After the completion of Winterreise
Schubert had the confidence and mastery to write strophic songs to a number of texts which at first glance may seem unsuited for the form. Like a great chef, he has the sauce to do the unexpected. It is as if he is taking pride in the quality and intensity of his reductions, the distilled essences of many tastes transmuted in the refiner's fire to achieve a simple and all-purpose synthesis, the inessentials and excesses evaporating into thin air. Compare the concentrated intensity of this Leitner concoction with two fish dishes from a decade earlier, the Salis-Seewis Fischerlieder
(D351, D562 in Volume 2). The first setting is the true work music of the merry working lad, the second something more of a deep-water dream. It took two settings to capture the poem as neither one of them embraced all that Salis-Seewis felt. Des Fischers Liebesglück
on the other hand is a much more complicated poem, with a great deal more action, the progress of a courtship from a light beckoning in the distance to blissful fulfilment in the boat. Those who belittle Leitner as a poet should study the deliberate complexity and unique artifice of the rhyme scheme here, which suggests a rather sophisticated Styrian boatman. In earlier years Schubert could have tried a number of simple strophic settings, or he would have attempted a durchkomponiert song from the stirring sequence of events. But here, in the fullness of his powers, he gives us a mere two pages, a type of Auf dem Wasser zu singen
without the momentum, a strophic song certainly, but a masterpiece of hypnotic enchantment. The key is A minor, with the change to the major key jealously guarded for the end of each musical verse (which consists of two verses of poetry). The tiniest details (like a single mordant in the piano's introduction) are especially telling. There is just enough harmonic movement to suggest the sensuous movement of the boat in the water, but one is left uncertain as to whether or not the whole scenario is the most enjoyable of twilight fantasies on the fisherman's part. The vocal line is unique in Schubert, requiring of the singer not only great control of breath and heady excursions into the stratosphere, but a fine and daring sense of rubato. A full range of emotions from laid-back contentment to driven passion can be placed on the blueprint of this song—it is receptive to the performers' fantasy—and it is Schubert's triumph that this is so.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990