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