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Gott im Frühlinge, D448

First line:
In seinem schimmernden Gewand
June 1816; first published in 1887
author of text

All five of the Uz songs belong to the remarkably productive month of June 1816. As so often, Schubert has fitted out an eighteenth-century poem (written in 1763, hence the archaic form 'Fruhlinge' of the title) with music which suggests an earlier epoch; all is rococo elegance with little outward show of romantic introspection. The vocal line sails above one of those moto perpetuo accompanying figures which the composer invents when he wishes to illustrate the ceaseless workings of nature (e.g. Die Sterne of Leitner); a figure made up of four semiquavers (two phrased together and two staccato) occurs 140 times and generates just the right sort of elated yet contained tension to suggest the pre-ordained unwinding of the vernal coil. Capell suggests that this figure was suggested to the composer by the poet's opening words about 'shimmering robes', but it also depicts the nascent energy of spring's rising sap and the joyful state of mind of the singer. It is typical of Schubert to make a single accompanying figure seem appropriately descriptive on many levels at once. He contibuted a second version of the song, marked 'Langsam' as opposed to 'Mässig', to the Lieder album for Therese Grob. The accompanying figure, which is technically tricky, is there less distinctive and easier to play.

The form of the song is a simple ABA with art concealing art in the way that the composer returns to the music of the first strophe with a tiny bridge passage (a single bar) of simplicity and delicate ingenuity. There are delicious touches throughout: the exotic introduction of A sharp in the bass (the key is E major) on the perfumed word 'Rosen', thus slyly initiating a brief move to the dominant; the use of triplets in the vocal line to paint green shoots ('frisches Grün') cheekily emerging, as well as the caressing west wind and the singing of birds; the sudden rapturous semiquavers on 'reisst mich hin'; the beautiful little postlude where the semiquavers go into the left hand while the tune in the right suggests gratitude and piety.

Schubert selected only the first three of Uz's seven strophes, and the song seems the perfect length for the open-hearted yet simple pantheistic hymn the composer makes of it. It reflects the composer's own religious conviction in the absence of a commitment to the church of his fathers – that intuition accompanied by strong emotion which Spinoza called 'the intellectual love of God' and which acknowledges the dependence of all things, including the human being himself, on the whole of nature.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993


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Schubert: The Complete Songs
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Track 2 on CDJ33019 [2'06] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 2 on CDS44201/40 CD15 [2'06] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Track 15 on SIGCD606 [1'57] Download only

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