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Der Abend, D221

first published by Czerny in 1829 as Op 118 No 2
author of text

With very few brushstrokes Schubert has created a magical evening landscape, a coastal scene at twilight which is worthy of Ossian, the poet to whom Kosegarten pays homage in using the name 'Temora' in the poem's first line. Temora was the home of the Irish kings as described in Ossian's (or rather James Macpherson's) The Death of Cuthullin. It is a word which lived bright in the memory of the composer's schoolfriend Johann Leopold Ebner. Many years after Schubert's death he wrote down a list of songs which he remembered from those halcyon days before 1818 (he lost touch with the composer after this) and Temora, used as a title, is among them. This shows that this rather obscure song enjoyed some favour among Schubert's friends soon after it was composed, and part of the impression it created seems to have been its connection with Ossian and the contemporary craze for his poetry. John Reed is wrong to suppose that the composer himself had substituted the name Temora for 'Arkona', the place-name which is found in the 1788 and 1824 editions of Kosegarten's works and which was local to the poet who lived for a time on the Baltic island of Rügen. Kosegarten was a noted authority on the British poets and the word 'Temora' is to be found in the 1802 edition of his poems printed in Leipzig. This publication, unknown both to Reed and the Schochows, seems to have been the one which came into Schubert's hands. It shows that what have been taken to be departures (or 'Abweichungen') from Kosegarten's originals are nothing to do with the composer having a cavalier attitude to the texts; he was simply using a different edition of poems which had gone through various stages of revision and rewriting.

The original key of this song is B major, which as John Reed points out is the tonality of transcendence as exemplified by the much later Nacht und Träume. This is fitting for a thumbnail sketch of a fairy kingdom ruled by heroes and vaunted by the bards. The descending vocal line for 'gesunknen Sonne' (setting sun) shows the composer at work, as ever, on word-to-music analogues, but these small illustrative details are less important than the overall majesty of the music which is somehow woven, as is often the case with Schubert songs on a single page, from the most simple harmonic progressions. The solemn alternation of tonic and dominant in the opening conveys elemental grandeur, as does the 'echo' effect where the vocal line imitates what the piano has proposed in the previous bar. This device may seem rather hackneyed but Schubert always has a way of using clichés in a new fashion. The song deserves to be better known. The composer himself must have been pleased with the tune; the melody at the opening is found note for note (although in a different key and rhythm, and without the piano interjections) in the Claudius setting Abendlied from November 1816. It is also possible of course that the quotation was unintentional, and that Schubert simply responded instinctively to another poem in evening mood with a similar cast of melody.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1994


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Track 5 on CDJ33022 [2'39] Last few CD copies remaining
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