is a distinct curiosity, in which Wolf strings together three separate odes of Lenau as a continuous narrative, evoking the atmosphere of a Classical landscape. If it has a precedent, it is in some of the longer and more episodic songs of Schubert, or in the more illustrative sections of Haydn’s Creation
and The Seasons
. For Wolf, the music may seem unexpectedly ingenuous, but this is in keeping with the pietistic mood of the text. Simple in harmony, with most of the interest centred on the piano part, it conjures up in turn a dramatic moonrise, a sequence of rather comically chromatic sheepbells, the eventual setting of the sun, and—particularly charmingly—the peaceful grazing of cattle (at ‘Schon verstummt die Matte’). All of this is clearly orchestral in inspiration: there is even a suggestion of Wagnerian high strings à la Lohengrin
just before the herdsman’s prayer brings the somewhat rambling structure to a satisfying close by reprising the music of the opening section.
Abendbilder was composed during the two months before Wolf’s seventeenth birthday in March 1877.
from notes by Roger Vignoles © 2002