Notturno in E flat major Op. 148

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Notturno in E flat major, D 897 is a single Adagio movement for piano trio (piano, violin and violoncello) by Franz Schubert .

Eighteen years after Schubert's death, when it was first published in 1846 as opus posthumum 148 from the Viennese publishing house Diabelli, it was given the effective advertising title Nocturne . But there is no evidence of this in Schubert's autograph , and the Italian form Notturno has prevailed today . Unusually Schubert did not date the Adagio, but it is certain that it was composed between October 1827 and March 1828 in connection with the two great piano trios in B flat major and E flat major . It has often been suggested that it could be a discarded movement for the B flat major trio. But it all remains speculation, especially since the key of E flat major for the slow middle movement points to a (not passed down) third trio in C minor.

The movement consists of two beautiful, catchy melodies. Due to the parallel thirds, the slow tempo, the uniformly sublime character and the passionate upsurges, they appear romantic in the popular sense. The two melodies contrast in beat, key and volume and alternate in the five-part structure (ABABA). The first melody sounds soft and tender pianissimo in two-bar and always remains in E flat major. The second melody is a powerful folk tune fortissimo in three time and appears first in E major, then in C major. The performance designation appassionato (passionate) at the beginning applies to the entire piece, i.e. also to the three parts with the dreamy first melody, and gives the piece a continuous emotional intensity. However, a closer analysis reveals numerous breaks. These are an expression of the tension between longing and (unattainable) fulfillment and, in the deeper, real sense, shape a romantic attitude towards life. The breaks include the strange nine-barness of the first melody, the cutting of the first bar with the introduction of the piano in the repetition, the key of the second melody ( Neapolitan ) as well as its extension into a "wrong" key in the epilogue, so that a longer interlude again reached the basic key of E flat major.


The first bar represents the core of the first melody, a dotted half plus four sixteenth notes. This motif is ideally extended to the eight-bar period through repetition, sequencing and variation , performed in thirds parallels by violin and cello with chord accompaniment on the piano , then repeated on the piano with pizzicato accompaniment of the strings. The melody does not end after eight bars, but only in the ninth bar with the motif of the first bar. If the piano took over here, it would be a flying change, with the open ending (in the 8th bar on the dominant ) not being closed until the beginning of the repetition. However, the strings play the melody to the end in the ninth measure, before the piano only takes it over in the second measure and, in turn, "overcomes" it at the end. Schubert's idea of ​​breaking the symmetry of eight bars by sequencing and expanding it to nine bars was realized several times, particularly effectively as early as 1822 with the secondary theme of the first movement of the “unfinished” symphony in B minor, which was added to the dominant after nine bars breaks off a general break. After the piano has taken over the melody, it goes back to the strings as an epilogue, but is changed melodically and harmonically (via relationships in thirds as a typical expression for romanticism) and intensified with a crescendo . If the melody appears again later, it appears as the third part of the composition without an epilogue, in the fifth part there is only the epilogue, which is then also the coda of the movement. The accompaniment is varied and increased in each case, so that both melody and accompaniment never meet again as in the first part. The epilogue is z. B. grounded in the fifth part by a trill figure in the piano accompaniment, which gives the soulful strings a transcendent, oscillating effect. It is artistically subtle and sophisticated.

The core of the second melody also consists of a one-bar motif, which, sequencing and varying, expands to form the entire melody, so that the entire ten-minute nocturne can be traced back to two one-bar motifs as germ cells from which the entire composition develops. The second part is in E major, which is extremely unusual after E flat major. The deeper meaning behind this is that E major is the enharmonic mix-up (same sound, different spelling) of Fes major, which is impractical with eight B-flat signs. Fes major is a semitone above the root key E-flat and subdominant alternate. In the Neapolitan opera around 1700 this chord was developed as a particularly intense expression of pain and suffering. In this respect, Schubert uses the “Neapolitan” in the sense outlined above of unfulfillable longing or Weltschmerz. The epilogue is in F major, so that the melody does not close in the starting key of E major, but shifted a semitone higher. F major alternates several times with B major, which is the subdominant of F major, so that the epilogue consists exclusively of plagal cadences . Since the subdominant strives away from the tonic, it has to be captured again and again by the F major, which means a much more unstable conclusion than when the cadence runs over the dominant as usual. This quasi-wrong ending in F major and the unstable plagalic cadences correspond to efforts of Romanticism to break boundaries or to cross borders. Another crescendo increases the epilogue to a gripping, emotionally intensive climax. A long, modulating transition then leads back to the E flat major melody of the third and fifth part. The decrescendo up to the pianissimo and the isolated reminiscences of the core motif seem like a collapse: the inaccessibility of the fulfillment of a great longing.

The second melody is in 3/4 time and its nucleus comprises only three tones. A double dotted eighth note followed by a 32nd note leads in steps to the quarter on the one of the measure, followed by a quarter break. As before with the E flat major melody, the rhythmic model of the opening bar is retained throughout the melody and is varied melodically / harmonically. Four bars form the first section (half-sentence), the four following bars form the second, resulting in an eight-bar period. Both sections are repeated. Then the aforementioned epilogue follows in F major. The melody sounds like a folk song and is actually similar to a so-called pilot's song of the Stöckenschlager or Rammler that Schubert heard in Gmunden in 1825 on his trip through the Salzkammergut. "In the Salzkammergut, around 50“ stick hunters ”were employed to make the Traun navigable for the salt trade. They were exempt from military service and paid for by the state." Stöckenschlager rammed piles for fortifications on the banks of rivers or for building bridges or huts. The melody used by Schubert is a work song that coordinates the beats. The "Stöckenschlager" sang their songs as follows: "First a line of verse, in the following pause the ramming block is lifted and dropped together, then the next line follows, etc." In this way, famous songs like "Oanmal auf (pum), and two times on it (pum) "or" Lifts up and down! (pum) Anen obn drauf (pum). ”This“ pum ”can also be heard in Schubert, in each case when the two sections are repeated as a follow-up bass in the piano on the“ two ”of the measure.

When the melody occurs again in the fourth part, the repetitions are omitted and it appears in C major, which is the median to the two neighboring parts in E flat major. This relationship in thirds has a floating and flowing effect and is therefore a popular and often used key sequence in Romanticism, also in the sense of delimitation and transcendence. With the second melody, Schubert sets strong romantic accents of Weltschmerz and dissolution of boundaries simply through the choice of keys of the Neapolitan and the mediante. The pilot's song sounds strong and distinctive thanks to the fortissimo and the fact that the two strings and the piano bass - the left hand - play the melody together in full chords, but Schubert absorbs the force at the same time with continuous, wave-shaped broken three-note triplets in his right hand. The presentation of the folk song melody thus moves in the field of tension between powerful force, flowing softness and full-voiced euphony. As in the first part, the piano then takes over the lead of the melody, the presentation of which Schubert now designs with artistic refinements. The flowing triplets move into the left (bass) hand, the melody into the treble of the piano. Instead of the pizzicato accompaniment, the strings now imitate the three-tone motif offset by a quarter, so that the strings concert with the pianist and at the same time both hands together. Through this compaction of the compositional technique, the formerly rough Rammlerlied attains a very high artistic level.


As a single movement, the Adagio has received little attention and has at most been reduced to its atmospheric sound. Reclam's chamber music guide mentions it in one sentence as a barely known, sounding, but simple piece of "noble inner attitude" in its form. The online chamber music guide briefly describes the process and cites the information on the Rammerlied mentioned above from the Austrian music lexicon.

Reception in film and pop music

Excerpts from the nocturne have been used in the soundtrack of several feature films and documentaries.

  • In 1990 Werner Herzog released his documentary Echos from a gloomy realm about Bokassa's terror regime in the Central African Republic , with the nocturne as a sporadic film music.
  • Also in 1990 was the award-winning Canadian film Among strangers (The Company of Strangers) Release. In addition to other Schubert pieces, the notturno is also used as film music.
  • The piece plays a dominant role in the thriller The Girl Who Turns the Pages from 2006. It is the piece that one of the protagonists rehearsed for a concert, and with which she fails during the performance. The Notturno was played by the Wanderer Trio with Jean-Marc Phillips-Varjabédian (violin), Raphaël Pidoux (violoncello) and Vincent Coq (piano).
  • In the BBC television adaptation of Henry James ' The Portrait of a Lady , which aired on July 4, 2008, the nocturne is used as background music.
  • The Archibudell trio with Vera Beths (violin), Jürgen Kußmaul (viola) and Jos van Immerseel (piano) plays the piece in individual episodes of the third season in the US television series Hannibal, which was produced from 2013 to 2015 .
  • In 1988 Nana Mouskouri published an elegiac version of her album Classical (Classique) with choir and orchestral accompaniment entitled Franz based on a text by Pierre Delauve and Claude Lemesle, arranged by Roger Loubet. The song was released on other albums under the English title Only Time Will Tell and in a version for voice, piano and guitar. She received two gold records in France for her album Classiques . In Spain she received the platinum record for her album Concierto En Aranjuez (1989), which begins with Only Time Will Tell .
  • The two-part ARTE documentary Sigmund Freud - The Invention of Psychoanalysis uses the nocturne as the main background.


There is an almost unmanageable amount of recordings of the Notturno , plus there are other versions on samplers or in various albums. In the last ten years, the piece has also been recorded by a number of more or less well-known trios and posted on the Internet.


Sheet music editions


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ "The mental attitude underlying R. unites volatility with the longing for fulfillment in a freely created dream world (romantic dualism)." Riemann Musiklexikon, 12th completely revised edition, Schott Mainz 1967, part p. 814
  2. This technique was used in ostinate forms as early as the Baroque period, e.g. B. in Johann Pachelbel's famous canon in D major . In classical music, it often occurs in the so-called bar embroidery, in which the final bar of a phrase is also the beginning bar of the new phrase, e.g. B. in the minuet of Mozart's Jupiter Symphony, bar 27 f.
  4. The whole text can be found at
  6. Hans Renner, Reclams Chamber Music Guide, 8th edition 1976, p. 408
  7. Johannes Brahms: Trio in A minor, op.114 ,, accessed on August 11, 2018
  8. , accessed on July 29, 2018
  9. Soundtrack , accessed July 29, 2018
  10. IMDb
  11. Sound recording on YouTube
  12. IMDb
  13. Hannibal, Soundtrack , accessed July 29, 2018
  14. ^ Franz, sur les motifs de l'Adagio "Notturno" op.148 de Franz Schubert , accessed on July 29, 2018
  15. Sigmund Freud - The Invention of Psychoanalysis. Retrieved August 28, 2019 .