How different were Schumann’s first reactions to Schubert’s music from Mendelssohn’s! Also in 1827, and with the same piece, Erlkönig
, performed by a tenor from Dresden, Schumann found another idol to join his beloved author Jean Paul in his discoveries of the year. Also on the programme was a song in G flat major, according to the critic—either Wandrers Nachtlied I
, D224, or Nähe des Geliebten
, D162. From then on, Schumann made every effort to hear every Schubert work he could—he was particularly enraptured by the piano duets. As a music critic he would constantly compare Schubert to Beethoven, and there is no doubt of the enormous role Schumann played in the broadening of Schubert’s fame. As recognition of this, in 1838 the publisher Diabelli dedicated to him the posthumous publication of Schubert’s last three piano sonatas. His active interest in Schubert rather waned in later years. One would like to think that it was his destiny to unite the strands of Schubert’s legacy with Mendelssohn’s and, from his central geographical position in Leipzig, create a synthesis of what both Vienna and Berlin offered the modern song-composer. In fact, apart from the initial coup de foudre of Erlkönig
, there is surprisingly little detailed critical reaction on Schumann’s part to the flood of Schubert’s lieder that was posthumously published between 1830 and 1850; his main engagement was with the composer’s larger works for piano (or piano duet), the chamber music and the symphonies. Johannes Brahms, as yet unborn when Schubert died, was the first great song-composer (if we do not place Liszt in this category) to have a thorough knowledge of Schubert’s lieder.
Schumann seems to have rather underestimated the whole genre of song until his own lieder epiphany rather later in his life (from 1840). Nevertheless he did write songs of his own in his teenage years, and during Schubert’s lifetime—four in 1827, and four in 1828. Six of these were collected for publication in the 1930s (Sechs frühe Lieder, WoO121, recorded on volume 8 of The Hyperion Schumann Edition, CDJ33108); Lied für XXX (first published in 1984) is one of the two ‘missing’ songs (Verwandlung with a text by Schubert’s poet Schulze remains unpublished). The poem (by Schumann himself) suggests he was more interested in playing the field than dedicating lyrics to a particular sweetheart. The music, a waltz written in an impossible vocal tessitura (transposed here a tone down from the original), was composed in July 1827, almost certainly for the singer Agnes Carus by whom the youthful Schumann was enchanted. She was a married woman, however, and the composer had thirteen more years to wait for his Clara.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006