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Wandrers Nachtlied, Op 129 No 11

First line:
Über allen Gipfeln
author of text

Ferdinand Hiller, conductor, composer and teacher (born in Frankfurt, for many years the Music Director in Cologne), was a close boyhood friend of Mendelssohn who advised him to study the piano with Hummel in Weimar. This led to encounters with Goethe, who wrote a charming poem in the young musician’s honour, in 1827 and the composition of this song. In the same year the sixteen-year-old Hiller travelled with his master to visit Beethoven on his deathbed. During these weeks teacher and pupil heard Schubert and Vogl. Hiller’s memories were written down over thirty years later: ‘Schubert had but little technique. Vogl had but little voice, but they both had so much life and feeling, and were so completely absorbed in their performances, that the wonderful compositions could not have been interpreted with greater clarity and, at the same time, greater vision. One thought neither of piano playing, nor of singing, it was as though the music needed no material sound, as though the melodies, like visions, revealed themselves to spiritualized ears … my master was so deeply moved that tears glistened on his cheeks … when I visited [Schubert] in his modest dwelling, he received me so kindly, but with such respect, that I felt extremely embarrassed. To my self-conscious, pointless question as to whether he wrote much he replied: “I compose every morning—when one piece is finished I start another.” It was clear that he really did nothing but music—and lived by the way, as it were.’

comparative Schubert listening:
Wandrers Nachtlied II D768. By July 1824

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006


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