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Der Blumenbrief, D622

First line:
Euch Blümlein will ich senden
August 1818; first published in 1833 in volume 21 of the Nachlass
author of text

This enchanting little song was written in Zseliz in Hungary where Schubert spent the summer of 1818 as music master to the two young Esterházy countesses. He seems to have taken the volume of Schreiber poetry with him to Hungary, and it is highly likely that the poem, with its emphasis on the language of flowers, was pleasing to the romantic adolescent sensibilities of the composer's two charges – particularly the thirteen-year-old Karoline, the elder of the two, who was a singer and was later said to be Schubert's beloved.

The introduction with its suggestion of two balancing questions within a musical sequence (“She loves me; she loves me not”) is prophetic of the opening of Der Neugierige from Die schöne Müllerin, a song where it is briefly in the miller's boy mind to consult the flowers about his chances in love. Like that masterpiece this song is in 2/4 with a similar summery charm and a similar somewhat Italianate cantilena. Just as the miller boy settles on the brook as his messenger, this wooer allows the symbolic meaning of flowers to declare his love. Schubert must have thought this the appropriate language, unaffected and gently chromatic, in which to address nature. The little four-bar interlude (staccato quavers as if petals were being separated) is particularly delightful. At first mention of rose, myrtle and marigold the music is paragraphed and modulated in turn as the singer turns to address each group of flowers on his stroll through the garden, or as he composes in his mind the bouquet which will tell his beloved everything in a hidden code of love. Something about the tentative nature of the vocal line oscillating between adjacent semiquavers suggests discretion and secrecy. Perhaps that is why the vocal line of another song about secret love (Heimliches Lieben, in the same key as the first edition of Der Blumenbrief) is brought to mind.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


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