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Schubert has somehow caught this uncertainty, the nebulous floating emotions of a temporarily lost soul, in the first setting of the song which did not surface in time to be published in the Gesamtausgabe and has only become widely available relatively recently in the Neue Schubert Ausgabe. The idea of the beloved's image hovering seems immediately to suggest to the composer the long-spun melodies of bel canto (this version is an indication of how strongly Salieri has passed on a feel for the Italian style to his pupil). The music is prophetic of Blondel zu Marien of 1818 in which the same idea of a distant and magical beloved summons up an ornate aria full of melisma and ornamentation. The accompaniment is supportive rather than atmospheric: arpeggiated chords in the opening yield to somewhat anonymous flowing triplets. As appropriate to an aria of this genre it is the melody and harmony (there is an adventurous modulation to A flat from the home key of F at 'ach mein schnell verrauschend Bild') which carry the song.
Goethe's poem contains four strophes. In this setting Schubert uses the first two to make the one verse of music heard here. It seems likely that he then realised that the third strophe, rather different in mood, was unsuitable for the musical treatment he had devised (he also leaves this strophe out in the second setting) and abandoned the song. In order to jettison a strophe of Goethe he would have to invent a musical structure which used only one of the poet's verses at a time. This he was to do in due course.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995
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