No 7: Vogel als Prophet
On the whole it is the more bucolic aspect that Schumann explores, though these pieces are not without darker shadows. And while they may be technically fairly straightforward, their changeability calls for the quickest of reactions and a wealth of subtle nuance.
All seems well in the first number (Eintritt, ‘Entry’), its gently murmuring theme welcoming us into the forest in the most benign manner possible. The energetic Jäger auf der Lauer (‘Hunters on the lookout’), horn calls aplenty, gives the lie to the idea that Schumann—beset by personal demons by this point in his life—had lost his compositional way, and there’s a delightful mock-seriosity to the throwaway ending. The mood switches again in the next two pieces, Einsame Blumen (‘Lonely flowers’) and Verrufene Stelle (‘Place of evil fame’), tinged in turn by sadness and then a persistent unease that is only banished by the rollicking Freundliche Landschaft (‘Friendly landscape’), which is followed by a study in consolation and reassurance, Herberge (‘Shelter’). With No 7, the famous Vogel als Prophet (‘Bird as prophet’), Schumann seems to reach almost proto-Impressionistic realms, its central chorale-like section lending it an almost sacred gravitas. We return to compositionally safer, more pastoral territory with Jagdlied (‘Hunting song’), which presents an image of the play of horses’ hooves and the jolly red coats of the hunstmen, a notably child-friendly vision. With Abschied (‘Farewell’), the innocence of the opening seems to be regained as we bid the forest a poignant farewell.
from notes by Harriet Smith © 2014