This famous poem is from Goethe’s collection Chinesisch-Deutschen Jahres- und Tageszeiten
(‘Chinese-German book of Hours and Seasons’), written in 1827 when the poet was seventy-eight. Fanny beautifully captures the tone of Goethe’s serene hymn to nightfall, when the oppression of a troubled spirit is healed by the cool light of the moon rising in the east. From the very first phrase the music slides from D major harmony to B flat major with rich chords giving the effect of darkness descending. The accompaniment gradually rises at the image of the evening star, and sinking harmonies are delicately interrupted by a sparkling arpeggio on the word ‘Abendstern’. An evocative passage follows that aptly depicts the creeping mists and magical moonlight of both verses respectively. The music here is a variation of the opening bars and the end of the phrase (‘in die Höh’/Zauberschein’) is inverted into a resolutery falling phrase exchanged between voice and piano that returns us to D major once more. An arresting calm is achieved at ‘ruht der See/ins Herz hinein’ with the voice on a suspended pianissimo note over subtly ambiguous major/minor harmony, and the piece concludes mysteriously with low tolling bass notes.
from notes by Eugene Asti and Susan Gritton © 2000