This ravishingly beautiful song is absolutely unhymned by the commentators. It has become lost in the welter of music written on the exceptional day in October 1815 which brought it to birth. Schubert's flirtation with Stoll was a brief but gently fruitful one. Lambertine
was written on 12th of the month, and the other two Stoll songs were written on 15th. Mein Grüss an den Mai
and Die Sternenwelten
, were written on this day, as were two settings of Körner, (one of which was Das gestörte Glück
) and settings by Deinhardstein, and Kalchberg. Schubert is in absolutely unstoppable
creative form. He would have to be to cope on a day already full of challenges, with a text which demands such atmosphere from a composer: sweet suffering, gently heaving bosoms, angelic melodies, harmonies drunk with ecstasy, the music of the seraphim. We have heard this sort of hyperbole often enough in poems of this kind (and most composers would shrink from finding music for such explicit descriptions of bliss) but Schubert actually delivers the goods, matching the poet, if not image by image, then in the general Elysian tenor of the poem. As is often the case in music of heavenly radiance, the composer stops the accompaniment from going into regions of the bass clef which are, by definition, hellish, or at least earthed. The bass line is nevertheless very strong, and the magic of the song depends on its interaction with the vocal line. The music on the words 'Engelmelodien schallen' with its heart-stopping suspensions, is at once scorchingly erotic and pure as a pearl. The reviving potion is of course a kiss, and Schubert somehow finds the means to suggest neither a peck, nor a passionate lunge, but rather a lingering, sensual exchange, with that mixture of love and lust which is the almost unattainable fantasy of lovers. The sacred-erotic atmosphere of songs like Du bist die Ruh'
comes to mind. Schubert's setting (music of the spheres despite, or perhaps because of, its simplicity) quite simply inhabits another plane from that accessible to most song composers of his, or any other, age.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990