Danksagung an den Bach is the fourth of the works in the song cycle Die Schöne Müllerin by Franz Schubert. Its title means Thanksgiving to the Brook and essentially the miller is in this song making a contemplative address to the brook. It is a much more thoughtful piece than the previous lieder, and the headlong rush we experience in the first few songs has slowed.
The first thing to notice is that the last line of the previous song (Halt!) is repeated as the first line of this poem:-
And then again as the last line of the first verse.In the poem Halt! the poem ends with the question War es also gemeint (Was this what you were saying?), but now the question takes on a different sense because we have a new character in the story - for the first time the miller girl, die schöne müllerin (the beautiful maid of the mill), makes her first appearance. The final verse of the poem, about the young miller looking for work, indicates he now has work on many different levels and again the question comes up without, this time, being said - war es also gemeint.
It is equally interesting to look at how Schubert chooses to set this five verse strophic song. Müller's poetry is in fairly simple form, each verse except last repeating the first and last line within itself. Schubert writes a full verse of the lied over two verses of the poem, then starts again in verse three but with an alteration in the melody and harmonies, which also defines the question of bewitchment brought into the subject matter of the poem at that point. Then the last two verses finish with the original melodies. Throughout the song the piano has its own delightful line of melody in accompaniment which both introduces and complements the melodic line of the singer's music.
This is one of my favourite songs in Die Schöne Müllerin just because it is so lovely. There are of course many different interpretations of the cycle, but I do love Fritz Wunderlich's interpretation with Hubert Giesen at the piano.
Whichever performance you choose to buy, this delightful song, although not one of the big dramatic lieder of the cycle, does have its own important role to play in introducing the major character of Die Schöne Müllerin.