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An eine Quelle, D530

First line:
Du kleine grünumwachsne Quelle
February 1817; published posthumously in 1829 as Op 109 No 3
author of text

Names like Chloë, Thyrsis, Doris and Daphne evoke an earlier age of song composition. The Lieder of Haydn are full of such pastoral characters and he wrote a trio, Daphnens einziger Fehler, in which the girl's innocence in love is cited as her only fault. Schubert's own Daphne am Bach from 1816 is written in a classical style, and so, in part at least, is An eine Quelle where another Daphne is the heroine. It is as if the composer has only to hear such a name for him to take up his pen in eighteenth-century manner. Of course there is often an arch artificiality about this type of poem (although Claudius, as ever, is remarkably fresh and direct) which needs to be framed by music of a formal and old-fashioned kind.

Schubert's achievement in this music is to marry a Mozartian elegance with moments of real romantic sensibility. These two styles alternate here with great charm. For example the first three lines of the poem are set with courtly dotted rhythm and a euphonious success of parallel sixths, but the words 'und Daphne's Bild darin' plunge us into a watery world of romantic longing: repetition of the words makes a heartfelt sequence, the accompaniment's answering triplets making the point that a musical echo is an ideal analogue for the nymph's reflection. The setting of 'so schön' is masterly: Schubert takes these two words out of their metrical place in the line and turns them into a spontaneous exclamation. 'O wenn sie sich noch mal am Ufer sehen lässt' returns us to the jaunty and good-humoured world of the dotted rhythms of Beethoven's Minuet in G. Eric Sams sees in this phrase the prototype of the timid violinist's tune in No XI of Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch. On the other hand the furtive rising chromaticism of 'Ich schleiche heimlich' which suggests the excitement of ungallant voyeurism (for it is not only the face of the bathing Daphne which the river will reflect) could be found in no song of the galant age. We then return to the music of an earlier convention; when he is face to face with Daphne he can only speak in the stilted language of formality. Thus purity and refinement stands side by side with passion and lust in this song, just as the male protagonist veers between idealism and earthiness, and the composer stands on a bridge beneath which flow the convergent streams of classicism and romanticism.

The introduction was taken directly from the postlude and published posthumously by Diabelli. Although it may seem to be a liberty for the publisher to have done this (and Diabelli is responsible for some horrors) it was common practice for songs without a printed introduction to have one improvised by the accompanist – almost certainly including Schubert himself. It is possible that he would have used the postlude in this manner, or perhaps improvised another which, like the music improvised for the pleasure (and dancing) of his friends, evaporated and vanished into the night.

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 10 on CDJ33021 [2'00] Last few CD copies remaining
Track 23 on CDS44201/40 CD17 [2'00] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

Track-specific metadata for CDS44201/40 disc 17 track 23

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 10
    Release date: June 1994
    Last few CD copies remaining
  2. Schubert: The Complete Songs (CDS44201/40)
    Disc 17 Track 23
    Release date: October 2005
    Deletion date: July 2021
    Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
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