16.532 "Der Wanderer an den Mond" in G minor / major
D870, Op. 80/1 • “Ich auf der Erd', am Himmel du”
About this work
Der Wanderer an den Mond (The Wanderer to the Moon) (D. 870) of 1826 is a song that could only have been written by Schubert in that it seems not to have been written at all: like so many of Schubert's greatest songs, its melody seems always to have existed, and to hear it for the first time is to recognize something that one has always known.
Part of this miracle is Schubert's unmatched ability to compose a melody that has the solidity, the rootedness, of folk song but with the touches of genius which elevates it to the level of art song. Part of it is Schubert's simple but effective piano accompaniment, an accompaniment so simple it could almost be played on the guitar but so effective that with very little effort and a minimum of notes, it gives context and depth to the vocal melody. And part of it is Schubert's ability to grant to the fusion of poetry and song something greater than either separately.
Der Wanderer an den Mond starts out jauntily enough with a hearty vocal melody walking with purposeful strides above the nearly strummed piano accompaniment. For the first two nearly identical verses, Schubert's Wanderer contrasts his position on the ground with the moon's position in the sky with bitterness but, with the change of a handful of notes, the music modulates from the tonic minor to the tonic major and the moon bathes the Wanderer in its enlightening light. As the vocal melody sings of the sky as the moon's beloved homeland, the piano accompaniment turns from strumming to plucking and the music flows rather than strides. By the end of the fourth and final verse, the Wanderer and the music seem to have embraced their lot in life with a dignity which passes into serenity.