This is an ironic description of a Christian angelic heaven, a change of emphasis from pagan fun and games, but rather less serious than the Schiller classical studies. It is in the same original key as Elysium
, a tonality Schubert favours when it comes to depicting transfiguration, both serious and tongue-in-cheek. Seligkeit
has something of the whimsy of a Viennese waltz, and the earthiness of a Ländler, but its tempo is too slow for the first and too fast for the second. It is all artless enough to be full of the high art that defies definition. The song was unknown until 1895 but since then has become somewhat overwotvrked as an encore for coy debutantes. Elisabeth Schumann, who made it her own between the wars, was able to carry off the song as a masterpiece of soubrette charm, but Hölty's words are capable of more passionate advocacy. In the context of this recital, the song is a means of returning from head (or rather soul) in the clouds, to the security of terra firma
. Laura's beauties are after all palpable; when we see her we think we have died and gone to heaven, but we are never certain that other realms will have anything comparable to offer us. The American phrase would be 'let's take a rain check on dying', or perhaps 'let's declare a moratorium on death'. And so, for at least a little while, say all of us.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1991