About this work
The third of Schubert's three Goethe settings from July 5, 1815, Erster Verlust (First Loss) (D. 226) has neither the passionate yearning of Wandrers Nachtlied (I) nor the immediate appeal of Der Fischer. What it has, however, more than compensates for what it lacks. Indeed, its subject is nostalgia, a longing that can never be assuaged, and a lack that can never be compensated. That this song was written by an 18-year-old didn't have much to be nostalgic about makes Schubert's achievement all the more miraculous. Goethe's poem is in nine lines in which the opening couplet is repeated as the closing couplet, while the central five lines develop the images and feelings of the opening couplet. Schubert's setting matches the words by having the opening five bars of vocal melody mirrored, but not quite repeated, as the final five bars of vocal melody, while the central 11 bars develop the music of the opening. Set in F minor with the unique tempo indication of Sehr langsam, wehmutig (Very slowly, in a melancholic manner), Erster Verlust is part hymn, part art song, and all loss and regret.