Schubert succeeds in making this folksong-like music have the character of spell or incantation. It is somehow much more memorable than a tune of this simplicity deserves to be. There is no doubt that the composer would have read De la Motte Fouqué's short work from cover to cover, and that he would also have been aware of the supernatural, almost Lorelei character of the singer of these words. Perhaps he was drawn to them also because of the many sad experiences of infant mortality in his father's household. We have to imagine the emotional crises in the cramped family circle between the death and burial of the young composer's various brothers and sisters; visits to the graveyard must have been a regular occurrence.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993
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