The key of E major is often associated in Schubert with joy and innocence. Everything in this music is luxuriously calm, without a hint of volupté; the music is unusually marked 'Vertrauensvoll' – trustingly. It has a homespun quality that suggests harmonium accompaniment and performance at a prayer meeting. It is a companion piece to the work in which Schubert was to give definite expression to his flowing-triplet seraphic style, Der 23. Psalm
(in the translation of Felix Mendelssohn's grandfather, Moses) for women's voices from December 1820. Schubert's other Uz setting of the time (Gott im Frühlinge
, D448) is also in E major and is also a hymn of praise to God in His vernal manifestation. That little jewel was included in the book of seventeen songs that Schubert made in 1816 for the birthday of his sweetheart Therese Grob, and it is very likely that Der gute Hirt
was also written with her voice and demeanour in mind.
It is interesting that the two best known of the five Schubert settings of the poetry of Johann Peter Uz (born in Ansbach and educated in Halle) are of a religious bent. A number of his poems modelled on Anacreontic metre advocate the hedonism of wine, women and song, and he adopted a stance which attempted to combine this epicureanism with a rational eighteenth-century Christianity. In Gott im Frühlinge there even seems to be a touch of pantheism.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990