In the summer of 1840 Schumann was so keen to set the poetry of Emanuel Geibel (three settings for solo voice, Op 30, were composed more or less at the same time) that he seems to have gone to some trouble to track down a review copy of the poems that officially appeared only in the autumn of that year. This would not have been very difficult as he had many journalistic contacts, and he was accustomed to access to forthcoming publications through the ‘Gebrüder Schumann’, the family firm in Zwickau. The appeal of this poet, no Heine obviously, and no Eichendorff either, was in the cosmopolitan and easily settable nature of his verse. The selection of texts for the composition of Myrten in April 1840 had shown the composer’s taste for a concept of ‘world poetry’. In fact, since he was a child he had taken for granted that great literature was international by nature: the publications of the Gebrüder Schumann are an astonishing mixture of Italian, English, French and Spanish classics, sold at reasonable prices in handy pocket-size format, and sometimes issued in the original languages as well as in German translation. In terms of subject matter, Geibel’s poems are an amazingly eclectic mixture, an echo of the worldiness of the older Goethe. In Geibel’s company we find ourselves in medieval Germany, Italy or Spain (the latter a favourite, and destined to be the poet’s strongest link with Schumann); stories are set in town or country, the distant past or the present, and are shaped into shorter lyrics, longer ballads or something in between. The poetry of Geibel had appeared in various almanacs before the appearance of the Gedichte, and it was set by other composers from these sources. Schumann’s interest in the poet was probably sharpened by the fact that these song publications passed through the offices of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik for review.
from notes by Graham Johnson ©