First, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s lied “Nachtwanderer” is in F major, and the harmonic analysis of m. 14-17 is the following:
m. 14. I, (I42)
m. 15. vi, augmentedflatVI, I64
m. 16. viifulldim7/V, V7
m. 17. I
The eighth note-quarternote is present throughout this passage, as it is for the rest of the piece. Although the motif is present throughout the entire piece, it does not get old since it may give the listener a feeling of “Nachtwanderer,” or night wanderer. The motif feels like one is walking, wandering, to the pulse of the song. The consistent triplet eighth note motif and tremolo sections in the piano part add to the wandering feeling with its rhythmic and motion filled qualities. The F major key gives a calm feeling of the night in collaboration with the consistent flow of the tempo, a feeling that is also conveyed in the text like “I wander through the quiet night; the moon floats so secretly and gently . . .” (m. 1-6) and “. . . then again all is gray and still.” (m. 15-16), for example. Of course, the text is originally in German, so I got all the translations from pg. 121 of the anthology. Often, the piano has melodies played in response to the singer’s part (m. 27-31 for example), duet-unison parts with the singer (m. 7-8, 21-22), and interlude sections (m. 9, 11), but I feel the piano’s main function is to set the mood with things like its rhythmic triplet, eighth note-quarternote, and tremolo motiffs. Overall, the piece gives me the feeling that the singer is in thought, reminiscing, doesn’t know what to do, etc. The text strongly suggests this wistful, confused thinking with text such as “. . . the soft shuddering in the dark trees confuse my thoughts. My clamorous singing here is like a cry only from my dreams . . .” from m. 23 to the end of the piece.
In the case of m. 14-17, the piano’s stepwise motion in the exposed bass in the left hand and its effect of added richness and color to the harmonies of the piece add to the night wandering mood, especially when the flat VI, the D-flats in the bass, are played in m. 15. The D-flats along create a completely different harmony that is perhaps unexpected by listeners - an augmentedflatVI, which is indeed a mixture chord borrowed from the parallel minor key of F major – F minor. Such augmented chords are not anywhere near as common as I, IV, V, etc. Therefore, the augmentedflatVI colors “grau” in the text and makes the word extra special to help convey the music and text’s meaning to the listeners.