Nacht und Träume

Franz Schubert

Nacht und Träume in B major

D827, Op. 43/2 • “Heil'ge Nacht, du sinkest nieder!”

About this work

In the contest for most beautiful, most rapturous, most exalted song by Schubert, Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams, D. 827) of 1822 ranks near the top of every singer's, every critic's, and every listener's short list. Conflating two poems by Matthaus von Collin, Schubert's song is 29 bars of pure, distilled musical bliss. Moving at a Sehr langsam (Very slow) tempo in majestic common time at a dynamic level that never rises above pianissimo, Nacht und Träume is simplicity itself: Collin's eight lines of 59 syllables sail above the piano's gently swaying accompaniment in a vocal line of such inward ecstasy, of such inevitable nobility, that they seem more to fall like a blessing from God than to have resulted from the compositional efforts of a mere mortal. One could point to Schubert's artful use of an augmented triad in the eighth bar to express the beauty of dreams floating down, to Schubert's exquisite modulation to the sharp dominant in the 15th bar to express the silent joy of dreamers, to Schubert's ethereal chromaticism to depict dreamers calling out for the return of holy night in the closing bars. But all compositional technicalities are utterly beside the point when faced with the luminous spirituality of Nacht und Träume.