There are three versions of this song. The first of them (D30) dates from 1812. The third and easily the most popular is the third version, D638 from 1819. This song is sandwiched between the two over a period of seven years. It owes everything to the 1812 version; indeed it is a modification of the earlier work, rather than a totally new conception. It is good evidence that Schubert, contrary to popular legend, was not so disorganised or forgetful about his songs that he was unable to recall one of them from three years previously. The first version is a marvel for a boy of fifteen to have written; it is in the sunny major key and it has a quasi-operatic atmosphere which owes much, no doubt, to Salieri's teaching, but not much to first-hand knowledge of the emotions described. Perhaps for this reason the composer was haunted by the poem and returned to it chastened by those experiences which separate a fifteen-year-old's perceptions of the world from those of someone who is eighteen. His unsatisfactory relationship with Therese Grob may lie at the heart of the rueful change from major to minor key from one version to the other. There are those who see this song as falling between two stools, lacking the uninhibited freshness of the first version and the masterful melodic invention of the (completely different) third version. Taken on its own terms the song has a feeling of Mozartian poise and control. It could be said that the music in this mood suits the first verse better than the others, but the well-schooled elegance of the whole reflects the pastoral (and slightly artificial) nature of the text. It could also be said to mirror accurately the emotional diffidence of someone hurt and unable to do anything about it.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989