This remarkable song has a text which comes as near as anything Schubert ever set to being a credo of his belief in the healing powers of music. The piece is contemporary with the famous An die Musik
but, as Einstein points out, it expresses Schubert's attitude more subtly than 'that other somewhat 'homely' thanksgiving song in D major'. Had Schubert and Schober ever discussed the ambivalence of life as reflected in musical harmony? This poem seems to regurgitate views that Schober could only have learned from the composer himself; it suggests that Schubert was perhaps able, with close friends who had a smattering of musical learning, to talk about the means by which his own special harmonic world was created. In any case Schober has given him an ideal text with which to highlight the play between the light and shade of differing tonalities. No sooner is the introduction over in the major key than the vocal line turns into the relative minor. Only when the portals of song are mentioned do we revert to the calm of the major. The whole of the third verse is miraculous: the insistent repetitious threnodies and unresolved dissonances in the piano part underpin a vocal line of the sweetest sorrow, and the lift from the second inversion of F minor to D flat major for 'Fhl' ich mich doch so ergeben' manages to be perfectly expressive of humility before music's imponderable Delphic mysteries. Let us not forget that this song comes from Schubert's Greek period, that its manuscript also contains Der Jüngling und der Tod
, not to mention An die Musik
(what a precious piece of paper!) and that Ganymed
was composed in the same month. The last two lines of verse might well serve as an epitaph for the composer's art and he finds self-effacing music, pure and Mozartian, to set them to music. John Reed is right to pronounce the whole song flawless.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989