Liszt shunned song cycles but would on occasion group two or three songs on texts by the same poet. One example is the Muttergottes-Sträusslein zum Mai-Monate
by the Aachen poet Joseph Müller, based on the medieval tradition of the ‘Mary Garden’ planted with flowers symbolic of the Virgin’s qualities. In a letter to Carolyne on 22 May 1857, Liszt recounted Müller’s gift of ‘a small miscellany of Catholic poetry’, and on 2 August he announced his intention of setting two poems ‘which will have the simplicity of the rosary’: ‘Das Veilchen’ (‘The violet’, ‘Our Lady’s Modesty’) and ‘Die Schlüsselblumen’ (‘The cowslips’, ‘Our Lady’s Keys’, symbolic of ‘winning grace’). In ‘Das Veilchen’ Liszt directs the singer to sing half-voice and indicates that a harmonium can be used in place of a piano. The ultra-Romantic progression of harmonies that rise by the interval of a third appears in the interior of each stanza. ‘Winning grace’ is evident in the piano introduction of ‘Die Schlüsselblumen’, linked in various harmonic ways to the song of the violet.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2012