Mayrhofer's poem is entitled Lunz
which is a village in Lower Austria whither the poet had travelled on a walking tour in 1816. The pilgrim's aria on which the song is said to be based has never been traced, although we can hear the echoing resonances of phrases sung across the mountains by the travellers, and the wonderful effect of alphorn harmonies merging into each other. The poet's concept of parting and decay has something in common with Collin's Wehmut
(Volume 5). Using the simplest strophic means Schubert elevates the poet's not extremely original text into a universal hymn; this musical journey crosses the bar (as Tennyson has it) into new spiritual realms. Fischer-Dieskau has pointed out the similarity of the introduction to the prisoners' 'schnell schwindest du uns wieder' from Fidelio
, which is also a type of farewell. I am reminded of the rainbow of descending chords which open the slow movement of Brahms's F minor Piano Sonata; others hear Mahler in this song, with its surprisingly modern chain of chords in introduction and postlude. The whole piece certainly has a folksy nostalgia which puts one in mind of the mood of some of that composer's Des Knaben Wunderhorn
songs. As always Schubert is a Janus, looking backwards to his revered models and anticipating new developments much more than is usually allowed by the music historians.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989