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Unlike many of the ballads, the structure of the piece gives a feeling of seamless continuity. It is in fact a rondo with re-statements of the opening theme at verses 5, 14 and 19. We shall never know whether this was originally Schober's idea or a structural refinement at Schubert's suggestion. Despite the different note values, the tempo of the refrain remains the same; as Reed points out, this is an example of so-called structural acceleration. The style of 2, 3, and 4 is ceremonial, suggesting the priapic energy of spring. Between verses 6 and 8 there is music of the utmost delicacy and excitement where the skilful change from 4 to 3 in a bar and the elegant phrasing of the piano's left hand enhance the feeling of the flower's feminine grace. At verse 9 and the advent of the minor key, a chill enters the song, and a feeling of incipient panic. By the end of 10 everything has come to a terrified halt. The music of 11 suggests an ominous succession of shivers, and frozen trepidation. Viola's flight (second half of 11 until the end of 13) is hugely effective, with a type of long arch-like sweep that could come from a violin sonata; the return of the main theme at 14 is nothing less than a masterstroke. The music at 15 is a beautiful aubade with the voice singing in counterpoint with a courtly bassoon-like bass line. Meanwhile back at the ranch spring festivities continue and at 16 we once again hear the music of verse 2. This skilfully winds down to the point where Viola is missed and a search party is sent out in double quick time. There is a good deal of walking, strolling and sauntering in Schubert's music (his figure probably governed the speed of his country excursions), but this is a rare example of running. At 17, with music of the tenderest simplicity, we find the crushed flower. The enharmonic modulation from this plaintive D minor to the home key of A flat (and the final and poignantly inevitable refrain in requiem) is, as Tovey points out, especially fine.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989
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