This is not one of the great Mayrhofer settings of 1816, and it is certainly one of the least known of this poet's songs. It was written at about the same time as the enchanting Alte Liebe rostet nie
and Geheimnis (an Franz Schubert)
in which the poet pens his personal eulogy to the composer's genius. There is something about this music, however, which makes us feel that Schubert attached special significance to it. The key of D minor, the marking of Mässig
and the mezzo staccato
accompanying quavers at the opening are strongly prophetic of nothing less than Gute Nacht
. Our first impression of the shepherd at the song's opening is that he is a tragic figure, an impression that fades as strophe follows strophe and as the song reveals itself to be a classical rather than a romantic creation. The poem itself is rather bizarre. The shepherd is half pastoral (reflected in the song's simplicity and mention of such stilted conceits as love's arrow) and half a modern man (for whoever heard of a shepherd being concerned with time and bell towers?). The significance of the soaring bell tower and love's arrow would not have been lost on Freud. Why on earth should it be the tower that reminds the poet of his lost lady love, and just why should it soar high up to his grief? This very strange image is never explained. Does this tower represent the phallocentric power of the man who has taken the poet's lover away, or can it be explained by the simple fact that she now lives in the church tower of the hamlet with her new love? Or was she married there to his rival perhaps? Is it possible that Mayrhofer could have known Goethe's poem Die wandelnde Glocke
(written in 1813) in which a bell from a church tower chases a naughty boy? Mayrhofer's imagery at `Wohin ich mich nun wenden? / Der Thurm, er folget mir' makes a similarly (yet no doubt unintentional) comic effect. Mayrhofer is not a conventional love poet and he seems ill-at-ease in this mixture of baroque and expressionism. An unusual feature of the song is that it seems to be in D minor throughout but the ritornello which opens each strophe (and also closes the song) ends in F major. This tonal twist adds to the work's awkward sense of mystery.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1995