My songs call to you
Through the night in this still grove;
Come, my beloved.
Leaves rustle softly
In the moonlight; do not fear
A betraying spy.
The nightingales’ call
Beckons you sweetly to come,
Come, my love, to me.
They know of longing,
Love’s pain; they soothe each faint heart
With silvery singing.
Let your heart be stirred,
Hear me, trembling I await.
Come, make me happy.
One Sunday, during the summer of 1826, Schubert with several friends was returning from Potzleinsdorf to the city, and on strolling along through Währing, he saw his friend Tieze sitting at a table in the garden of the “Zum Biersack.” The whole party determined on a halt in their journey. Tieze had a book lying open before him, and Schubert soon began to turn over the leaves. Suddenly he stopped, and pointing to a poem, exclaimed, “such a delicious melody has just come into my head, if I but had a sheet of music paper with me.” Herr Doppler drew a few music lines on the back of a bill of fare, and in the midst of a genuine Sunday hubbub, with fiddlers, skittle players, and waiters running about in different directions with orders, Schubert wrote that lovely song.1
And so the beauty of the stillness of night and a lover’s longing were captured in music. And a sweet serenade was composed amidst clinking glasses, crashing bowling pins, loud music, and chatter. Amazing.
Schubert’s Ständchen (Serenade) is one of his later songs, published posthumously as part of the collection Swanengesang (Swan Song). Ständchen is a setting of a poem by Ludwig Rellstab. The haiku above is a recasting of Rellstab’s poem.
You can find the German lyrics and an English translation here. A score is here. Arrangements for various ensembles (and Liszt’s piano solo arrangement) may be found at the link.
It is pointless for me to say anything more about this beautiful song; just listen.
If you’d like to hear a purely instrumental version, here is a lovely performance by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Rohan de Silva.
- Von Hellborn, Kreissle, The Life of Franz Schubert Vol. 2, trans. by Arthur Duke Coleridge. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1869, P 75-76.
Image attribution: Portrait of Franz Schubert by Franz Eybl, attributed to Anton Depauly, previously thought to be Joseph Mähler [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFranz_Schubert_c1827.jpg