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Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

The Complete Songs, Vol. 4 - Oliver Widmer & Stella Doufexis

Stella Doufexis (soprano), Oliver Widmer (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
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Label: Hyperion
Recording details: November 1998
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: May 2000
Total duration: 74 minutes 41 seconds

Volume 4 of the Hyperion Schumann edition introduces two outstanding young singers to the series, in solo songs and in duet: German/Greek mezzo-soprano Stella Doufexis and Swiss baritone Oliver Widmer. Also on the CD are several unaccompanied partsongs sung by the London Schubert Chorale under Stephen Layton, and songs by Clara Schumann. This disc comes with exhaustive, scholarly and entertaining notes by the incomparable Graham Johnson.




‘Excellent performances and recording offer superb advocacy of late songs by Schumann and, even more affecting, by Clara … This, the fourth offering of Hyperion Schumann, deserves to be celebrated on various counts: its expert programme-making, the extreme sensitivity of its performers (all three soloists and the London Schubert Chorale), and its advocacy of both late Schumann and of Clara, whose direct simplicity of utterance is so affecting’ (Gramophone)

‘At a time when the multinational labels fill their booklets with gushing hype about the artists, Hyperion's documentation puts all to shame: as in his Schubert Lieder Edition, Johnson supplies a 100-page essay, devoting at least a page to each song. He is erudite, readable and witty. [The songs] are sung sensitively by Doufexis and Widmer, stylish lieder interpreters with fresh young voices, in this fascinating programme’ (The Sunday Times)

‘Schumann lovers are more in debt than ever to Hyperion’ (Classic FM Magazine)
There are twelve poets represented in this Schumann recital. Of these, Christern, Immermann, Braun and Pfarrius are of only slight importance to the history of lieder; the works for which they are known by musicians (if known at all) are mostly to be heard on this disc. (Of these four, Karl Immermann, thanks to Münchhausen, a celebrated novel, has a greater place in German literature than his musical connections would seem to imply). Candidus is more or less in the same minor class of talent as a poet; but it happens that he was taken up rather enthusiastically by Brahms, which has kept his name on singers’ lips. Geibel and Heyse have honourable, but dimming, reputations. They were once held in the highest esteem, but in this century critical opinion on their work, if it exists at all, is rather mixed; nevertheless, it is unarguable that these two writer-translators have caused much wonderful music to be brought into the world, and not all by Schumann by any means.

This is a mix of characters and talents typical of the lied, even at its greatest. Like Schubert before him, Schumann drew many modest gifts into his social and creative circle, and assured immortality to some unlikely amateur poets. At the other extreme there are the writers who would have been famous anyway – those whose already gigantic literary reputations were burnished, rather than created by, musical settings. Goethe, Heine, Eichendorff and Mörike are of this number. They are among the most important poets, not only of the German lied, but of German literature – one would be justified in saying of world literature, so significant are their contributions, and not only to music. Those who love Schumann’s songs will know that, of these famous names, Eichendorff and Heine occupy a special place in his work, even more special than that of Goethe who is perhaps more central to Schubert and Wolf; Eichendorff is the poet of the Liederkreis Op 39, and Heine of the equally important Dichterliebe and Op 24 cycles. These will form the centre-point of later discs in the series; until then, these two figures make a brief but significant appearance with three songs between them.

The main literary hero here, the twelfth poet of this disc, provides texts for an entire cycle (as well as six further songs): Friedrich Rückert, a scholar-creator who is so unusual a figure in literary history that he seems to merit a separate category from them all. His was once a name to conjure with in the annals of poetry, but his work is unfashionable and little read in Germany, and it seems that those who love and defend the lied must now do their best to defend Rückert as well. This disc is in large measure given over to this poet (with 18 songs and partsongs); we hear his words towards the beginning, in the middle (the largest group) and at the end of the recital, and this reflects his central position in the Schumann œuvre over a number of years.

Schumann’s opus numbers offer very little guide to the chronology of the works, especially as far as the songs are concerned. The set of lieder which opens this recital is a typical case in point. Op 51, published in 1850, contains a mixture of pieces – three from 1840, one from 1846 and one from 1850 (we are not certain of the dates of the last two; they could have been written earlier). One would have expected the 1840 songs to have a much lower opus number (Op 51 was published together with Op 27 under the general title of Lieder und Gesänge) but Schumann kept a number of them back from publication, or he rescued them from the scattered anthologies where they had first appeared.

Sehnsucht Op 51 No 1, the setting of Emmanuel Geibel which opens the set, is a dramatic and effective curtain-raiser. We have already met this poet in Volumes 1 and 2 of the Schumann Edition (a song from Op 74, and the complete set of three songs Op 30) but Geibel’s work on Spanish translations will dominate a later work in this series featuring complete performances of Schumann’s song cycles for four voices – the Spanisches Liederspiel Op 74 and the Spanische Liebeslieder Op 138. Sehnsucht belongs to the same period as the Op 30 songs. Schumann had initially given this song to the firm of Haslinger in Vienna to be published as part of an anthology of contemporary lieder suitable for singing-teachers. In its new position at the head of Op 51 it is given a new lease of life.

The second song was similarly part of a publication which also featured contributions from other composers. This is not the first time we have encountered Friedrich Rückert in this series, and it will not be the last. Two fragrant flower songs have already been included: Die Blume der Ergebung in Volume 1, and Jasminenstrauch in Volume 3. Apart from the eighteen songs to texts by this poet to be heard on this disc, five of his poems are included in the Myrthen cycle (opening and closing that work) and there is also the Minnespiel cycle for four voices, and numerous pieces for unaccompanied chorus. Although Rückert will feature on two more discs in the series, his role in lieder, Schumann’s in particular, is considered later in this article. In the meantime, Volkslied (track 2) is an enchanting little apéritif by way of introduction, as typical of the poet’s way with words as any of his extended and more ambitious creations. Its position in Op 51 reveals Schumann’s hand. He seems to be planning a sequence based partly on contrasts, not only the difference between masculinity and femininity (Nos 2 and 5 of the opus can only be sung by women) but on contrasting attitudes to life. Thus the sweeping male impatience to travel which has been the result of Geibel’s pipe-dreams is counterpointed by a different type of domestic impatience in Volkslied – capricious perhaps, but infinitely more real.

Carl Christern is one of the mystery figures in Schumann’s œuvre, and he appears only once in the work list (Ich wandre nicht Op 51 No 3). He was apparently a writer about music, a colleague of the composer at the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik in Leipzig, and the poem suggests that he was au courant with Robert’s problems and thoughts during the courtship with Clara. At one time there was a large question-mark over whether Robert and Clara would ever decide to live abroad. This song seems to answer the question, as if Christern had put Schumann’s thoughts into words for him. Not much else, if anything, is known about the poet.

Ich wandre nicht seems a strangely inapposite choice to be included in a group of songs which has begun with Sehnsucht, a passionate and impatient male equivalent of Mignon’s Kennst du das Land. The singer in the Geibel song would do anything to be able to leave his northern homeland in order to travel south. The singer of Ich wandre nicht, however, says that he prefers to stay put. This at least explains the song’s inclusion in Op 51: it fits in with Schumann’s deliberate thematic contrasts in building a sequence for publication. In this lyric there is a also a hidden link to Rückert, and that poet’s celebrated poem Du bist die Ruh: Christern chooses to adopt that poet’s word ‘Augenzelt’ – literally a ‘tent of eyes’ – a coinage which beautifully describes the protective and encompassing circle of the lover’s gaze. It is curious to find this orient-inspired usage in a poem which insists on staying as far away from the exotic east as possible. It shows how well-known the work of both Rückert and Schubert were to music critics of the 1830s.

Karl Leberecht Immermann (1796-1840), poet of Auf dem Rhein Op 51 No 4, saw action at Waterloo as a young man (entering Paris with the conquering armies) and went on to study law. He became a Prussian civil servant and judge in his native Magdeburg. His short life came to an end in Düsseldorf where he became Landgerichtsrat. His literary output consists of translations (of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe for example) as well as historical plays and parodies, one of which was directed against his literary enemy, August von Platen. Immermann abandoned his judicial duties in Düsseldorf to take up the direction of the city theatre; his short tenure in this post was extremely successful and set new standards for the management of theatres, especially in terms of the imaginative selection of repertory. Immermann’s most famous work was the satirical novel where the eponymous anti-hero, an incorrigible liar, lives in the castle of Schnick-Schnack-Schnurr. This strange work, Münchhausen, has remained a classic of German literature.

One can perhaps see a trace of this vein of fantasy in the small poem which was set by Schumann as part of Op 51. When assembling this sequence it is, however, easy to see why the composer thought that this was the right place for Auf dem Rhein: the folksong-like Ich wandre nicht is hardly a work to overshadow the simplicities of what comes after it; indeed, the fluid hymn gives a new, impeccably German focus to the Christern setting’s stay-at-home patriotism. Thus Schumann found a place for one of his weaker songs, one that would be something of a problematic orphan if it appeared in a different context.

The most important of Schumann’s settings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (the songs from Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre) were included in Volumes 1 and 2 of this Edition; in the booklet accompanying Volume 2 there was also an article about Schumann and this poet. Volume 1 included the beautiful Nachtlied – a setting of ‘Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’, and there is a handful of other Goethe songs still to be heard in the Myrthen cycle, and in the Liederalbum für die Jugend. The song Liebeslied, Schumann’s Op 51 No 4 is one of the hardest to fathom; in order to understand the genesis of the poem we have to look at Goethe’s great collection of Orient-inspired verse, the West-Östlicher Divan (published in 1819). This is a book of 556 pages in the original edition. Of these, 241 are devoted to the poems themselves which are divided into various sections: thus Moganni Nameh (the Book of the Singer) contains Freisinn and Talismane which Schumann set in Myrthen; this is followed by Hafis Nameh (the Book of Hafis), Uschk Nameh (the Book of Love) – Schubert’s Geheimes, among other settings, comes from this section – Tefkir Nameh (the Book of Contemplation), Rendsch Nameh (the Book of Displeasure), Saki Nameh (the so-called Schenkenbuch – the Book of the Inn) from which come the drinking-songs also included in Myrthen, and so on. The best-known and most substantial section is Suleika Nameh where the poet published an exchange of lyrics with the much younger Marianne von Willemer (1784-1860), he in the guise of the oriental potentate Hatem, she in the role of his devoted lover Suleika.

After the sequence of poems, the remainder of the West-Östlicher Divan, much the longer part of it, is given over to Goethe’s highly personal gloss on the sources and inspiration of his work in the field of oriental studies, a fascinatingly opinionated and diverse commentary which is divided into numerous sections. These didactic ramblings (they are given a volume on their own in the Ausgabe letzter Hand of 1832) make clear that the ageing poet had spent a great deal of time poring over eastern literature, and not only the poetry of Hafiz. There are sections devoted to such earlier figures as (the spellings quoted here are Goethe’s) Firdusi (d1030), Enweri (d1152) Nisami (d1180) and Saadi who died in 1291 at the age of 102, a fact printed at the top of the page as if Goethe were hoping for the same longevity. On page 392 there is a section entitled Chiffer (Codes) in which Goethe describes a refinement of the game of exchanging poems at a distance: lovers should be able to write in code to each other provided they each had the same book to hand. An intimate knowledge of the Bible, chapter and verse, would facilitate this sort of exchange, Goethe says, and so would some other classic, like the poetry of Hafiz, or Goethe himself. Apart from the pleasure of lobbing back and forth ever more apposite quotations, anything involving numbers could be communicated in this way: a time for a clandestine meeting, for example, might be arranged by quoting a certain numbered line from a similarly numbered page in the mutually agreed edition.

And then in a way which is rather mystifying in itself, Goethe prints the poem (without a title) which appears as Liebeslied on page 30 of this booklet. There is no solution to this particular puzzle, although it is surely meant to read like an anthology of quotations bundled together for the secret edification of lovers. As Goethe himself puts it: ‘herrliche zerstreute Stellen des unschätzbaren Dichters werden durch Leidenschaft und Gefühl verbunden’ (‘marvellous scattered passages from our inestimable poet [i.e. Hafiz] are united by passion and emotion’). In the poem, Suleika’s mention of a ‘plan dawning like sunrise’ suggests an elopement, the details of which may well be somehow encrypted in the text although we know not how (Eric Sams calls this song ‘a private communication in a code to which the music offers no key’).

The seed of the poem (which dates from 1814) is actually by Marianne von Willemer herself. The first two verses are largely by Goethe, but the third and fourth strophes are Marianne’s ideas re-worked; an example of this are her lines ‘Ich habe keine Kraft als die / Im stillen ihn zu lieben’ which become ‘Kraft hab’ ich keine / Als ihn zu lieben / So recht in Stillen / Was soll das werden!’ Goethe never acknowledged Marianne’s participation in this, or any other, exchange; he thus protected her reputation as a married woman to the detriment of her standing as a talented poet in her own right. One result of his silence was that Schumann never knew the truth any more than Schubert (whose two divine Suleika songs had texts which were almost entirely von Willemer’s own work). On the other hand, Schumann’s Lied der Suleika (‘Wie mit innigstem Behagen’ from the Myrthen set of 1840) is Goethe writing as Suleika, a tone of voice borrowed from someone who long remained one of the unsung heroines of German literature.

Although several personal friends of Marianne were aware of this extraordinary story, it was slow to emerge into public knowledge. She died in 1860 and her correspondence with Goethe languished in a Darmstadt bank. It was only when Hermann Grimm, in the first volume of the Preussicher Jahrbücher of 1869, wrote an essay about the relationship between the two lovers-in-literature that the information reached the public domain. This was followed in 1870 with more detailed work on the letters by the scholar Dünzer; in 1873 Theodor Creizenach published the complete correspondence. And only then was the truth well and truly out.

Like Schubert before him it seems that Schumann sometimes took pleasure in preparing garlands of works for publication gathered together with a binding thread; at other times it seems as if the songs have been thrown together, willy-nilly. The illustration below shows that the latter was not the case with Op 51. In the bottom left-hand corner of the last page of the autograph of Liebeslied, Schumann carefully lists the song titles in the order in which he wishes them to be published.

Once again, the three lieder published under the umbrella of Op 45 seem carefully chosen as a ‘suite’ of songs. They all concern various aspects of daydream and aspiration. Thus in Der Schatzgräber we encounter the greed of the treasure-hunter who longs for huge riches; in Frühlingsfahrt the cheery ambitions of young lads at the beginning of life, leading to the disillusionment of the traveller across the seas; Abends am Strand concerns the dreams of those who sit on the sidelines as they fantasise about foreign travel, both splendid and grotesque. All three songs end on a dying fall – the first violently so, the other two in a wistful atmosphere of abandoned or evaporated dreams.

The first two songs of Op 45 serve to introduce the poetry of Joseph von Eichendorff to the Hyperion Schumann Edition. Although he contributed only fifteen solo songs texts (twelve of them the immortal Liederkreis Op 39) there are also a handful of significant choral settings. Schumann had the greatest reverence for Eichendorff, always citing him as the perfect lieder poet to aspiring younger composers who came to him for advice. There is no known correspondence between the two, but Schumann visited Eichendorff in Vienna on 2 January 1847. On 10 January, the poet was present at a concert (also attended by Schubert’s erstwhile friend, the great playwright Grillparzer) which included Schumann songs to his texts sung by Jenny Lind. On the 20th of the same month Eichendorff contributed a charming original poem to the Schumann album by way of saying farewell. The exchange between the fifty-nine-year-old poet and Clara (noted in her diary) after the concert is typical of the modesty of both: ‘He said that Robert had given life to his poems for the first time, and I replied that it was his poems which had given life to the compositions.’

Schumann used the first edition of Eichendorff’s poems published in 1837 (pictured here) which is now a bibliophilic rarity. Der Schatzgräber, a poem which dates from 1834, comes from the section entitled Romanzen (as does the Loreley poem Waldesgespräch from Liederkreis). Most of the texts set by Schumann, however, appeared in the sub-section Wanderlieder. This is where we find Die zwei Gesellen (Schumann’s title for his song is Frühlingsfahrt). This is a much earlier poem dating from 1818.

Another important Schumann poet to make his debut in these pages is Heinrich Heine. The song Abends am Strand appears like a carte de visite, an augury of the fantasy and imaginative energy of this great but problematic personality. Here was another poet, like Eichendorff, with whom the composer had personal contact; whereas he met Eichendorff as late as 1847, Schumann encountered Heine much earlier, during a Munich visit in May 1828 where the eighteen-year-old composer-to-be was astounded by the poet’s private collection of pictures, and was taken on a cultural tour of the town. Schumann found Heine on kind and friendly form on that occasion, bemused and world-weary as befits a genius able only to pity the foolish behaviour of mankind. Schumann took away with him a very romanticised picture of the poet – an image which Heine self-consciously, and possibly cynically, maintained and promoted in literature as in life. But it is probably thanks to this encounter that the great cycle Dichterliebe is a glowingly sympathetic musical embodiment of the poetic métier, and a touching portrait-in-tones of Heine himself.

Abends am Strand is seemingly Schumann’s own title; the composer Johann Vesque von Püttlingen also set the poem (in 1851) and named it Am Meere. This lyric is the seventh of Heine’s Heimkehr, a section of the famous Buch der Lieder first published in Hamburg in 1827. Schubert chose six poems from this collection which were composed at the end of his life in 1828, and appeared posthumously as songs 7 to 13 of Schwanengesang. We are reminded of this when we leaf through the pages of Heimkehr: ‘Wir sassen am Fischerhause’ (Abends am Strand) is No VII, ‘Du schönes Fischermädchen’ (Schubert’s Das Fischermädchen) is No VIII. And so it goes on: Schubert’s Am Meere (XIV), Die Stadt (XVI), Der Doppelgänger (XX), Ihr Bild (XXIII), Der Atlas (XXIV) – and, for good measure, Strauss’s Schlechtes Wetter (XXIX) etc.

Schumann never had an opportunity to meet Friedrich Rückert in person. Knowing something about the poet’s disinclination to mix with the famous and important this is hardly a surprise. He was too much of a workaholic to spend time socialising with celebrities. The title of Golo Mann’s charming tract devoted to Rückert is ‘One of the most endearing of our German poets’. But one had to know Rückert well to feel his warmth and lovability. He was an intellectual giant whose brain and workload were almost too large for the comfort of his contemporaries. Heine’s output is enormous when compared to that of Eichendorff, for example, but the Heine Gesamtausgabe of twenty-two volumes seem slim pickings in comparison to Rückert’s amassed writings, many of which are still not generally available. Leaving aside his various (admittedly unsuccessful) theatre pieces, his prose works and treatises on literature, Rückert wrote some ten thousand poems – an astonishing number considering how much else he had to do in a life full of teaching duties as well a formidable programme of unremitting study and self-improvement.

Rückert was born in Schweinfurt on 16 May 1788. His father was a lawyer, and his mother also came from a legal family. Brought up in the beautiful Franconian countryside where his forefathers had been farmers, he had an idyllic childhood. His university career (Würzburg, Heidelberg, Jena) was unsettled; despite a talent for languages he felt he had not yet discovered his purpose in life. By 1817 he had already published hundreds of poems in newspapers, and was even editor of the publisher Cotta’s Morgenblatt. Rückert then spent a year in Rome where the inspiration of Italian culture failed to work on him as it had on Goethe. It was at this time that his appearance (hanging locks of uncombed hair, a long moustache, old-fashioned clothes which gave him a Rip van Winkle appearance) shocked Dorothea Schlegel. Rückert was also exceptionally tall, and with his stern expression and beetling eyebrows he could seem a formidable presence; his eyes, however, were said to be gentle and child-like.

In 1818, on his way back to Germany from Italy, Rückert (now thirty years old and still unsure of what to do with his talents) passed through Vienna. There he met the great orientalist Joseph Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856). The Austrian took Rückert under his wing; he lent the young poet a priceless volume of the poetry of Firdusi, and told him to learn Persian from it. And so he did, at the same time as beginning a new phase in his life where translations of the poetry of the east and his original work seem to blend into one enormous project of assimilation and renewal. (This was just before Goethe published his West-Östlicher Divan, also influenced by the researches of Hammer-Purgstall.) In an astonishing matter of months Rückert had mastered the Persian language, and quickly after that Arabic, Syrian, Ethiopian, Sanskrit, various Indian dialects, Turkish, even Finnish. With these languages a whole world of unknown literature was open to him and to his eventual readers. As he put it:

Mit jeder Sprache mehr,
Die du erlernst, befreist
Du einen bis daher
In dir gefangenen Geist.

With each new language
You learn you’ll set free
A spirit which has until then
Been locked away inside of you.

He was certainly king of all autodidacts. So absorbed was he in these tasks that he seemed never to have needed the company of other poets – he could easily have become friends with his exact contemporary Eichendorff had he wished, or the younger Mörike, but he never took the time to get to know them, and he had unfriendly relations with Uhland. He enjoyed a short friendship with August von Platen (that fellow enthusiast of oriental poetry published his Ghaselen in 1821 and died at an early age), but Rückert was essentially a loner.

Which is not to say that he was not susceptible to women and to love. In 1812, aged 24, he had composed an astonishing cycle of sonnets entitled Amaryllis, written for his first inamorata, the daughter of an innkeeper. This was published in 1825, some years after the first collection of poetry which was to make Rückert’s name: Östliche Rosen (published in 1822, reviewed with lofty approval by Goethe himself, and seized by Schubert for five immortal songs – see Volume 35 of the Hyperion Schubert Edition). This was the first fruit of a lifelong integration of eastern and western subject-matter, as well as a complete technical mastery of metre from every culture, past and present. Chief among these were various variations on the oriental ghazal.

After this, the Gedichte were published in six volumes (1834-38, a complete edition which, because of Rückert’s prolific creativity, was out of date as soon as it was printed). A subsection of the first volume was entitled Liebesfrühling, written to celebrate the poet’s engagement to Luise Wiethaus in 1821. Robert Schumann came upon this long sequence of poems, and this is how ‘Robert and Clara’ became the musical echo of ‘Friedrich and Luise’.

Liebesfrühling – some 364 poems in all – was published separately in 1844, by which time it had already made Rückert’s reputation throughout Germany. There are certain items, such as ‘Du meine Seele, du mein Herz’ which were recycled from the Östliche Rosen, an example of the headaches faced by scholars attempting to source this poet’s work. Liebesfrühling is divided into five books or ‘garlands’. The following list shows the large part the collection played as a source of lieder; it also lists (very selectively) the settings of composers other than Schumann. A glance at this list shows how profoundly that composer must have known his way around this vast collection of lyrics.

Rückert has been snidely called ‘the patriarch of Biedermeyer domestic poetry’ because of Liebesfrühling, and this popular success has worked as much against his posthumous reputation, as have his inscrutable oriental studies. This is hardly fair. A close reading of Liebesfrühling reveals strong idealism, political awareness including a dislike of capitalism, a capacity for anger and passion and even a sexual imagination that ranges further than home and hearth, in thought if not action. This was all grist to Schumann’s mill. The work was written at a time when both Robert and Clara were changing from star-crossed lovers into lovers who were rather cross stars. Robert was not the only one who sometimes longed for freedom from responsibility and who was irritated by the constraints of spouse and children: Clara, too, was a very strong character and independent spirit who sacrificed much to make the relationship work. For these two people, living together was far from an idyll, but that was how it was seen by an outside world. The story of their struggle to marry was already part of musical folklore, a true and touching story that acquired the status of myth. This image of what would nowadays be called a power-couple was partially fostered by the Schumanns themselves. Publication of a shared cycle such as this simply reinforced the legend for all time.

Rückert himself was delighted with the gift of a dedicated copy of Op 37/Op 12, although one doubts that he had the ability to judge it musically. In July 1842 Robert noted the receipt of the following poem ‘with great joy’, and Clara copied the poem out in the marriage diary, exactly as they had received it:

Lang ist’s lang,
Seit ich meinen Liebesfrühling sang,
Aus Herzensdrang
Wie er entsprang,
Verklang in Einsamkeit der Klang.

Zwanzig Jahr
Würden’s, da hört’ ich hier und dar
Der Vogelschaar
Einen, der klar
Pfiff einen Ton, der dorther war.

Und nun gar
Kommt im einundzwanzigsten Jahr
Ein Vogelpaar,
Macht erst mir klar,
Dass nicht ein Ton verloren war.

Meine Lieder
Singt ihr wieder,
Mein Empfinden
Klingt ihr wieder,
Mein Gefühl
Beschwingt ihr wieder,
Meinen Frühling
Bringt ihr wieder,
Mich, wie schön,
Verjüngt ihr wieder:
Nehmt meinen Dank, wenn euch die Welt,
Wie mir einst, ihren vorenthält!
Und werdet ihr den Dank erlangen,
So hab’ ich meinen mit empfangen.

Long, it’s been, long
Since I’ve sung my spring song,
From the craving of my heart
Whence it had sprung,
The sound faded away in solitude.

Twenty years it’s been
When finally I could hear
Birds flocking distant and near and far
One of them whistled
A tone bright and clear.

And now at last
In the twenty-first year
There comes a pair of birds
That finally makes it clear
That not a single tone was lost.

My songs
You’re singing again,
You are making music
From my feelings again,
As to my emotions
You once again give wings,
My spring
You return to me
How beautiful it is
To be made young again:
Accept my thanks, even if the world
Withholds it gratitude, as it once did from me!
And if thanks ever come your way,
Then I will share them, if I may.

The twenty years to which Rückert refers is almost exactly the difference in age between the poet and Robert Schumann. This poem was written shortly before Rückert moved very unwillingly to Berlin to take up a grand university post for which he was temperamentally unsuited but which paid him twice as much per semester as he had received per year from the Bavarian government. Such attempts at integration in the social life of glittering academe were always unsuccessful; he longed to withdraw to his family citadel. Much had happened in his life since he had written those love poems and before the Schumanns discovered his poetry. This accounts for the world-weary tone of his poem to them. There had been good and bad things. He had spent sixteen years as professor in Erlangen, a backwater where he felt comfortable and where he had raised his family of ten children with his Luise. All his life he was inordinately proud of the fact that, despite his never-ceasing work, he had raised a family with care and affection (his daughter Maria lived until 1920, an astonishing fact considering that her father was born in 1788). Tragically, two of his children, little Luise and Ernst, had died in the beginning of 1834. To these deaths we owe the heart-rending Kindertotenlieder which were published only in 1872, six years after the poet’s own death, and which Gustav Mahler, also a bereaved father, was to set to music.

Gustav Pfarrius, poet of Die Hütte and Der Brautigam und die Birke was born on 31 December 1800 in Heddesheim bei Kreuznach and died in 1884. He studied philology at Halle and Bonn and then took up a teaching post in Saarbrücken. He later taught in Cologne and became a professor at the university there. He wrote a number of books mostly devoted either to nature or education. Schumann seems not to have known him personally, but was obviously attracted to Die Waldlieder (1850). The title page of a later edition is printed here.

Karl August Candidus (poet of Husarenabzug, track cr) was born on 14 April 1817. He was the son of clergyman and took up a clerical appointment in Nancy although he retained a lifelong loyalty to his native region of Alsace, having a great deal to do with the city of Strassburg all his life. In 1858 he was appointed priest of an evangelical church in Odessa, and died in 1872 in Feodosiya in the Crimea where he had undertaken a cure for a chest complaint. He had welcomed with patriotic fervour Alsace’s reunification with Germany as a result of the Franco-Prussian war. One can hear more than a trace of his jingoistic temperament in the song recorded on this disc. His first volume of poetry was Gedichte eines Elsässers (1846) which might have been owned by Schumann, but Johannes Brahms probably knew the Vermischte Gedichte of 1867. That composer would have shared Candidus’s political ideals if not his religious convictions. In any event, Brahms set seven Candidus poems, including Lerchengesang and the famous Alte Liebe.

Paul Heyse (1830-1914) is the poet of Frühlingslust a poem taken from a volume of short stories and poems – Die Jungbrunnen – published in 1850. This was a favourite source of choral settings for Brahms who set four poems from this source for his Op 44 songs for women’s chorus (beginning with the poem Schumann chose here), as well as four of the Sieben Lieder for mixed unaccompanied chorus, Op 62. There is a biographical note on Heyse, as well as a portrait, on page 11 of the booklet accompanying Volume 1 of the Schumann Edition. On that disc Die Spinnerin Op 107 No 4 can be heard. Schumann set only these two lyrics by Heyse, but the poet lives in lieder immortality for his translations of the 46 Tuscan and Venetian lyrics which constitute the Italienisches Liederbuch by Hugo Wolf, as well as his co-authorship of the Spanisches Liederbuch set to music by the same composer.

Ferdinand Braun (Frühlingslied, track ct) is just as obscure a figure as Karl Christern. He was a correspondent of Schumann’s, and this is almost certainly how the composer obtained this poem.

Eduard Mörike, on the other hand, is one of the very greatest of German poets. There are three Mörike settings to be heard on Volume 1 of the Edition: Der Gärtner Op 107 No 3, Das verlassene Mägdlein Op 64 No 2 and Er ist’s Op 79 No 23. Die Soldatenbraut Op 64 No 1 is to be heard in Volume 3. Jung Volker completes the small list of Schumann’s Mörike settings. The story of the outlaw Marmetin (Warbelin in some editions), also known as Young Volker, is one of those narrative passages inserted into Mörike’s long novel Maler Nolten (1828-1832) which are quite separate from the main development of the story – the Peregrina sequence of poems are another. Volker is something of a Robin Hood figure from the year 1591 (as the story tells us) who believed himself the son of a witch and the wind. Before this lyric appears, Mörike describes at some length the details of Marmetin’s repentance for former wrongdoings. He hung his confession (which Mörike communicates in childlike, badly spelt German) on a piece of wood in a beautiful forest chapel; his conversion was thought to be miraculous, and a sign of the power of the Virgin as a genius loci. This is a typical Mörike mix between mystical Catholicism and Teutonic folklore, an amalgam with uniquely German resonances. There are two lyrics associated with the Volker story, and Schumann sets the first of these. The second ‘Jung Volker, dass ist unser Räuberhauptmann’ was set by Robert Franz as Jung Volker spielt auf! Op 27 No 1, as well as by Felix Weingartner (Op 44, 1908) and by Hugo Distler in a choral setting (1939). Schumann’s Mörike songs are small in number in comparison to Hugo Wolf’s ground-breaking Mörike songbook of 1888 – some 53 songs, and almost all masterpieces. There is a note about Mörike and a portrait on page 11 of the booklet accompanying Volume 1.

Graham Johnson © 2000

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