aspirations than of breezy certainties. Nevertheless, who else but Schubert with his whole life ahead of him, and everything to live and hope for, could have composed such an open-hearted little gem?
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994