Hyperion Records

Nacht und Träume, D827
First line:
Heil’ge Nacht, du sinkest nieder
1822 or 1823; published in 1825 as Op 43 No 2
author of text

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Nacht und Träume, D827
I believe that this song, made out of a conflation of two of Collin's poems, was meant as a memorial and tribute to the poet, a greatly admired friend, who had died the year before. The vocal line stretches into the void and lures moonlight, memories and spirits to visit our dreams. In the piano, slow unruffled semiquavers breathe steadily, and the one significant modulation into G major from the home key of B major, makes the dreamer fall into an even deeper sleep, nestling with the purest delight in the arms of Morpheus. There is however a touch of lonely, resounding desolation on the diminished chord of 'Rufen, wenn der Tag erwacht': we plead for night's return in order to live again in a better world, to recapture the joys that we once possessed. This is a theme of a number of Schubert's greatest songs. Many years before Freud, the poet knew that sleep—the other side of the coin of death—is the key to our past joys and troubles. The song is notoriously difficult; all singers and pianists feel that the ideal performance of this music of the spheres exists only in the imagination and in the happiest of dreams.

Matthäus von Collin was a cousin of the same Josef von Spaun who seems to have been ubiquitous in all the fortunate aspects of Schubert's life. Collin was a poet and dramatist, a good eighteen years older than the composer, but a kindly and cultured host of considerable means (he was tutor to Napoleon's son, the Duke of Reichstadt). He was something of an intellectual heavyweight, having held the professorship of philosophy at the University of Cracow, and the professorship of history of philosophy in Vienna. Admired for his taste, kindness and ability as a critic rather more than for his writing, Collin's conversation must have bewitched Schubert on his visits (sometimes with Vogl) to his household. He was a disciple of the Schlegel brothers, and those poets' considerable influence on Schubert in the early 1820s, probably went back to conversations with Collin. His early death in his middle forties was a shock to the Schubert circle. There are five Schubert Collin settings.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1989

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