These four songs are as clear an indication as we have of Schubert's respect for Italian music. They were not produced under duress as exercises for Salieri like some of the earlier Italian material, they were not aiming to please a great singing virtuoso like Lablache (the three buffo bass arias of 1827), nor were they meant as an operatic parody like the aria Herrn Josef von Spaun
(Volume 4). They were, moreover, composed for a girl of whom Schubert was probably very fond, admittedly as a superior type of singing exercise. Franziska Roner von Ehrenwerth (the songs are dedicated to her simply as Fräulein von Roner — she was known as Fanny in the Schubert circle) was the beloved (and later wife) of the composer's oldest and best friend, Josef von Spaun. Fanny was obviously no virtuoso, but it is clear that she was no disgrace as a singer. The vocal range is never excessive, yet it requires very superior breath control. The composer has thus lovingly crafted vocal lines that are challenging without being impossible, and always in the spirit of bel canto as he understood it. If anything, drama plays too little a part in his conception, but we cannot expect Schubert to have anticipated the roles of Bellini and Verdi as followers of Rossini. Word illustration and local highlights of atmosphere are generally absent, sacrificed willingly to the shapeliness and general expressiveness of melody.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990