As John Reed has written, this enchanting song defies all Lieder chronology; so sophisticated is its rapturous vocal line, and so flexible its constantly modulating underlay, that one could not be blamed for thinking of Schumann or even Strauss in his neo-classical vein, on hearing it for the first time. The introduction, beginning in the subdominant, is a haunting succession of sequences, and this pattern is echoed in the work's first page. The second half of the song, with its throbbing accompaniment, has something in common with Stimme der Liebe
, or even the Körner Sehnsucht der Liebe
(Volume 4). One sometimes gets the impression that Schubert has read only the first verse of a song before setting out on its strophic composition, but here it seems obvious that he has been drawn to the last verse, and it is this that holds the key to the mood of his setting. Here the words 'Dich umschlingend, von dir umschlungen' remind one strongly of the ecstatic reciprocity of 'Umfangend umfangen!' of Ganymed
from 1817, especially when it continues even more explicitly 'gar in Eins, mit dir geeint'. It is little wonder that the eye of an eighteen-year-old should be drawn to these earthy lines than the more ordinary conventions of moonlight. The heated atmosphere of a Liebestod avant la lettre is perhaps not appropriate for the first verse (the performers have to underplay the gush here), but the almost orgasmic conclusion of the last verse, the repetition of the final line bringing the whole to a sated conclusion via a chromatically climbing bass line, is an ideal and bold conclusion to a most unusual song. The yearning and passionate tone suggests that the phrase 'dich, o Reine' (you, O pure one) is a euphemistic figure of speech. It is only the inexplicable exclusion of this song from the Peters Edition which has made it less popular than it deserves to be.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990