About this work
Like his earlier settings of Matthias Claudius' poem "Zufriedenheit" (Contentment) of 1816, Schubert's setting of Carl Lappe's poem "Der Einsame" (The Solitary) of 1826 starts off with the same air of smug contentment. The steady ticking of the G major triad in the piano's right hand, the cheerful chirping of the onomatopoeic crickets in the piano's left hand, the singer's lighthearted opening leap up a sixth, and his cozy closing turn around the tonic: all of these things smell of a small but self-satisfied life. And so the song goes through its first verse toward a second verse that begins in C major, but then toys with A minor and hints at sorrow. But the solitary of the title turns sorrow to joy by using A minor as a pivot upon which to turn back to G major. And so the song goes through two pairs of four cheerful verses, but something happens in the fifth verse: the singer starts a new yearning melody to the words "Oh, how unhappy I am in my quiet, rustic life!" which starts in E major, but flats the third and transforms into E minor. And so the song reveals that small, smug, self-contented solitary to be at heart not quite so self-contented and in fact, to be quietly unhappy in his small, smug life. Yet it is ultimately enough for him and the final return of the music of the opening verse in G major includes two very small, very cheerful cadenzas for the singer to show that, while he may be unhappy, he is contented.