The Shepherd on the Rock
It says much about Schubert that though he missed a great measure of worldly success, he never lacked for friends. One of those was the soprano Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann (1785-1838), one of the leading opera singers of the day. (She created the title role for Beethoven’s Lenore in 1805, and sang it in the composer’s subsequent revisions, including the 1814 Fidelio.) Milder sang the first performance of Schubert’s “Die Forelle,” Schubert dedicated “Suleika II” to her, and he intended the role of Estrella in Alfonso und Estrella for her, though the opera was not produced during Schubert’s lifetime.
He also did not live to hear “The Shepherd on the Rock” (Der Hirt auf dem Felsen), which he wrote for Milder in 1828. She had asked for a work that would allow her to express a wide range of feelings, and Schubert put together a three-part scena on verses by Wilhelm Müller (who also wrote Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise, Schubert’s famous song cycles) and Karl August Varnhagen. In the first part, a lonely shepherd listens to echoes of his song from the valley far below him. In the dark second part (Varnhagen’s text), the shepherd is consumed by his misery, but his spirits revive in the final section as he contemplates the coming of Spring. – John Henken