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This is one of the earliest example of Schubert giving the piano a harp-like accompaniment. Flowing semiquavers are underpinned by minims with curious grace-note upbeats which go some way to simulate the sound of the plucked lower strings of the harp. The tune, in E minor, is gently melancholic and somewhat reminiscent of Mozart's Das Lied der Trennung K519. The descending bass line at 'verhalle zart und leise' exactly mirrors in harmonic terms the idea of a tune fading away; the lift of anguish under 'Schwanenweise' (E—E sharp—F sharp in the bass) suddenly takes the music into realms of the unknown—exactly where the poem is also straying. This is a curiously austere song, difficult to sing, but it has a haunting quality.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995
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