Franz Schubert was a great admirer of Johann Wolfgang Goethe's poems. His passion was so great that he set Goethe's “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” as many as six times, which was unique for Schubert had never honored any other poets with such dedication. Furthermore, more than ten years separated the 1st(1815) and the last (1825) setting.
This essay will explore Schubert's stylistic innovation, compare his settings to those by his forerunners, Reichardt and Beethoven, and trace his growth into his mature style by analyzing the developments throughout the six settings. Schubertian style will also be proven to be “romantisches Kunstlied” (Romantic Art Song) through examining his operation of text, declamation rhythm, melody, the relationship between singing voice and piano, modulation and harmony, and it will be shown further that each of his settings present a new perspective and broaden the meaning of the poem. In addition, the role of the piano in these settings is increasingly elevated to become of importance equal with the text and the singing voice.
Schubert's settings of “Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt” were related to the other Mignon's songs and harper's songs. Finally, he set three Mignon's songs as a song cycle D 877, in which both no. 1 (duet) and no. 4 (for soprano) are based on this poem. No. 1 stands out for its musical form, well-planned harmony and modulation. No. 4 gives the best interpretation of “longing.”