Im Frühling

Franz Schubert

Im Frühling in G major

D882, Op. posth101/1 • “Still sitz ich an des Hügels Hang”

About this work

Franz Schubert's 1826 song Im Frühling, D. 882, a setting of a poem by Ernst Schulze, may well be tops amongst the many songs about springtime that dot his Lieder catalog. Rarely even in that massive catalog does Schubert approach the kind of wonderful, taut formal weave that is Im Frühling -- this is strophic song at its most flexible and expressive. The song was written in March of 1826 (an appropriate enough time for such a spring song) but revised just a little bit -- tempo indication, some articulation markings -- when it was published in 1828.

Schulze's poem is in six stanzas; Schubert welds them together into three pairs for the purposes of his setting (still, the original break between the first and second stanza of each pair remains palpable in the two and a half beat pause in the middle of musical strophe). The intricacy of Schubert's music can hardly be overestimated. Each of the three dual-stanzas is set to the same basic music, but each time there is a different piano accompaniment -- the basic harmonies and phrases remain constant while the textures and rhythms change, creating something almost in the way of a miniature set of variations. During the second and third verses there is in addition a different chromatic inflection to some parts of the singer's limber tune (the most blatant example being the casting of the opening of the third strophe in the minor mode as "happiness and strife exchange places").

And that lazy, self-contented tune is itself wonderfully intertwined with the piano music: after four bars of piano prelude, the singer enters with a melody that seems unrelated to the piano's musings; but as the piano starts its prelude music again in the second half of each strophe, the singer takes over this strain and spins it out into a delicately ornamented notion that, the third time around, blossoms into a quiet little coda which seems somehow to remain with us "all summer long."