Here is a gem, but it was judged very much wanting by Capell who preferred the much more celebrated Hölty setting of the same name which begins 'Geuss, lieber Mond' (D193). It is perhaps unfair to compare one song with another because they happen to share a title, but if we look at the two works side by side it is noticeable that they are mirror images of each other. In 'Geuss, lieber Mond' we begin in F minor with the rippling movement of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata because the light is soft and veiled with 'fancies and dreamlike images'. When the poet says to the moon 'Enthülle dich' ('unveil yourself') the music moves into the relative major with a much jauntier rhythm, as if everything in the nocturnal picture can now be seen with much greater clarity. Exactly the opposite happens in this song. The A major tonality of the opening and the high-lying vocal line are wonderfully 'hell und klar'—this is music to paint a completely different quality of light 'so bright and clear'. The poem's fifth line now commands the moon to 'veil your silvery radiance' and accordingly we move into the minor key, a textbook example of one of the composer's inspired changes between A major and A minor. The texture of the song also changes: the heavenly body is characterised by an accompaniment of great simplicity, chastely hugging the vocal line, but human predicaments of the second section occasion the use of a more overtly emotional and operatic accompanying figure in semiquavers. It so happens that the fifth lines of each of the two remaining verses also signal a believable reason to change from major to minor, and the result is a strophic song where we feel the seamless logic of an integrated whole. I also hear different weather in the two Hölty settings: the famous F minor seems to be sung on a summer night; the mood is sultry and languid and the poet sings of a girl who sought the cooling shade. On the other hand the climate for the A major is crisper and cooler; the light comes through the apple trees which are obviously not at their leafiest. Are we thinking of an autumn evening perhaps? The classical poise of another A major song, An den Mond in einer Herbstnacht
comes to mind. That extended masterpiece is in a totally different form, and yet its haunting ritornello has a similar transparent clarity and economy and binds the song together in the manner of the much more modest little strophic A major refrain that we hear in this recital. The crystalline clarity of this song's opening, with the vocal line doubled by the piano, and underpinned by the euphony of thirds and sixths in the left hand, also seems to be a study for the introduction to yet another An den Mond
; the second of the Goethe settings (D296). All in all, the A major setting seems to have more in common with this than with D193.
Hölty was rather fond of the image of the bride's funeral wreath. We find it again ('die Totenkränze manches verstorbenen Mädchens') in Auftrag, a Hölty setting by Peter Cornelius (Op 5 No 6, 1861). The resonances of Schubert's little setting look to the past and show his debt to the heartfelt simplicities of the Berlin school and the songs of such composers as Reichardt, Schulz and Zelter.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993