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The original key of this song is B major, which as John Reed points out is the tonality of transcendence as exemplified by the much later Nacht und Träume. This is fitting for a thumbnail sketch of a fairy kingdom ruled by heroes and vaunted by the bards. The descending vocal line for 'gesunknen Sonne' (setting sun) shows the composer at work, as ever, on word-to-music analogues, but these small illustrative details are less important than the overall majesty of the music which is somehow woven, as is often the case with Schubert songs on a single page, from the most simple harmonic progressions. The solemn alternation of tonic and dominant in the opening conveys elemental grandeur, as does the 'echo' effect where the vocal line imitates what the piano has proposed in the previous bar. This device may seem rather hackneyed but Schubert always has a way of using clichés in a new fashion. The song deserves to be better known. The composer himself must have been pleased with the tune; the melody at the opening is found note for note (although in a different key and rhythm, and without the piano interjections) in the Claudius setting Abendlied from November 1816. It is also possible of course that the quotation was unintentional, and that Schubert simply responded instinctively to another poem in evening mood with a similar cast of melody.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994
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