This is only a single page of music and yet it contains miraculous things in the modest, almost undemonstrative way that typifies many of the shy glories of the 1816 songs. In the beginning one may think that Haydn has had a hand in its composition (and in a sense, as one of Schubert's revered forbears, he has) but by the third line of the poem we hear the Canzonet move over for the Lied as the nineteenth century supplants the eighteenth. The first two bars of music (the poem's first line) are somewhat formal, but then the words 'süsser Schlummer' are exquisitely harmonised with a bass line of three falling semitones indicative of a momentary slipping away from consciousness—not quite enough for the prayer for sleep to be answered too soon. The words 'Segner, Freund!' initiate throbbing semiquavers in the accompaniment, and a romantic sweep of emotion breaks the old-fashioned confines of the chorale. Schubert's mastery of word-setting displays itself here. The invocations to sleep as benefactor and friend are marvellously effective, as are the floating and ethereal line for 'Trost und Balsam'. The postlude is a particularly beautiful little two-part invention, rich in harmonic implications despite its spareness of texture. It unravels in a manner perfect for the idea of relaxing and unwinding; the seal is set on this surrender to the embraces of sleep with four loving semiquavers in Schubert's best Mozartian manner in the final bar. Richard Capell has called this song 'a modest relation of Wanderers Nachtlied I
'. Great as that Goethe setting is, this assessment seems just.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993