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Track(s) taken from CDH55275

Volkslied

First line:
Es fiel ein Reif in der Frühlingsnacht
composer
Christmas 1840
author of text

Susan Gritton (soprano), Eugene Asti (piano)
Recording details: November 2000
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: January 2002
Total duration: 3 minutes 2 seconds
 
1

Other recordings available for download

Christopher Maltman (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)

Reviews

'Stephan Loges brings to his contributions the youthful warmth of his attractively vibrant baritone and his wonderful feeling for line and word … Lieder singing of the highest calibre … delightful … it is good to have all these songs, long hidden in libraries, available on CD' (Gramophone)

'I don't know how Hyperion keeps coming up with such fine young talent, but here we go again with another beautifully sung and superbly recorded effort from our English friends … excellent but seldom heard music, wonderful singing, fine engineering, and Hyperion's well-above-average documentation all add up to a thoroughly enjoyable experience' (American Record Guide)

'All three performers are excellent … this is a delightful issue; I shall often return to it' (International Record Review)

'This venture is invaluable, and thoroughly enjoyable' (The Guardian)

'Perfect diction makes the lyrics shiver with anticipation … sparkling accompaniment by Eugene Asti' (The Independent on Sunday)

'Thoroughly recommendable … fluid, attractive, fully committed performances' (Fanfare, USA)

'This treasurable CD kicks off my shortlist for 2002 CD of the Year, and will come often off my shelves. Song recital-planners, take note!' (Birmingham Post)

'Eloquent singing … ideally sensitive accompaniments' (Music Week)

'Anyone who cares about lieder singing and repertoire must have this disc … artful, sensitive, attentive, technically assured performances―absolutely first rate' (ClassicsToday.com)

'Un bon argument pour découvrir ces œuvres' (Répertoire, France)
This lyric is not by Heine at all, but merely quoted by him. It is the central pillar in the set of three poems which constitute his Tragödie, a trilogy of lyrics published for the first time in the Taschenbuch für Damen, 1829. In this periodical Heine admitted that he was not the author of the second poem. He cites it as ‘a real folksong which I heard on the Rhine’. It certainly appears as a folksong in Deutsche Volkslieder by Krestschmer and Zuccalmaglio (Berlin 1840), a work which was to be of the highest importance to Brahms in his exploration of the German folksong tradition.

Perhaps Heine and Zuccalmaglio heard the same song at different times from the same source? As it happens, the Schumanns were well acquainted with Zuccalmaglio who was a contributor to the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. The poem is attributed to him in the Oxford Book of German Verse (2nd Edition), but it has somehow remained Heine’s, particularly in the minds of Robert and Clara.

It is a moot point whether Clara Schumann’s selection of this text led her husband later to compose Tragödie (tracks 15 to 17), his last Heine composition, or whether they discovered (and set) these poems at more or less the same time. Schumann, in one of his more melodramatic and pessimistic moods, might have imagined that he and Clara had only narrowly escaped the fate of the nameless couple in Heine’s trilogy. Certainly things might have turned out very differently for them if they had eloped illegally (at one time Robert urged this) rather than doing battle with Friedrich Wieck in the courts.

Clara’s title Volkslied seems to acknowledge the work’s provenance without choosing to deny that Heine is its author. It is not beyond possibility that the 1829 issue of the Taschenbuch für Damen was part of Clara’s library, or perhaps her mother’s (the title and date suggest the latter might be the case), and that Robert, who had already set as much of the Buch der Lieder as he saw fit, discovered these unfamiliar poems only thanks to his wife. Another possibility is that the words were lifted from Mendelssohn’s 1838 settings for a capella chorus Op 41 Nos 2/4. The poems were to be published as part of Heine’s Neue Gedichte only in 1844.

The song is in 9/8; the key is F minor, and the marking Adagio. The music begins on a dominant pedal with the same sighing figurations in rhetorical fits and starts that have initiated Sie liebten sich beide (track 10). The un-rhymed three-line verse form, unusual for Heine, reminds us that he is not the real author. It is set simply (truly in folksong style) with a spare accompaniment which shadows the vocal line, first in dotted crotchets and then in quavers. The second strophe, however, is propelled forward by pulsating triplets. The rise of an octave for ‘Sie flohen heimlich von Hause fort’ is dramatically telling, signifying some sort of breaking out, a lunge for freedom. The song is essentially in modified ABA form. The third strophe begins as had the first – the Zwischenspiel identical to the introduction. ‘Sie sind gewandert hin und her’ is the same as the song’s opening. Thereafter the vocal line is subtly different; it is fashioned to more dramatic words (‘gestorben, verdorben’) without representing a major departure from the initial musical ideas. The five-bar postlude is a touching little threnody; gently descending sequences, poignant reflections of the words, offer a commentary on the preceding little tragedy. This is a highly accomplished setting, stoically poignant without wallowing in melodrama. This is the only incidence of Clara composing a song to words also set by her husband; whether she was the first to have done so, or whether Robert followed her example days or months later is not known. Eric Sams avers that Schumann’s Tragödie may have been composed earlier than the date of 1841 normally ascribed to it.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2001

Other albums featuring this work

Schumann: The Complete Songs, Vol. 5 – Christopher Maltman
CDJ33105Archive Service
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