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Der Herbstabend, D405

First line:
Abendglockenhalle zittern
April 1816; first published in 1895
author of text

This beautiful song is one of the unaccountably neglected little masterpieces of 1816. It looks uninterestingly simple in print, and perhaps because it takes only a modest single page in the Gesamtausgabe, and because it was never published in the Peters Edition, it is destined to languish in obscurity. Fischer-Dieskau rightly avers that it is a song for lovers of bel canto. The throbbing triplets of the accompaniment suggest something Italian in its atmosphere, and the widely ranging vocal line (a sighing drop of a fifth in each of the first two bars, followed by an upward leap of an octave) imply a vocal virtuosity and flexibility associated with opera singers. But because this is Schubert, the song goes beyond mere technical display—it is wonderfully innig, a characteristic of the composer's intimate night songs.

The first image the poet gives us is of evening bells resounding over the marshes, muted by the breezes, but also trembling—the acoustical phenomenon of metallic sounds heard at a distance. This throb in the sound is given to the piano which vibrates in triplets throughout the piece. The brightness of the vocal line in minims is underpinned by minims in the bass; the sound of both together plus the background triplet shimmer of the piano illustrate the poet's opening image. The strength of this bass line and the skilful way the somewhat wayward vocal line is supported by it should have earned Salieri's highest praise; it is a textbook case of how a good piece of music is written by assuring both the independence and inter-dependence of the outer parts. The slightly frightening aspect of a churchyard is shown by the chromatic decent of 'hinter jenes Kirchhofs Gittern', but the friendly shift into the major of 'blasst des Dämmerlichts' shows us that there is nothing grotesque to fear in this particular churchyard. It is obvious from the way Schubert set the word scarlet ('Karmin') with an ornate gruppetto of semiquavers that he considered this a splendidly exotic colour. He thought enough of this song to include a copy of it in the Therese Grob Songbook where he adds a two-bar prelude.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1993


Schubert: The Complete Songs
CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
Schubert: The Hyperion Schubert Edition, Vol. 17 - Lucia Popp
CDJ33017Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40


Track 5 on CDJ33017 [2'45] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 22 on CDS44201/40 CD13 [2'45] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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