This song belongs very much to the group of Baumberg settings (all from August 1815 with the exception of Lebenstraum
D39, a very early piece of juvenilia) which have a style of their own: old-fashioned, ceremonial, somewhat Haydnesque. Even the names of the women who are the stars of these songs (Lina and Cora) have a courtly grace. The original key is E flat, which in the wake of his enthusiasm for Die Zauberflöte
seems to have become Schubert's special tonality for solemn invocations of this kind. An die Sonne
is also in this key and the remarks in that commentary about pagan ceremonial and the priestess function of the singer à la Bellini's Norma apply here. As always within an apparent formula for a classical song of this type Schubert leaves room for expressive manoeuvre. The opening is fairly conventional with its dotted rhythm upbeat, but mention of gloomy and sunless days pulls the song into A flat via the appropriately darkening effect of a D flat on 'trüben Tagen.' It is a clever touch that the song should shy away from its home tonality so early in the piece. This enables the composer to return to the sunlit glories of the bright tonic (although only in first inversion) on 'mitleidsvoll für uns're Klagen' where the first note of the phrase is also the highest in the song. We reach the root position of the chord only with the last word of the strophe. The effect is of a prayer answered and of the clouds clearing. At this time of the morning the rays are as yet tentative and gentle; in the staccato accompaniment under 'einen sanften milden Strahl', and in the detached chords which form the upbeat to the postlude, we hear the beginnings of the piano writing illustrative of the working of the heavens – the impersonal and seraphic motor rhythms of the celestial dynamo – that will reach its apotheosis with Leitner's Die Sterne
. The last four bars of piano writing describe a beautiful curve that reaches its high point on a B flat 7 chord in first inversion and then descends with elegance and grace to a languid feminine cadence worthy of Cora's longing for radiance and enlightenment.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994