On paper there is nothing to this song at all. Apart from a pleasant modulation to Schubert's beloved subdominant, it seems anaemic, rather a colourless chorale. Then one realises that these seemingly dull qualities can be turned to the performers' advantage; a dying girl is hardly likely to be other than white and withdrawn, her vision of the next life appropriately outlined by music of piety and simplicity. It is all a question of imagination and colour; in this light, the insubstantial nature of life, like spring mists, seems wonderfully painted in a vocal line at first without a bass ('Leicht, wie Frühlingsnebel') and then supported by tolling bells in E flat octaves. The piano part under the line 'ist des lebens Traum entflohn' is broken by airy rests, as if at peace. With the dying fall of the postlude to the last verse we are almost made to hear the girl's spirit leaving the body. The poem is about Elisa, the betrothed of Matthisson's friend Rosenfeld. She died of a broken heart at her fiancé's untimely death; there is no raging against the dying light here. How deliberately different this is from that other moment of death, valiant this time rather than resigned, described in Verklärung
(D59)—Schubert's 1813 setting of Pope's lines, concluding with a much more pugnacious'O Death! Where is thy sting?'
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989