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Das Bild, D155

First line:
Ein Mädchen ist’s, das früh und spät
published by C A Spina in 1852 as Op posth 165 No 3
author of text

Fischer-Dieskau has no hesitation in linking this simple and heartfelt song with Schubert's love for the baker's daughter, Therese Grob. Certain parts of the poem seem to describe the type of girl that we think Therese might have been, and the absence of much specific physical description of the beloved in the poem squares with the traditional idea of the almost spiritual nature of the relationship between the composer and the young church singer. This was built on admiration of her deeper personal qualities (according to something reportedly said about her by Schubert himself) rather than her beauty. We know so little about this song (the poet is unknown; the autograph has disappeared) that it may well be connected with Therese, although a reading of the text leaves the lingering doubt that the poem may be religious and the image is meant to be a heavenly one (of a guardian angel perhaps). The music is probably too flirtatious for this to be the case, but it remains poised in that ambiguous realm where sacred and profane rub shoulders with a frisson. In any case it is one of the composer's most enchanting little works and should be better known; as Fischer-Dieskau writes, it “outdoes many a sentimental song, or passionate operatic declamation”.

The rhythm is a gently rocking 6/8. The bar of arpeggios by way of introduction printed in the Peters Edition is spurious. The whole tune is utterly ingratiating in a Mozartian manner with a number of tiny word-setting felicities; the word 'schwebet', for example, rises a fourth and gently touches a high note in passing on its second syllable, setting the vocal line deliciously afloat as it does so. In the second verse the sparkling of the new dawn is admirably painted by the injection of a jaunty waltz – or Ländler – rhythm into the music as the left hand vamps in piquant staccati. This dance comes to a halt on 'Bild' with a fermata, as if the mental picture of the girl has suddenly given him pause for thought. The musical verses are made up of two strophes of poetry. The final lines of each of these are set most memorably. In the first verse this line is 'Abendstern mir winket' ('the evening star beckons to me'). Schubert's music places this friendly planet high on the stave and fixes it there on a long held note on the syllable 'Stern'. Underneath this the accompaniment modulates into the subdominant, partly in almost religious awe and partly as if to illustrate how far away it is from our own planet – but this excursion lasts for less than a bar. As the unaccompanied vocal line descends from the heavens the piano catches up with it again on 'mir'. Once again the voice holds on to a long note, this time on the syllable 'winket'; underneath this the piano works its coquettish magic to bring us back to the tonic key, and the singer places the final syllable of the strophe ('winket') into a small opening in the following bar. This is as deft as a seemingly effortless lob over the net in a game of tennis. All this of course admirably illustrates the elegant courtship, not without an element of teasing, between the evening star and its earthbound admirer. It is followed by the most charming of short postludes, all in the treble clef and culminating in a cadence which is meltingly feminine and which redirects our gaze heavenward with a tiny upward scale in sixths. This is a very happy inspiration, even by Schubert's exalted standards. The final line seems to work equally well with the words of the next verse where the word 'Mädchen' is a suitable substitute for the evening star. The song is absolutely strophic but with charm such as this we are more than willing to hear the music again.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


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