Abendlied, D276

First line:
Gross und rotentflammet schwebet
first published in 1895
author of text

It is easy to see why this poem, richly descriptive of God in Nature, appealed to the eighteen-year-old Schubert. In much of Stolberg's poetry Sturm und Drang and high-flown enthusiasm predominate, not to say exaltation. This had fallen more or less out of favour with the literati by the time this song was written, but it was appealing to a young man flexing his musical muscles. It seems that Schubert saw more in Stolberg's poetry than many, and he was right; after all, Auf dem Wasser zu singen, strophic song though it is, ranks as one of the composer's most metaphysical utterances. In actual fact Stolberg is one of the few authors with whom the composer extended his love affair of 1815 into the 1820s (Goethe of course was the most important of these, and it is interesting to note that the song recorded here happened to have been written on the grand old man's 66th birthday).

It goes without saying that neither the poem or music for Abendlied plumb the spiritual depths and winged heights of Auf dem Wasser zu singen, but the song is a real little charmer. The key is A major which John Reed says “unlocks the essential Schubert”. Partly because of its shared tonality, the introduction brings to mind the piano figurations of another amble through nature's marvels, Das Lied im Grünen. The tune is delightful and not without ingenuity in mirroring the words: note the rising of the moon from the beechwood ('aus dem Buchenwalde') as the vocal line gently floats into the stratosphere. Staccato left hand crotchets seem particularly appropriate in the third verse where the sound of cooing doves and pigeons is evoked (cf another song from 1815, Die Mainacht). John Reed finds the piano music at the end rather weak; but its charm surely lies in the surprising extension of what one expects to be a conventional four bar postlude – a tiny chromatic fall leads into a melting cadence on the fifth bar. It is interesting to note that much of the piano writing is in four distinct parts and looks like a short score for a string quartet.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 19 – Felicity Lott


Track 15 on CDJ33019 [3'09]
Track 24 on CDS44201/40 CD9 [3'09] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

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