This is the last of the Körner settings, composed three years after the others. The Riesenkoppe is one of the giant peaks making up a mountain chain (the Riesengebirge) near the poet's home town of Dresden. It so happens that these mountains are also very near Zuckmantel, the birthplace of Schubert's mother. The introduction in D minor (a loud orchestral tutti) strides up the last few steps to the highest vantage point; and then there is a chord (marked 'piano') which is like muted strings shimmering in the rarified atmosphere. There follows a recitative sung with open arms and heart, a mixture of excitement and awe. The music of the second verse somehow manages to give the impression of an eagle-eye's view over a vast terrain; a benign and noble tune glides over an air cushion of murmuring quavers in the alto line. Like many of Schubert's depictions of landscapes and events, it is impossible to believe that the narrator is rooted to one spot as he observes things; he is there as if he were a camera attached to invisible booms, cranes, hoists or helicopters (or whatever else supports an imagination that fearlessly wings its way into the aether). A beautiful modulation to F major in the piano interlude allows our eagle to find a fresh current of air and new vistas. The music of the third verse hovers above and shimmers and glints from below; at this time in German history, a number of city states could be seen from one place, like the 'coloured counties' viewed from Bredon Hill by Housman's Shropshire Lad. The fourth verse turns its attention to Körner's fatherland, Saxony, and to memories of his first love. What better means could there be of chronicling a major new experience in the poet's life than the change of direction in the harmony Schubert engineers under 'wo mich der Liebe heilige Sehnsucht'? It is notoriously difficult to write a meaningful patriotic song (even Wolf fell into the traps of tedium and bombast in his Heimweh
of Eichendorff—a scene from another mountain top). Schubert manages it because he knows that the trumpet calls and fanfares used by other composers are more about violence than love. The final section is a hymn—calm, clear-sighted and aware that the homeland is dear also because of the dear ones who live there. There is a classical simplicity and nobility in this verse about old-fashioned virtues which irrestibly evokes the spirit of that most genial of patriots, Josef Haydn.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989