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Der Flug der Zeit, D515

First line:
Es floh die Zeit im Wirbelfluge
1817 (?); first published in November 1821 as Op 7 No 2
author of text

Schubert, master of water music, sees the passing of time (in this song at least) as water under the bridge. This much is clear in his casting this setting in the form of a quick barcarolle – a prelude to the inspired use of the same rhythm in Auf dem Wasser zu singen which is also ultimately about the nature of time on the move. The softly bouncing rhythm of Der Flug der Zeit is perhaps a trifle too gentle for the force and drama of the first part of Széchényi's words, but it is well suited to the sweetness of friendship's power lauded at the end. It is interesting that the definitive Schubert song about the passage of time, the very different An Schwager Kronos, was also cast in 6/8 rhythm. There was something about compound time used in this way which seems to have suggested to the composer inexorable pre-ordained movement – the swing of the pendulum, the tick of the clock, as well as the movement of sure-footed horses whipped into a gallop by Time, the old coachman.

The song is in two strophes with the same music serving as introduction and postlude. At first hearing one thinks of this as more or less a strophic song, but the modifciations, though tiny, are numerous. The main melody is built around an arpeggio in the home key. At the start of each verse we hear more or less the same music, except for a typically Schubertian inflection which changes major to minor the second time round. For Fischer-Dieskau these switches of key express `the paradoxical nature of all experience'. So much for the first two lines of each verse. The next two lines move from A major into C major for the first verse (at 'Wohl stürmisch war es') and into F major for the second (at 'und endlich da die raschen Flügel'). This last modulation allows the bass line to slip a semitone down and achieve the most magical change of key in the piece: as F falls to E in the left hand, a perfectly placed second inversion of the home key slips in at 'in süsser Ruh …'

Apart from these felicities the effect of the song is unpretentiously simple, too simple perhaps. It is easy perhaps to see why it has not received a particularly good press from the commentators; it seems under-energised and not quite at home with the poem. There seems to be a mis-match between the sweeping scale of what the poet is describing and the modest scale of the song. It would be some years before Schubert would write another barcarolle (Das Fischermädchen from Schwanengesang) with a similar introduction which seems at first to be similarly unadventurous, rooted as it is in the tonic key, and with a melody which suggests folksong. This Heine setting (where the composer used many of the same melodic and harmonic tools as in Der Flug der Zeit) has enchanted thousands of listeners. Eleven years' experience and a greater poem made all the difference in the world.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 21 - Edith Mathis
CDJ33021Last few CD copies remaining


Track 6 on CDJ33021 [2'15] Last few CD copies remaining
Track 10 on CDS44201/40 CD17 [2'15] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

Track-specific metadata for CDS44201/40 disc 17 track 10

Recording date
23 October 1992
Recording venue
Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Martin Compton
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 21 - Edith Mathis (CDJ33021)
    Disc 1 Track 6
    Release date: June 1994
    Last few CD copies remaining
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 17 Track 10
    Release date: October 2005
    Deletion date: July 2021
    Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
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