Mahler’s personal identification with Rückert was profound. When he wrote ‘Only when I experience do I compose, and only when I compose do I experience’ he was echoing Rückert’s own statement that ‘I never think without poetizing and never poetize without thinking’. And in these songs he has finally abandoned the stock characters of the Wunderhorn
, with their generalized if intense emotional expression, for a poetic world that could express his own feelings with uncanny accuracy and sensitivity. Thus of Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen
he wrote ‘It is my very self’, and there is no doubt that in this song he created if not his all-out masterpiece, certainly one of the greatest and most profoundly spiritual songs in the German language. The mood of the song is one of rapt withdrawal from the concerns of the world – one may imagine how the middle-aged symphonic composer and director of the Vienna State Opera must often have longed for such a retreat.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2004