Schumann’s “Nachtlied,” Op. 108: The Gentle Approach of Sleep

Robert Schumann’s Nachtlied, Op. 108 for eight-part chorus and orchestra drifts into the serene, magical world of sleep.

Schumann composed this autumnal choral song over the course of a week in November, 1849. It is a setting of a poem by Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863) in which death is met first with fear and then with acceptance. The song begins with a sense of haunting mystery, with the obsessive repetition of a short, disjointed motif. There are echoes of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in the quietly transcendent chorale which closes the work. In the final moments, a wispy descending pizzicato line evaporates with the nimbleness of a departing ghost. The clarinet emerges as a wistful, reflective voice.

Rising and burgeoning night,
full of lights and stars;
in the eternal far-away distance
tell us: what has been awakened?

Heart and chest are tightening,
ascending, declining life;
I feel its gigantic web
weaving to displace me.

Sleep, now you come near me softly
like the nursemaid to the child,
and around the sparse flame
you draw a guarding circle.

(English translation by Erika Joyce)

Recordings

  • Schumann: Nachtlied “Quellende, schwellende Nacht”, Op.108 (For Chorus And Orchestra), John Eliot Gardiner, Monteverdi Choir, Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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