After composing three vocal quartets on texts by Goethe (RC 85, 86, 87) for Gerard Zalsman’s ensemble of soloists within one week in August 1908, Diepenbrock resolved to set the poem Der Abend (The Evening) by Clemens Brentano for the same ensemble. The sketches date from 22 August, two days after the completion of Auf dem See (On the Lake). The thematic similarity between Brentano’s poem and Goethe’s Wandrers Nachtlied (Wanderer’s Night Song) will have motivated Diepenbrock’s choice of text.
The composition got stuck after two different settings of the first verse, notated in 4/4 metre. The first is in d minor and its structure is determined by a peaceful progression of seconds. This version comprises 15½ measures. On a new page in the sketchbook Diepenbrock started another setting in D major that very same day, built on the opening motive in the soprano, but he also broke off this attempt after the first verse, which this time consists of fourteen measures.
Clearly Diepenbrock was not pleased with either of these settings; he crossed out both of them with a thick blue pencil.
Désirée Staverman & Ton Braas