RC 90 Der Abend (“Wie so leis’ die Blätter wehn”)

  • Brentano, Clemens
  • soprano and piano
  • 1908-08-22 00:00:00.0 - 1908-09-11 00:00:00.0
  • duration ca. 5:30

In August 1908 Diepenbrock took up another poem by Clemens Brentano, a German writer he had known since his childhood: Der Abend (The Evening). The nocturnal atmosphere, a recurring topic in both their oeuvres, is reminiscent of Brentano’s Der Spinnerin Nachtlied (The Night Song of the Spinner) that Diepenbrock had set to music ten years before for the soprano Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius (Lied der Spinnerin, RC 42).

Diepenbrock did not immediately decide to set Der Abend for soprano and piano. Two incomplete versions preceded this opus: one for vocal quartet (RC 88) and one for soprano, alto and organ (RC 89). On 22 August, the same day Diepenbrock notated these fragments, he also started the version for high soprano and piano. He completed the song on 11 September.

The genesis of the work can be followed in the correspondence with his friend W.G. Hondius van den Broek, who was also a great admirer of Brentano. On 5 September Diepenbrock mentioned that he was working on Der Abend “for Solo voice and accompaniment (orchestra or piano)”. (BD VI:6) Shortly after making the neat copy A-64(10), he decided to send Hondius the autograph of Der Abend as a gift. (From this we can deduce that the copy A-84 for Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius must have been made straightaway.) In the accompanying letter of 20 September we can read that initially Diepenbrock had a different instrument in mind for the accompaniment:

I have made this somewhat in the hope that Noordewier would sing it on her tour with Verhey, because a diligent organist can play it on the organ and no other instrument can produce the long pedal points that are supposed to depict the peace of the evening as well as the organ. But their programmes had already been fixed.

Diepenbrock considered the potential of the piano too limited for the execution of Der Abend:

In order to come into its own the Brentano song needs to be orchestrated, and there again it might be out of place in a large concert hall with everything that comes with it. Pianists could never play that.

He was equally adamant about the ideal interpreter for this song: The only one who can sing it is Noordewier. (BD VI:14)

Diepenbrock has made some changes to the text of Der Abend. The most drastic one is the omission of the two-line refrain with which each of the five verses of Brentano’s poem concludes.

Less conspicuous, but quintessential is the adaptation of the opening lines of the last strophe. Instead of:

Treuer Gott, du bist nicht weit,
Und so ziehn wir ohne Harm
In die wilde Einsamkeit
Aus des Hofes eitelm Schwarm.

Faithful God, you're not far
And thus we retreat without anguish
Into the wild solitude
From the court of the vain crowd.

Diepenbrock has written:

Treuer Gott, du bist nicht weit,
Dir vertraun wir ohne Harm
In der wilden Einsamkeit
Wie in Hofes eitlem Schwarm.

Faithful God, you're not far
We trust Thee without anguish
In the wild solitude
As in the court of the vain crowd.

Clearly he considered the individual being lonely amongst a crowd of people as something permanent...

Word painting

Hondius van den Broek thought the song was delightful and wrote in his letter of thanks to Diepenbrock: The depiction of the evening with which it opens immediately hits home, that’s it. (BD VI:16) He is referring to the organ point that lasts several measures in the left hand, combined with a slow rocking motion in a 12/8 metre in the right hand that prepares the entry of the voice (zart und geheimnisvoll). In order for the organ point to continue sounding, Diepenbrock added a footnote with the instruction: Please note, hit the bass notes of the organ point as many times as necessary, though never on a strong beat.

The second and fourth verses are much livelier. Diepenbrock expressively depicts the fish and birds described in the respective stanzas in his music. Hondius van den Broek especially admired the last verse, where the voice sings the final lines solemnly (Feierlich), full of faith and at full power:

"The end of the fourth strophe is beautiful: Gott der über alle wacht (God who watches over all), but the final strophe is the most delightful, the way you have incorporated the evening motive into it, which leads to the climax on Sicher ruhn (safely rest)."

As mentioned, the soprano Diepenbrock had in mind for Der Abend was Aaltje Noordewier-Reddingius. In November 1906 she not only sang the solo part of Diepenbrock’s Hymne an die Nacht “Gehoben ist der Stein” (Hymn to the Night “Uplifted is the Stone”, RC 49) several times, but she also premiered the orchestrated version of the Lied der Spinnerin (Song of the Spinner, RC 75). At her recital of 5 January 1909 she gave the first performance of Der Abend in The Hague, alongside three other songs by Diepenbrock: Ik ben in eenzaamheid niet meer alleen (I Am No Longer Alone in Solitude, RC 41), Clair de lune (Moonshine, RC43) and again the Lied der Spinnerin (RC 42). Diepenbrock honoured Noordewier-Reddingius by dedicating Der Abend to her in the printed edition of 1910.

Diepenbrock completed the intended orchestration of Der Abend (see RC 92) in April 1910.

Désirée Staverman