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The new thing about this song, as far as Schubert is concerned, is the happy ability to illustrate the multifarious workings of nature without interrupting the flow of melody, or compromising the essentially straightforward musical conception. The triplets of the accompaniment's middle section may derive from Beethoven's setting, but the vocal line is set in an entirely different manner. The very first word 'Einsam' shows we are no longer in Beethoven's company—a new generation seems to be saying 'Play it again, Einsam, but differently.' The long note (a dotted minim) of the first vowel and the falling figure say more about the solitary state of the poet than the older master's ascending crotchets. While Beethoven digs deep into the line for the word 'lieblichen', Schubert lets the word rise to delighted heights. In verse 2 the accompaniment mirrors the 'spiegelnden Flut' the bar after the words, while the voice part continues with another idea—a subtle canonic variant of the idea of illustrative music; one can see and hear the setting sun in two banks of descending round semibreves, and the voice launches itself into the starry meadows by means of an exceptionally beautiful and unexpected modulation into G flat. The singer is asked to sing very high here, but not without poetic reason. In verse 3 we have breezes, bells, waves and nightingales; the murmuring triplets on the piano and the bell-like minims ringing out in the pianist's little finger, are successfully pressed into Protean service to depict them all. Adelaide's name is sung twice at the end of the verse. In Beethoven's song, the poem's last verse had been the start of an extended allegro movement, but here the last verse is a recapitulation of the music of the first. In the final bars, Adelaide is invoked three times; the dying fall of both vocal and bass lines brings the song to a hushed conclusion of murmured quietus.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991
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