It is little wonder that the composer empathised with the miller and the hunter, the fisherman and poacher, the carpenter and goldsmith, and depicted them all affectionately in song. The apotheosis of this deceptively simple music is Die schöne Mullerin where a front of genial working class equanimity is slashed to reveal the profound personal crisis of a hyper-sensitive soul. In that cycle Schubert blurs the boundaries of comedy and tragedy: he alone of his contemporaries brings universal significance to Biedermeier tableaux in the same way that Shakespeare could animate temporal Tudor political propaganda with immortal verbal music. There is much of the humanity of the miller's music in many of the 'work songs' from Schubert's earlier years. This Fischerlied, for example, is sung by a spirited and lifelike character and has a wonderful swing to it. The strength and simplicity of this type of melody was often imitated by that ardent Schubertian, Arthur Sullivan. Unlike later settings of the poem (one on this disc and another for men's chorus, D364) each of the verses ends with jolly 'tra la las' which are the composer's invention, not the poet's. The key is D major which seems to suggest to Schubert the activity and preoccupations of working folk, particularly when water is part of the picture (Fischerweise, Schlegel's Der Schiffer, and Schober's Jägers Liebeslied come to mind). The poem has eight verses of which we perform 1, 4, 6and 7.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1988
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