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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDJ33103
Recording details: November 1998
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: July 1999
Total duration: 13 minutes 40 seconds

'An unqualified success … a glorious interpreter, warm-voiced and wholly in sympathy with the task in hand. The famous cycle Frauenliebe und Leben receives a peerless reading' (The Daily Telegraph)

'The care that has gone into the literary and musicological side of the project is perfectly matched by the musical results. Banse proves to be a wonderfully perceptive interpreter. In every respect this is a wonderful Lieder disc' (The Guardian)

'[Juliane Banse] is a born lieder interpreter. A must-buy for lieder lovers' (The Sunday Times)

'Banse's enchanting purity of line and ability to shape this music with the subtlest of tonal and dynamic inflections are a constant source of pleasure. Hyperion's standards of presentation are typically faultless' (Hi-Fi News)

Sieben Lieder von Elisabeth Kulmann, Op 104
First line:
Wir sind ja, Kind, im Maie
composer
29 May to 5 June 1851
author of text
spoken introductions as written by Schumann in the first edition

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Why and how Schumann decided to embark on this cycle has been explained in the introduction. One may picture the teenage poetess dressed as something between a nun and bride, and old before her time, like so many children of the nineteenth century who were groomed as geniuses. Schumann had long shown his interest in, and sympathy for, childhood and its musical depiction. He had been a lifelong admirer of contemporary poets. Indeed his admiration for such figures as Lenau and Hebbel, not to mention Goethe, was nothing less than reverential. When he came across the poems of a child, these enthusiasms were united, although Elizabeth Kulmann had already been dead for a quarter of a century. And it was also of emotional importance to Schumann that Kulmann was a girl: the composer was a fond father of daughters (though it is noteworthy that of his children only his son Felix wrote poetry) and his study of the character of Goethe’s Mignon (who also died young) predisposed him to see the pathos of her story in terms of femininity and unfailing dutifulness. The same impulse, admiration for what he might have termed, along with Goethe, das Ewig-Weibliche, had drawn the composer, via Clara of course, to Chamisso’s Frauenliebe -und leben. Even if the vicissitudes of marriage had taken their toll on the relationship between husband and wife, it is as if the composer were continually searching for a heroine on whom to lavish his worshipping admiration. This may further explain Schumann’s fixation on Kulmann, as well as his empathy with the tormented life of Mary Stuart.

In comparison to the von der Neun settings, here is all transparent simplicity. The pretensions of orchestral accompaniment are swept aside and the homely piano is reinstated in the parlour. The texture is childlike, and one thinks of some of the enchanting songs from the Op 79 Liederalbum für die Jugend, no less effective for their sparse accompaniments and folksong-like melodies. Schumann had already set the words of a handful of female poets (Lily Bernhard, Catherine Fanshawe, Wilhelmine Lorenz and Marianne von Willemer) but here, for the first time, he sets his cap at a style suitable for feminine poetry. This is a subtly different concept from finding a style for songs about women; indeed, as an equivalent, one thinks of the conscious decision of Francis Poulenc, ninety years later, to find an appropriately feminine musical language to suit the poems of Louise de Vilmorin. Like Schumann, Poulenc conceived his Vilmorin songs (Fiançailles pour rire) as a result of an empathy not only with the poetry itself, but with the biographical circumstances surrounding it.

Dedication These unpretentious songs are dedicated to the memory of a girl who departed from us long ago, and whose name is known to very few. And yet she was one of those wondrously gifted beings who appear only very rarely on earth. The sublimest teachings of wisdom, expressed here with the utmost poetic perfection, come from the lips of a child; and it is in her very poetry that we read how her life, spent in quiet obscurity and the greatest poverty, became richly happy. These few small songs, chosen from several thousands, of which only a few lend themselves to composition, cannot give even an approximate notion of her character. Though her whole life was one of poetry, only a few moments from this rich existence can be selected.

If these songs could help introduce the poetess to many circles where she is still unknown, their purpose will have been fulfilled. Sooner or later she will certainly be greeted in Germany too, as she was thirty years ago by some in the north, as the bright star which will gradually shine forth across every country. (Düsseldorf, 7 June 1851)

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999

Other albums featuring this work
'Schumann: The Complete Songs' (CDS44441/50)
Schumann: The Complete Songs
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