Significant work: Schubert, Nachtgesang im Walde

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Auf dem Strom (1828) is the best known work of Schubert for horn and voice, but it was preceded in 1827 by a very significant work for four horns and men’s chorus, Nachtgesang im Walde.

It is his first work to call for the valved horn and was a work I featured in my dissertation and a subsequent article in The Horn Call Annual, a referred journal that used to be published by the IHS. The text of that article referencing the work may be read here. In short, the Lewy brothers were early advocates of the valved horn, the work was written for them for a concert they were promoting, and the valved horn part is the fourth part, which gave more power to the bass line than possible with a natural horn.

Looking around YouTube, this performance below is a good one of the work in its original form, by a group in Germany (direct link here). The horns are the Westfälischen Hornquartett.

I was introduced to the work first though by Verne Reynolds and his great arrangement of the work for horn choir. Comparing his version to the above video, you can hear that Reynolds lowered the key a half step in the horn ensemble version and that one half of the ensemble plays the choir parts and half plays the horn parts. This semester one of the horn ensemble works we focused on at Arizona State was in fact this arrangement, which may be heard below (direct link here).

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Back to the work itself, when I wrote my dissertation and the original article I thought I had found something pretty significant, as it went beyond the information available in standard horn reference books such as Morley-Pegge and documented the first work of Schubert to use valved horn! Subsequently I have not noted too many people today have noted it actually, and I have come to realize that not so many people are deeply interested in the cutting edge of horn history.

But even if the work does not grab you for historic significance it still is a significant work and one to be aware of as a great choice for horn ensemble as well. The Reynolds arrangement is available from Prairie Dawg Press.

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