It may be a cliché to say that Goethe’s ‘Wandrers Nachtlied II’, or Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’
, is one of the greatest masterpieces of German verse—but it is. Written on 6 September 1780 on the wall of a wooden hut at the peak of the Kickelhahn mountain near Ilmenau, it begins by evoking the onset of night and then transforms ‘evening’ into the imminent end of life. In the quiet chords whose roots descend by thirds in the piano at the beginning of Liszt’s second version, we hear musical peace descend on the landscape. In the repetitions of the poet’s final lines, we hear a crescendo of longing, urgency, and perhaps a touch of fearfulness that cedes to the invocation of ultimate peace, bringing back the harmonies of the beginning on a higher plane.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2012