|Schumann: The Complete Songs|
CDS44441/5010CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Schumann’s songs are among the greatest musical achievements of the nineteeth century, and this is the perfect release with which to mark the composer’s 200th birthday. This marvellous collection comprises Schumann’s complete songs, presented for ...» More
|Schumann: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2 – Simon Keenlyside|
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'The collaboration of Keenlyside and Johnson is so potent that after an hour one is still ready for more' (Gramophone)
'No singer has sung them so beautifully or so naturally as Simon Keenlyside' (BBC Music Magazine)» More
Ich bin ein lust’ger Geselle,
Wer könnt auf Erden fröhlicher sein!
Mein Rösslein so helle, so helle,
Das trägt mich mit Windesschnelle
Ins blühende Leben hinein –
Ins Leben hinein.
Es tönt an meinem Munde
Und komm ich zu festlichen Tänzen,
Süss lockt die Gitarre zum Reigen,
Es zieht mich hinaus in die Ferne,
Emanuel von Geibel (1815-1884)
I am a merry fellow,
who on earth could be happier?
My steed is so swift
that bears me like the wind
into a world in flower –
into the world.
I blow my silver horn
And when I come upon dancing,
Guitars call sweetly to the dance,
I am summoned to faraway lands,
English: Richard Stokes © 1998
The boy with the magic horn is surely the uninhibited spirit of folk poetry itself – a form which encompasses the word-music of hill and forest, village and countryside, love and merrymaking, as well as fantasy tales of distant lands and faraway stars. This world of fairytale, evoked by Heine for all time in Aus alten Märchen from Dichterliebe, was an important Schumann stamping-ground. He alone of his contemporaries seems to have had the energy and imagination to give musical voice to such lyrics of whimsical enchantment which, although firmly grounded in the earnest depths of German culture, fly free of the sentimental or portentous. Before Schumann, only Schubert had the ability to transcend time and place by spiriting song out of the drawing-room into whatever region he wished to name. But Schubert had died before the work of Arnim, Bretano or Grimm had taken hold of Viennese imaginations, and his own debt to folksong as such is minimal. The nearest Schubert came to a setting a lyric like this was Goethe’s version of folksong, Der Musensohn. Building on these foundations, Schumann was ready to fashion a new chapter in the history of the Lied.
The first thing we hear are the horn-calls – not the ominous hunting-horns in the forest which open Waldesgespräch from Liederkreis but something lighter and brighter, right hand answering left in playful echo. This type of dotted rhythm is also often used by Schumann to describe manly endeavour but it acknowledges the fact that this boy, however energetic, is not a full-grown man; the setting is lighter and more breezy than others which describe the hearty travelling schedule of a Wanderbursch. Here the heels of the steed, Pegasus-like, seem to have wings on them. Indeed it is remarkable how Schumann somehow never allows us to forget that the song is a delightful allegory – the music does not shrink from the forte dynamic, but it retains a lightness of touch (as well as the lightness of touch of the pianist’s staccatos) which conserves a delightful sense of whimsy.
The vocal line shows Schumann’s talent at inventing memorable melody. The change of chord at ‘Mein Rösslein’ (the sudden appearance of a seventh) is a tiny example of the composer’s supreme ability to use harmony to render the modulation of speech and ideas believable and natural: we are introduced to the steed as the singer’s own glance changes in that direction, and with that shift of glance comes a new harmony – all within the context of an effortlessly unfolding melody. This genial tune is supported by lightly strummed chords which sometimes blossom into prancing dotted rhythms, and there is a splendid interrupted cadence on ‘Trara’ (with a fermata) which merrily yields to a return to the tonic key on the last line of the strophe. The second verse uses the same music, and here the ascending horn-calls come at an even more appropriate place (after ‘Es tönt wohl manche Stunde’). Apparently Schumann has learned Schubert’s trick of thinking about the imagery of the second verse before composing the first.
The poem’s third verse moves into the subdominant; as with Schubert, a change into this key betokens a shift from the general into the particular, a flowering of intimacy, something suddenly confidential in the midst of a public pronouncement. And so it is here for, as Eric Sams says, the music dismounts before the poem does. Against a pedal note – an open fifth in the bass – light staccato figurations waft up and down the stave following the rise and fall of the vocal line which is enchanting as ever. This verse has the musical effect of a trio in the middle of a scherzo. Schumann has a way of making us long to be at these enchanting festivities; they paint pastoral life in ‘old Germany’, something which seemed every bit as nostalgic to the composer’s contemporaries as it does to us. The strophe ends with a forte note of decisiveness as the boy gets down from his steed, but as we have said, he seems already to have done so with the modulation at the beginning of the strophe. This hectic figure seems to be more appropriate for the fourth verse where he decides to depart; in the same way, those light staccato thirds, up and down the piano, come into their own earlier in this strophe as the guitar is plucked in accompanying the round-dance.
At the end of the fourth strophe the composer engineers a bridge passage to reintroduce the silvery horn-calls of the opening; and there is a recapitulation of the music which we heard at the song’s beginning, entirely appropriate for a young man who wishes to continue his journey by travelling (like the composer himself, in his own fantasy) to distant lands. But Schumann has a delightful surprise up his sleeve. We hear ‘Trara’ on the first inversion of the supertonic (as before), and then the composer recklessly and charmingly repeats the word in an ascending chromatic sequence which culminates in a repeat of ‘Und grüssend vertönet das Horn’. This in turn ushers in the song’s closing section, a typically playful Schumannian impromptu on the poem’s final line, sung musingly in a piano dynamic, then pianissimo. New musical material is now introduced in a spirit of postlude – a nonchalant even cocky dance in 6/8, alternately legato and staccato in the piano. It is clear that the composer sees this boy as something of a putto, a naughty Cupid. We have heard music something like this for the ‘lieblicher Knabe’ who has featured in the second of the Lieder aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan from Myrthen. There it is a delightful cup-bearer who has caught the eye of Goethe-dressed-up-as-Hafiz. The same harmless flirtatiousness is apparent here, as well as Schumann’s pleasure in the unselfconscious sauntering gait of boyhood. After the final appearance of the words ‘das Horn’ the music gently resounds with horn-calls dressed up as V–I cadences. And the composer adds a final ‘Ade’ of his own, showing that he is not in awe of his new poet (there are other small departures from the published text). This is accompanied by piano writing which suddenly requires the crossing of hands as the left moves into the treble regions – a perfect gesture to signify sound dying away, as well as the fading away of a picture of perpetual youth – a German Peter Pan returning to never-never land.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998
Da ich nun entsagen müssen
Allem, was mein Herz erbeten,
Lass mich diese Stelle küssen,
Die dein schöner Fuss betreten.
Darf ich auch als Ritter nimmer
Will ja treu sein und verschwiegen,
Will dir stets mit sitt’gem Grüssen
Will den weissen Renner zäumen,
Will auf deinen Liebes Wegen
Und das Alles ohne Klage,
Wenn gleich einem Segensterne,
Emanuel von Geibel (1815-1884)
Since I must now renounce
all my heart’s desire,
let me kiss this spot,
where your sweet foot has trod.
And if I may never as a knight
For I will be faithful and discreet,
Always with a modest greeting
And I shall bridle the white courser,
and I shall be your torch-bearer,
And do all this without complaining,
If, like blessed starlight,
English: Richard Stokes © 1998
The music, in an almost unvarying 6/8 rhythm with an almost uninterrupted succession of crotchets followed by quavers in the vocal line, looks simple enough to sing on the page. In fact it is rendered terribly difficult by the lack of rests; it is not only the question of where to breathe, but where to swallow – and all singers understand this problem all too well. The stream of words, however gentle and insinuating, makes a powerful statement about a young man, totally infatuated, who offers his services in a breathless slew of words for fear of being interrupted (and refused) before he can make his point. However shy and reserved he may be, he is determined to state his entire case. The speech-like melody is the type of tune which grows on you – perhaps not the most beautiful of Schumann’s inspirations, but with a shy attraction of its own. Almost the entire first page is accompanied by mezzo staccato quavers which signify the diffidence of hero-worship – we hear these again to introduce the young girl who feels herself blinded by love in the opening of Frauenliebe und -leben. There are brief moments of piano interlude when appropriate images present themselves: the storm and hail in which he offers to wait, and the guitar serenade which he offers to perform are illustrated by flashes of comparatively extravagant piano writing which stretch boldly into the upper reaches of the keyboard as if to make up for the more controlled contours of the vocal line. At mention of the hunt the piano writing becomes a little more lively (throbbing right-hand quavers), although nowhere do we hear the striding youthful confidence of Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn. This page-boy does not take part in the hunt, he only stays in the background and observes. He also offers to guard the door of the chamber where his lady makes love with someone else. The enormity of the suffering that this will entail for him introduces a ritardando for the first time in music which has flowed almost non-stop from the beginning of the song. For a moment the accompaniment hovers, transfixed on a single note as the page-boy contemplates his humiliation. The piano interlude here contains a passage with wide stretches in both hands – a moment of lyrical pathos where aspiration (or whatever else) rises for a moment, and falls in dejection. The same sort of self-wounding promise is made by the young girl in Frauenliebe und -leben: in Er, der Herrlichste von allen she promises her ‘thousandfold blessing’ on the high-born woman she fantasizes that her beloved will marry; what will it matter if her heart breaks, she bravely asks. Fortunately she is spared the experience.
The last two verses are less convincing. We long for a musical transformation which never occurs, and the song is perhaps just too long to sustain lively interest in this amount of speech-music. We have long ago got the message: this young man is prepared to put up with anything, and he asks only the reward of a smile. This brings to mind Mörike’s gardener – Der Gärtner1 – a lyric which Schumann was to set later in his career. As in the preceding song in the opus, Schumann fashions a final section which introduces new musical material. We hear the phrase (‘einz’gen Strahl mir schenket’) three times in all, and here there is a similarity with the final bars of Der Knabe mit dem Wunderhorn. Just before that boy sings his final ‘Ade!’, Schumann had ornamented a succession of cadences with dancing suspensions which suggested someone at play, or at least someone playing with an idea. In Der Page there is at last, in the loping syncopations of the final lines, a hint of youthful fun. Their repetitive musings suggest a fantasy deliciously nurtured, a projected scenario rather than a real one; and just as we begin to diagnose the whole song as something of a daydream, we note that under the pianist’s fingers the 6/8 of Allnächtlich im Traume from Dichterliebe also comes to mind. Only at the end of the song does Schumann give us a hint that this page-boy is not talking to his ladylove at all, but rather rehearsing, in front of a mirror, a speech which he will never deliver in person. The tiny postlude with its in-built canon (truth trailing fantasy and the boy hankering after the object of his obsession) seems to acknowledge that all this is so much pie in the sky. The final chord is ornamented by grace notes which let go of the dream only with the most tender reluctance. Sams rightly finds this music full of Clara themes and references; in certain moods Schumann felt himself guiltily inferior to his consort, and hardly worthy of her – even, as in this case, a mere month before their marriage. The song Mein schöner Stern is a later expression of the same exaggerated hierarchy of Clara’s high worth versus the composer’s low self-esteem.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998
Es ist so süss zu scherzen
Mit Liedern und mit Herzen
Und mit dem ernsten Streit!
Erglänzt des Mondes Schimmer,
Da treibt’s mich fort vom Zimmer,
Durch Platz und Gassen weit;
Da bin zur Lieb’ ich immer
Wie zum Gefecht bereit.
Die Schönen von Sevilla
Ich trage, wenn ich singe,
Auf denn zum Abenteuer!
Emanuel von Geibel (1815-1884)
So sweet it is to sport
with songs and hearts
and serious quarrel!
When the moon gleams,
from my room I’m drawn,
through square and streets;
as ready for love
as for fight.
The beauties of Seville
Singing, I carry
Off, then, for adventure!
English: Richard Stokes © 1998
The success of the song in Schumann’s own mind is shown by the fact that he obviously regarded it as a template for later works with a Spanish flavour. (The first of various of Schumann’s Spanish studies inspired by Geibel’s verse was the seldom performed Zigeunerleben, Op 29 No 3, for SATB, piano and ad lib triangle and tambourine.) Nine years later Schumann was to turn to Geibel’s Volkslieder und Romanzen der Spanier (the prototype of the later Spanisches Liederbuch) to find poems for both the Spanisches Liederspiel, Op 74, and the Spanisches Liebeslieder, Op 138. It is clear that he is in love with the Spanish idiom (whatever he understood that to be) and that for him (as for Wolf nearly half a century later) the hot, exotic south was a fantasy playground of musical emotions. Here the armchair traveller-composer could lose his inhibitions, adopt the manners and morals of the local populace, and refuse to be constrained by German proprieties. That Schumann’s bolero music seems rather oddly interchangeable with the strutting rhythm of the polonaise probably stems from the fact that back in 1837 Clara had played Chopin’s Bolero, Op 19. Here Spain and Poland conjoin in a consanguinity of proud races where dance is of paramount importance to the expression of national identity. And the Bolero was a work which Schumann associated deeply with Clara, even claiming that it created a picture of her. As this song concerns Clara (Sams points out various Clara themes which are integrated into the music) it is hardly surprising that it contains echoes of the Chopin work.
The marking is ‘Etwas kokett’ which here may be translated to mean ‘jauntily’. The opening bar contains a preview of almost everything we will hear in the song: the strutting bolero rhythm, the well-turned elegance of a tune which seems clothed in fancy dress, the strummed-mandolin chords of the left hand – all this in a flourish based on the dominant seventh which falls with some panache into the tonic key (D major in the original). The vocal line, which seems eager to begin after a minimum of introduction, is cleverly crafted to incorporate flirtatious tenderness as well as heroic bluster – note the climb up the stave for ‘Und mit dem ernsten Streit!’ where the voice lands on a ringing F sharp which, in turn, encourages a supportive flurry of the pianistic entourage. This is by no means the highest note – that honour is shared by no fewer than four high As scattered through the piece. Indeed, Der Hidalgo is notable among the 1840 songs (not usually easy to allocate to singers in terms of Fach) for using the resources of the tenor voice (in the original key of course) to the full, even if the composer expects the singer suddenly to return to the lower reaches of the stave with ease. After all, this hidalgo boasts that he can survive in any milieu; he takes great pleasure in topping people, then bottoming a glass in honour of the ladies.
The song consists of two contrasting musical ideas, and the composer arranges the poem’s four strophes to incorporate these by sandwiching the lyrical substance of the song between two more aggressive outer verses – thus ABBA. The hyperactive first verse gives way to a pair of strophes where the music moves into the dominant key, and into a mood that is more gently seductive. Instead of strutting his stuff on the street, it is as if the hidalgo takes the listener into his confidence and continues his boasts in more relaxed surroundings. This music for ‘Die Schönen von Sevilla’ is perhaps the most convincingly Mediterranean of the song in terms of its mixture of charm and self-congratulatory male machismo. The drooping intervals of ‘Sevilla’ and ‘Mantilla’ betoken the fair sex treated with a mixture of awe and proprietary bossiness which is worthy of Don Quixote. Suddenly the hidalgo’s skills as a musician come to the fore as the strumming of the mandolin is suggested by gently rolling arpeggios and tiny obbligato fragments of melody after ‘Strom entlang’ and ‘mit Gefallen’; these naturally broaden into something more soloistic and virtuosic after the more explicit ‘Lieder schallen’ and ‘Mandolinenklang’. This passage of the poem is to do with looking and listening from afar. Fragments of overheard serenades and longing glances down-river are taken to be synonymous in musical terms (aural and visual echoes), and the accompaniment’s interjections masterfully imply the resonances of distance and longing between the sexes in a land of chaperoned womanhood. In this music the themes of music and fighting are combined: the right hand beguiles with wilting melody while the bolero rhythm gently pulsates in the background. Here is a real collaboration between Schumann’s alter egos Eusebius and Florestan. Perhaps the most beautiful passage in the song depicts the slow-motion descent of dark roses thrown from the ladies’ balcony in a showering chromatic scale which entwines in a musical swoon with the piano’s ascending depiction of the mandolin’s serenade. We can almost smell the intoxicating scent of the flowers in music which is the purest Schumann, and shows the composer at his most poetically inspired.
The third verse is a varied repetition of the second; it amplifies (still in the tones of man-to-man boasts disguised as honeyed confidences) the ideas of how dangerous this musician can be when crossed, and of how the sword of Toledo steel can emerge at any moment when required. The composer must have liked to think of himself as someone not to trifle with; had not Herr Wieck recently underestimated Schumann’s steely resolve and written him off as a mere musician? This strophe sets up a triumphant return to the music of the opening which now appears forte in the vocal line at ‘Auf denn zum Abenteuer’, and is accompanied by a much heftier battery of piano chords in bolero rhythm. As a performer, the feeling of broaching this whopper of a recapitulation is exhilarating; one feels that it should be accompanied by a stamp of the foot, booted and spurred. The second half of the strophe changes to a piano dynamic and we notice that the words ‘Der Mondnacht Dämmrungsstunden’ are a convenient fit for the same moonlit music that had been created for ‘Erglänzt des Mondes Schimmer’ in the first verse. The insinuating turn of four semiquavers in the vocal line at ‘Liebeskunden’ suits this word better than ‘fort vom Zimmer’ in the first verse. Perhaps Schumann composed the music for the fourth strophe first? After all, masters of strophic song are not above such slyness. The fanfares and flourishes of the song’s peroration are described by Fischer-Dieskau, with some justification, as unusually flashy. Schumann was obviously concerned to make this song as theatrically effective as possible – a real showpiece – and this is not at all his wont. The postlude’s hammered D major chords in thirds strike a triumphalist note as the hero dallies impetuously with danger. We find the same feeling of impudently laughing at death (also in D major thirds) at the end of Schubert’s An Schwager Kronos.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998