The music is marked ‘Feurig’ (fiery), all twenty-two bars of it. Restless piano sextuplets dominate the texture from the beginning of the song to its end. The key is E flat major, a home tonality reached only at the beginning of the fifth bar. The restlessly passionate mood is maintained for all forty seconds of the song’s length which includes a high note for the vocal peroration on the word ‘mich’. The piano’s postlude is, yet again, tiny but convincing. In terms of length and content Ein Gedanke is a perfect ‘Albumblatt’ – the type of piece that composers of yore seemed to have had the patience to copy laboriously into velvet-covered albums. Composers usually wrote down one of their known compositions, but occasionally this ritual was honoured with an original piece. If Ein Gedanke was conceived for an autograph collector it is a one-off, an example of Schumann’s ability to think in miniature on the spur of the moment. It is difficult to see what may have prompted him to engage in this poem, and at this length, unless it was to please an admiring visitor to his household – and probably a pretty one.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2003