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Abendstern, D806

First line:
Was weilst du einsam an dem Himmel
March 1824; published in 1833
author of text

In March 1824, between the composition of the String Quartets in A minor (Op 29, D804) and D minor ('Death and the Maiden', D810) Schubert bid the poetry of Mayrhofer farewell with five settings, all of great beauty and importance. Abendstern is the second of this group of vintage Schubert songs. Poet and composer had been estranged for a couple of years or so (Schubert's name had been conspicuously absent from the subscribers' list for the first published edition of Mayrhofer's poems earlier in 1824) but it seems that these songs were in some way a sign of reconciliation between the two artists who had once lived together in close friendship and collaboration. Almost all of Schubert's A minor - A major music owes a debt of gratitude to the allegretto movement of Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, and Abendstern is no exception. And those who love Schubert's A minor String Quartet cannot fail to notice that the same haunting ambivalence between major and minor tonalities marks out song and chamber music masterpiece as spiritual as well as chronological companions. Another A minor work that comes to mind (in the same time signature, but lacking this song's resignatory humility) is the Platen setting Du liebst mich nicht. Like that song, Abendstern reflects the poet's loneliness and sense of isolation, but there is a glimmer of hope, all the more poignant for its inaccessibility. The warmth of the major key is 'grasped for an instant' (in Capell's memorable phrase) 'and at the next it slips from love's chilled fingers'. The wonder of the song is that so little seems to be written on the page, and so much seems to happen in the music. This is a composer who has already passed through the refining fire of Die schöne Müllerin—the work in which he learnt how to unite the simplicity of folksong with his other bold discoveries in Lied composition. The fact that Abendstern is also something of a pre-echo of Der Leiermann shows that Schubert is moving ineluctably towards that other masterpiece of multum in parvo, the song cycle Winterreise.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1990


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CDS44201/40Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only
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Track 4 on CDJ33006 [2'45] Archive Service; also available on CDS44201/40
Track 1 on CDS44201/40 CD29 [2'45] Boxed set + book (at a special price) — Download only

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