Schubert's first attempt at this poem of Wallenstein's daughter answering questions about her eternal dwelling (D73, Volume 1) is a marvel of imaginative freedom, an inspired recitative, astonishing for a sixteen-year-old boy. He retumed to the text four years later with very different ideas. In both versions we sense an attempt to depict the timelessness appropriate to the utterance of a spirit. In 1813 he had achieved this by making the voice part timeless in the sense that it is to be more or less freely sung. In the second version it is the use of a ground bass and unashamed repetition (as in Der Doppelgänger
, another song about a ghostly presence) which evokes the spirit's litany. Schubert's harmonic sequence bears an uncanny resemblance to the ground known as 'La Folia'. In France this is known as 'Folie d'espagne' and in England 'Farinelli's ground'. Schubert might well have heard this hypnotic harmonie sequence from his erstwhile teacher Salieri. The 'Folia' ground always underpins a type of saraband in 3/4 time, and, in common with each of Thekla's sung phrases, is eight bars long. It may well be that in using a seventeenth-century ground Schubert is attempting to place the music of Thekla in the authentic seventeenth-century context of Wallenstein and the Piccolimini of Schiller's plays. If this were so it would be one of the composer's uses of historical pastiche — Didone abbandonata
is another. (For more information about Thekla's story, see the commentary to Des Mädchens Klage
— Volume 7). The use of so ancient a musical device is in any case appropriate to depict Thekla's heavenly locale — as old as time itself — Uralt
, as the Germans say. The vocal line veers between the minor and the major but is limited to a range of a fourth. The effect of these high-lying and repetitious phrases (extremely tiring for any singer) is somewhat bizarre and unearthly, which was Schubert's intention exactly. We feel we are in the hushed atmosphere of a seance. At the Hohenems Festival, Arleen Auger performed this song offstage and from a balcony. It made the type of dramatic effect which would have gone down well at one of the composer's Schubertiads, before the Liederabend had hardened into its present, less playful, form.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990