What is there to say about the minor musical miracle that is this song? It is about May (the poet's original title was Mailied
) and it was written on a May day in 1816 that may well have been as wonderful as the one here evoked by the poet. It is the purest and most unadulterated Schubert, unthinkable as the work of anyone else, and yet impossible to analyze—to think too hard as to how the composer achieved this freshness and purity would be like stripping away a flower's petals to find out how it grows. The accompaniment ripples deliciously, here and there making delightful intervals of thirds and sixths with the vocal line; there is one charming Zwischenspiel
and a postlude which touches the relative minor just long enough to suggest gratitude and awe amidst all the high spirits. The undoubted banality that would have resulted had such a formula been used by anyone else than our composer never raises its head. Everything here seems freshly minted and utterly natural—as miraculous as the tree mentioned in the second verse which brings forth its blossom only thanks to the kindness of God. It is possible to see this Frühlingslied
as a study for a spring song of greater profundity from six years later—the Uhland setting Frühlingsglaube
. Schubert had already set these Hölty words in 1815 for male trio (TTB, D243). The tempo is Langsam in that work; it is a fitting tribute to spring in an entirely different way, conveying a sense of wonder in a solemn hymn of gratitude rather than in a carefree paean of praise.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993