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Des Sängers Fluch, Op 139
No 4: January 1852; No 7: July 1852; published in 1858; for five soloists, chorus and orchestra; dedicated to Brahms
author of text
using the poetry of Johann Ludwig Uhland, with significant alterations
author of text
as adapted by Richard Pohl; story is from Des Sängers Fluch, with the incorporation of several other Uhland poems and Pohl's own words/alterations

'Schumann: The Complete Songs' (CDS44441/50)
Schumann: The Complete Songs
Buy by post £38.50 CDS44441/50  10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'Schumann: The Complete Songs, Vol. 11 – Hanno Müller-Brachmann' (CDJ33111)
Schumann: The Complete Songs, Vol. 11 – Hanno Müller-Brachmann
Buy by post £10.50 CDJ33111 
No 4: Provenzalisches Lied  In den Talen der Provence
Track 26 on CDJ33111 [2'36]
Track 30 on CDS44441/50 CD10 [2'36] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
No 7: Ballade  In der hohen Hall’ saß König Sifrid

Des Sängers Fluch, Op 139
Des Sängers Fluch Op 139—a work in thirteen numbers composed in January 1852, is dedicated to the young Johannes Brahms; it was published posthumously in 1858. Dismissed as inept at the time it is a work that is increasingly winning favour among modern commentators who are far less content to write off late Schumann than their predecessors. John Daverio refers to Schumann’s ‘Ossianic manner’ in regard to this music, positing an unexpected link between Schumann and the Ossian settings of Schubert. The scenario of this oratorio-like collage, an experiment that might be seen as a viable alternative to opera, was arranged by the musicologist Richard Pohl (1826–1896). Pohl took as his basis a famous ballad by Uhland—Des Sängers Fluch—which tells the story of two minstrels, a young man (‘Jüngling’ in Pohl’s adaption) and his father (‘Harfner’) who are bidden to perform before a king and queen. The king takes exception to the youngster and the stirring effect his music-making has had on his wife; in a fit of temper he runs him through with a sword. As he cradles his son’s body the older minstrel curses the castle and its inhabitants. The edifice crumbles and the surrounding gardens turn into a desert; part of the curse is that the king’s name will never resound as part of any song or minstrel’s epic—an honour reserved for ‘good’ kings.

Uhland’s ballad is terse and to the point; the story is told in sixteen tightly knit strophes. A novel usually has to be condensed to make an opera libretto, but a poem is another matter: for Schumann’s purposes Uhland’s ballad has to be expanded. Pohl broadens the scenario to include the various performances of ballads in different styles and moods by the two minstrels (merely mentioned in passing in the poem). The songs are only two of them—the first sung by the young man, the tenor, the second sung by the older ‘Harfner’, while the chorus members act as onlookers, as if they were awe-struck courtiers. Many of the words of the original ballad are retained, but Pohl uses ten other Uhland poems (either complete or in extracts) and adds words of his own to make sense of the connecting tissue of the narrative. The addition of a female voice as narrator makes for five solo voices in all (the king and queen are soprano and baritone).

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2009

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Details for CDJ33111 track 27
Recording date
9 May 2007
Recording venue
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Schumann: The Complete Songs (CDS44441/50)
    Disc 10 Track 31
    Release date: September 2010
    10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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