This is the second setting of this poem. In the first (D52) the teenage Schubert had made considerable use of recitative but the more mature composer found a way to set the whole as an operatic aria where one section flows easily into the other. Although there are always many instrumental colours demanded of the piano in Schubert song accompaniments it is seldom that a whole orchestra seems explicit in a song. In Sehnsucht
there is an orchestral feel from beginning to end and the vocal line is cradled and propelled as it may be in a large set-piece for the stage. Usually when Schubert attempted to create opera in the home he tells a story in ballad or scena, but here it is pure song which is magnified to theatrical proportions. Schiller's text in the grand manner is not, by his standards, of the highest quality; it smacks somewhat of stiff libretto rather than pliable lyric. It is the composer who makes the transitions of mood believable. The piece was intended for a singer of stellar conviction for only such an artist is able to prevent the softer, lyrical passages from losing their bite. The pace of this music is reminiscent of the energy of Gluck and sometimes the melodic curves of Weber come to mind. Certainly the final section (lifted from the first version of 1815) clinches the proceedings in true opera-house manner; here is perfect exit music for the singer to stride off-stage. It brings down the curtain on this recital as it does on Schubert's involvement (except for Der Pilgrim
and one more song in 1826) with the poetry of Friedrich von Schiller.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1988