Where Robert Schumann drew on the idea of reflections in the water for his setting of Heinrich Heine’s Im Rhein, im schönen Strome
, in the song cycle Dichterliebe
, Op 48, Liszt paints rippling waters and the fluttering of angels’ wings. In this revised version the waters flow in gentler, less virtuosic manner; one notes again the chiming chords in the treble register indicative of Liszt’s ‘ethereal’ or ‘angelic’ strain of music. Poem and song were born of one of the great building projects of the nineteenth century: the completion of Cologne Cathedral (officially the Hohe Domkirche St Peter und Maria), begun in 1248 but left unfinished in the early sixteenth century. In 1814 the future Prussian monarch Friedrich Wilhelm IV first resolved to see to its completion, and the actual building began in 1842, two years after he assumed the throne. For a time both Liszt and Heine were involved in fundraising efforts for the cathedral, the deeply Catholic Liszt more so than the poet. The image of the Virgin in this song refers to a famous panel on a retable altarpiece painted by the late Gothic painter Stephan Lochner in the 1440s.
from notes by Susan Youens © 2012