By: Daneille Scott
Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms all wrote about aspects of nature in the texts of their songs. Schubert used very flowery language in “Die Mondnacht” to describe the beautiful scenery. The song is about the moonlight making nature glisten and gleam.
Schumann did the same in “Mondnacht,” but instead of focusing on the moonlight, he wrote about the breeze blowing through the forest on a clear night. Brahms was the only composer out of the three to be different in his writing. Although his song “An den Mond” does focus on the moonlight, it is more melancholy than the other two songs. The text is about a man on his death bed longing for his lost love. The song doesn’t completely focus on nature and its beauty like those of Schubert and Schumann.
Each of the three songs “Die Mondnacht,” “Mondnacht,” and “An den Mond” begins with a piano introduction and ends with a piano conclusion. They also have a piano interlude between the verses of the text. So, they not only have aspects of text in common, but they also have aspects of form in common as well.
In “Die Mondnacht,” the piano imitates the glistening and shining of nature in the moonlight. Throughout the song, the piano maintains a rapid, constant beat underneath the voice. The piano in “Mondnacht” also takes on a character in nature. It plays the part of the breeze, making the forest rustle and sway. It also holds a constant beat behind the voice.
Unlike the piano in Schubert’s and Schumann’s songs, the piano in Brahmn’s song “An den Mond” does not take on a character in nature. The piano seems to be the man in the song. When the voice gets dramatic, so does the piano, when the voice gets bold or soft, the piano does too. Instead of contrasting the voice with a continuous beat, the piano flows along with the voice complementing the man’s emotions in the song.
“Die Mondnacht” and “Mondnacht” communicate the words in the songs better than “An den Mond.” Using word painting with the piano allows the listener to understand what the moonlight and the breeze are doing in the songs. The listener can actually hear the way the moonlight makes the leaves shine and the water ripple or the way the breeze makes the forest rustle by the sound that the piano makes when taking on those characters.
On the other hand, “An den Mond” is more effective than the other two songs. It evokes more emotion in the listener than “Die Mondnacht” or “Mondnacht.” Rather than having a cheery beat and just describing nature, Brahm’s song is more slow and dramatic, conveying the heartbreaking loss that the man has sustained.
My favorite song of the three is Brahm’s “An den Mond.” Although the text is in German, I can still understand that the song is about some sort of loss because of the music corresponds with the words. Even if the song had no text at all, the music would still tell a story. I listen to songs because I can relate to them- because songs create emotions just like “An den Mond.” Overall,
Schubert and Schumann have the most similar compositional style. With their text about nature and their word painting with the piano, they both composed happy, upbeat songs. Brahms, although different from Schubert and Schumann, still composed and equally great song. He did incorporate an aspect of nature (moonlight) just like Schubert and Schumann, but Brahms intended to communicate a different, more affecting message to his audience.