Schubert set this poem more than once; in much the same way he composed two versions of the same poet's Fischerlied
each of which determines its overall character from the mood of a different strophe. There is no doubt that in this version of Die Einsiedelei
, the first, the very opening line of the poem gave the composer all the encouragement he needed to write a piece of water music. The brook babbles and flows in the most enchanting manner throughout the song. It is interesting that as pretty as this is, the composer relegated the watery semiquavers to the inner parts of the accompaniment in the second version where they exert a more subliminal influence on the song's atmosphere. The trouble with the constant flowing movement of the version recorded here is that it makes it difficult for the listener to remember that the poem is about a quasi-religious experience. Perhaps the flowing of a friendly brook (an idea which would reach its apotheosis in Die schöne Müllerin
) is too companionable for true hermitage, and the music needs to be tinged with an introspection which is more evident in the second version from 1817. On the other hand there is a very real sense of elation in the first version which accords with the sentiments of the strophe beginning 'Wie sich das Herz erweitert'. The key is A major, the same as for the most celebrated of Salis-Seewis settings, Der Jüngling an der Quelle
The vocal line which is mostly independent of the accompaniment (a subtle way of showing perhaps that the hermit is not dependent on the brook) is constructed in Schubert's best folksong manner. In fact it rather resembles the tune of another piece of water music, the celebrated Die Forelle, which is also built around the rise and fall of a simple triadic figure in the tonic before it shifts to the dominant. It is the type of tune that we all imagine would be very easy to compose, so obviously does it seem to lie within the compass of an improvising hand, waiting to be discovered by anybody. Unless you are a Schubert it is a long wait. It is notable that the tune of the well-loved Der Jüngling an der Quelle is also built around the major triad in deliberately naive fashion, as is the vocal line of Wohin? from Die schöne Müllerin. What all these songs have in common of course is water, and the use of the major triad with its clear even spaces between the notes is an analogue for tranparency; we can see through water just as we can see through the spaces between the notes of the common chord. There is also a setting of these words for man's chorus (TTBB, D337) which is in G minor and has a different character from either of the solo versions.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993