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Beech leaves, that yellow the noon-time,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.
['At Day Close in November']
Schubert finds a remarkably moving tone for this song considering that it is so like a chorale or hymn tune. There is no religious feeling here, however; only the sense that work and responsibility are in themselves sacred and that old-fashioned virtues summon up old-fashioned music. The staccato left-hand accompaniment beautifully conveys the idea of daily tasks accomplished with precision and discipline. The right hand, which doubles the vocal line a great deal of the time, traces a melody which has all the gravity of a pilgrim's chorus. The vocal line climbs high on the stave towards the end of the song, a metaphor for hope and aspiration; the ascent to the forte of the last line signifies a heart swelling with well-deserved pride. Although this is the least known of Schubert's single-paged masterpieces to Goethe texts, this song with the brevity of a motto or epigram has the self-contained perfection which we find in more familiar songs like Erster Verlust or Wandrers Nachtlied. The song exists in two almost identical versions, the first in F, the second in E with a more comfortable and practical tessitura.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995
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