This is a song that reflects the atmosphere of the Schubertiads more than most, a real pièce d'occasion. The composer's ability and willingness to provide music to order for his friends was, of course, one of the reasons that endeared him to them. In the absence of court patrons and commissions from the nobility, Schubert provided the occasional ceremonial piece for middle class home rather than palace. and out of the goodness of his heart rather than for money. This piece was written for the name-day of Josef von Koller of Steyr in Upper Austria. Schubert was not a close friend of the celebrant, but he was very fond of his nineteen-year-old daughter Josefine (nicknamed Pepi) and he was an old schoolmate of the pianist of the first performance, Albert Stadler, who also provided the words. Dating the piece requires a bit of detective work. We know that Schubert spent the summer of 1819 very happily in Steyr with Vogl, and that singer and composer regularly took meals with the Kollers. We also know that Stadler wrote the words in that August for a vocal trio (Schubert was one of his singers, leaving the piano part to Stadler) honouring Vogl's 51st birthday. If Schubert wrote the Namenstagslied
at the same time, it would have had to wait for its first performance until the next March 19, the day dedicated to St Josef when all those named after him are remembered by their friends and families. Or Schubert could have dashed it off in Vienna in 1820 (we know he was in a hurry because he left Stadler to copy out the voice part) and sent it to Steyr with happy memories of Josefine and her music making. The breeziness of the opening arpeggios and the sheer cheek of the descending chromatic scales show the composer in holiday mood (cf the vocal chromatic scale on 'Barbar' in the musical letter to Spaun in Volume 4). After the celebratory introduction, the relaxed but heartfelt tone of the sung verses is just right for a loving daughter. Incidentally, the much praised old father Koller was just forty years of age.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989