About this work
Schubert was one of the most compassionate of composers, and it is rare to find a song without at least some sympathy for the character portrayed. But in his setting of Johann Mayrhofer's Fragment aus dem Aeschylus (Fragment from Aeschylus, D. 450), from June 1816, Schubert's music is as remorselessly pitiless as the poem. Based on The Eumenides (The Kindly Ones, the Greeks' euphemistic name for the Furies), the third of Aeschylus' Orestes trilogy, Mayrhofer's poem describes briefly the fortune of the happy man but dwells at length on the doom of the evil man. Schubert matches the tone of Mayrhofer's poem with a through-composed song which is grandly uplifting for a few short bars and deeply vindictive for page after page. The singer's implacable fury and the pianist's relentless hammered accompaniments follow the fate of the evil man down to his destruction. Only in the song's final bars does Schubert soften his vengeance with a handful of consoling gestures in the piano postlude.