Hyperion Records

Ein Gedanke, WoO26 No 1
This is hardly a great poem. It does not even appear in the single volume of Gedichte that Ferrand (Schulz) published in 1834. This collection does seem to have been in Schumann’s possession, borrowed later by the young Brahms: that composer’s Treue Liebe Op 7 No 1, and a single song by Spohr, seems to have been this poet’s total contribution to music. Apart, that is, from the mysterious and fleeting Ein Gedanke. Unlike the settings of Zedlitz and Schwab on this disc, Ein Gedanke does not seem to be a fragment or a sketch. It is a tiny song, but perfectly formed. The words of the text may indeed be an extract from a longer poem, but the little scenario, hackneyed though its descriptions may be, seems complete in itself.

The music is marked ‘Feurig’ (fiery), all twenty-two bars of it. Restless piano sextuplets dominate the texture from the beginning of the song to its end. The key is E flat major, a home tonality reached only at the beginning of the fifth bar. The restlessly passionate mood is maintained for all forty seconds of the song’s length which includes a high note for the vocal peroration on the word ‘mich’. The piano’s postlude is, yet again, tiny but convincing. In terms of length and content Ein Gedanke is a perfect ‘Albumblatt’ – the type of piece that composers of yore seemed to have had the patience to copy laboriously into velvet-covered albums. Composers usually wrote down one of their known compositions, but occasionally this ritual was honoured with an original piece. If Ein Gedanke was conceived for an autograph collector it is a one-off, an example of Schumann’s ability to think in miniature on the spur of the moment. It is difficult to see what may have prompted him to engage in this poem, and at this length, unless it was to please an admiring visitor to his household – and probably a pretty one.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2003

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Details for CDJ33108 track 28
Recording date
15 December 2002
Recording venue
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Schumann: The Complete Songs (CDS44441/50)
    Disc 2 Track 13
    Release date: September 2010
    10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
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