No 1: Mond, meiner Seele Liebling
No 2: Viel Glück zur Reise, Schwalben!
No 3: Du nennst mich armes Mädchen
No 4: Der Zeisig Wir sind ja, Kind, im Maie
No 5: Reich mir die Hand, o Wolke
No 6: Die letzten Blumen starben
No 7: Gekämpft hat meine Barke
In comparison to the von der Neun settings, here is all transparent simplicity. The pretensions of orchestral accompaniment are swept aside and the homely piano is reinstated in the parlour. The texture is childlike, and one thinks of some of the enchanting songs from the Op 79 Liederalbum für die Jugend, no less effective for their sparse accompaniments and folksong-like melodies. Schumann had already set the words of a handful of female poets (Lily Bernhard, Catherine Fanshawe, Wilhelmine Lorenz and Marianne von Willemer) but here, for the first time, he sets his cap at a style suitable for feminine poetry. This is a subtly different concept from finding a style for songs about women; indeed, as an equivalent, one thinks of the conscious decision of Francis Poulenc, ninety years later, to find an appropriately feminine musical language to suit the poems of Louise de Vilmorin. Like Schumann, Poulenc conceived his Vilmorin songs (Fiançailles pour rire) as a result of an empathy not only with the poetry itself, but with the biographical circumstances surrounding it.
Dedication These unpretentious songs are dedicated to the memory of a girl who departed from us long ago, and whose name is known to very few. And yet she was one of those wondrously gifted beings who appear only very rarely on earth. The sublimest teachings of wisdom, expressed here with the utmost poetic perfection, come from the lips of a child; and it is in her very poetry that we read how her life, spent in quiet obscurity and the greatest poverty, became richly happy. These few small songs, chosen from several thousands, of which only a few lend themselves to composition, cannot give even an approximate notion of her character. Though her whole life was one of poetry, only a few moments from this rich existence can be selected.
If these songs could help introduce the poetess to many circles where she is still unknown, their purpose will have been fulfilled. Sooner or later she will certainly be greeted in Germany too, as she was thirty years ago by some in the north, as the bright star which will gradually shine forth across every country. (Düsseldorf, 7 June 1851)
from notes by Graham Johnson © 1999