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An die Sonne, D270

First line:
Sinke, liebe Sonne, sinke!
composer
published in 1829 as Op posth 118 No 5
author of text

 
John Reed has pointed out that the key of E flat in Schubert can have epic connotations, and this is certainly the case with the majestic outpourings of An die untergehende Sonne which opens this recital. Here we have another, admittedly miniature, example of an epic with E flat as its original key which paints sunset and moonrise with that special Schubertian combination of intimacy and grandeur. Or is this a quality we find only in Schubert? There are a number of Schubert songs which recall the Mozart of Die Zauberflöte or the Haydn of Die Schöpfung, but this song, it seems to me, is Beethovenian in its purity, concision and economy. There is not one more note than is necessary, there is very little word painting, and out of the most simple means something lofty and sublime has been fashioned—each phrase seemingly chiselled from sun-warmed marble. One is reminded that Schubert liked Beethoven's nocturnal song Abendlied unterm gestirnten Himmel well enough to transpose it in his own hand, and the opening of the Arietta of Beethoven's C minor Sonata Opus 111 is brought to mind by the falling fourth in dotted rhythm which opens this song. But then one has to be careful of Beethoven/Schubert chronology for although one was much older than the other, they were working at the same time. It is sometimes necessary to remind oneself that Beethoven's song cycle An die ferne Geliebte was composed a short while after Schubert's Gretchen am Spinnrade and Erlkönig. This Schubert song composed in all probability in 1815 could not possibly have been influenced by Beethoven's Abendlied from 1820, or the Sonata of 1821, but it is not the first time I have noticed Schubert prefiguring certain characteristic of the older composer's last period—not the contrapuntal complexities and experiments with form perhaps, but those moments of transparent hymnic simplicity to be found in the slow movements of the late Beethoven piano sonatas, cello sonatas and string quartets, as well as certain of the 'Diabelli' Variations. The power of An die Sonne, a single page of music, seems disproportionate to its length and its appearance on the printed page—it has an astonishing maturity and depth of utterance for an eighteen-year-old composer. The drop of a fourth in the key of E flat is exactly how the opening vocal phrase of An die untergehende Sonne begins. Again and again one finds that Schubert has a clear-cut vocabulary of tonal images: it seems you only have to offer him the concept of a hymn to the sun and he will respond with an E flat dropping to a B flat—there is a third instance of this in the Tiedge setting An die Sonne D272.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1992

Recordings

Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/4040CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 15 – Margaret Price
CDJ33015Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Schubert: An introduction to The Hyperion Schubert Edition
HYP200Super-budget price sampler — Deleted

Details

Track 6 on CDJ33015 [2'48] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 17 on CDS44201/40 CD9 [2'48] 40CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Track 7 on HYP200 [2'48] Super-budget price sampler — Deleted

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