This is the Mayrhofer equivalent of Goethe's Kennst du das Land?
. Instead of the waif Mignon who longs to return to her Italian homeland, we have a princess from Greek myth who implores the goddess Artemis to allow her to leave Tauris and return to the court of her father Agamemnon. Unbeknown to Iphigenia (and outside the scope of the song), Agamemnon has been slain by her mother Clytemnestra, who has in turn died at the hands of her brother Orestes. It is the type of dramatic classical subject that appealed to the poet, and Schubert was of course familiar with the Gluck opera (Iphigenia in Tauris
) which unlike this song is no mere glimpse of the Euripides original, but introduces all the other characters, Orestes in particular, to flesh out the story. It is inevitable that Schubert's music for Iphigenia is also touched by a sense of Gluckian purity: this plaint to the goddess, like Orfeo's 'Che faro senza Eurydice', is unashamedly in the major key. There are really beautiful things here, the yearning vocal line over the dominant pedal on 'wo Geschwister mit mir spielten?' signalling a retreat into the innocence of childhood, and the impassioned plea to Diana of the last verse where we suddenly hear a grander character of royal birth. It is unusual for Mayrhofer's poetry to concern itself with female emotions, and although no competition for Goethe's Gretchen and Mignon, or Scott's Ellen, Iphigenia is the best of that misogynist poet's small number of songs for women.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989