15 October 1815 was one of the most fruitful dates in the entire history of the Lied. For Schubert it was a day of reckless poetic promiscuity. Eight songs composed, and most of them with a different collaborator: two songs of Stoll, and then on to Körner, Kumpf, Deinhardstein, Fellinger (this song), followed by a return visit to Körner. This is a young man who is suddenly intoxicated with his song-writing powers and anxious to try everything within reach: there are love songs, a lullaby, two hymns to May (understandable in the chill of October) and a risqué ditty (Das gestörte Glück
, Volume 4) about endless vain attempts to bag his sexual prey. The great surprise (and absolute proof of Schubert's ability to switch into whatever mood his poet requires of him), is Die Sternenwelten
, light years away from the charmingly interpreted, but relatively earthbound songs of love and springtime. On the printed page it looks extremely simple, but that is characteristic of many a mighty hymn. The original poem was by the Slovene poet Urban Jarnik, translated into German by Fellinger. The vocal range is lower than would suit a normal soprano, but there are unexpected high notes to put off ambitious contralti. This shows that on a day like the 15th October, Schubert was not only changing poets, philosophies and outlooks with the insouciance of a great all-encompassing actor, but that he was changing casts with the care of an actor-manager. This was all the more exceptional because at this stage of his life, long before his collaboration with great singers like Vogl and Milder, he could only dream of the sumptuous range of voices at a composer's disposal: in the fantasy world where a composer writes his music, there are also to be had the greatest performances. At the beginning of his song-writing career in 1811 he had little idea of vocal tessitura, but once his friend Spaun began taking him to the opera he developed a feeling for vocal Fach unrivalled by any of the other great Lieder composers. The text of Die Sternenwelten
shows that in this period praise of God was utterly compatible with all sorts of scientific, even space exploring, curiosity.
Like the poet Theodor Körner, Johann Georg Fellinger had a distinguished career as an army officer in the Napoleonic Wars; unlike Körner, he did not die for his country but he did lose an eye and this disability made it difficult for him to make a new career. Like the poet Mayrhofer, Fellinger eventually took his own life. Schubert set three of his texts, of which this was the last.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989