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The doubling of the vocal line by the piano in much of this song seems to show solidarity: 'Whither thou goest, I will go.' The modulation into the relative major on 'lieber Freund' is as tender as an embrace. Schubert was devoted to his own brothers, and if this song was written taking Axel's illness into account, tactful empathy is to be found everywhere. John Reed finds echoes of Vor meiner Wiege here (it is in the same key of B minor). That song was about mother and child, and the key is one which the composer often chooses when writing of emotional ties of great intimacy (Grablied für die Mutter is also in B minor.) Here we get a sense of family, and realise that Schubert considered himself an honorary part of the Schober family too; he had certainly been treated as such. The whole seems to be a companion piece to, and mirror image of, An die Musik in terms of its chronology, its key (B minor is the relative minor of the D major of An die Musik) and simply because the two things that were really sacred to Schubert were music and friendship, both containing much mingled happiness and sadness and relationships both major and minor. And of course the enigmatic figure of Franz von Schober hovers behind both pieces, tantalisingly silent about his friendship with the composer after Schubert's death, and perhaps closer to the composer than any other member of the circle. What these two men from such different backgrounds and with such different temperaments saw in each other remains one of the unsolved Schubertian mysteries. The composer was steadfastly loyal to Schober when the poet-dilettante's behaviour seemed to have deserved less. The music with Schoberian connections, whether settings of his poems or pieces linked with him such as this, always strikes a note of very special affection.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994
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