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Track(s) taken from CDJ33105


First line:
Es fiel ein Reif in der Frühlingsnacht
Christmas 1840
author of text

Christopher Maltman (baritone), Graham Johnson (piano)
Recording details: April 2000
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: February 2001
Total duration: 2 minutes 43 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Susan Gritton (soprano), Eugene Asti (piano)


'Hyperion’s Schumann series continues to strike gold with a collection … that finds baritone Christopher Maltman on superb form … with this superbly executed recital, Maltman leaps in a single bound into the front rank of Lieder interpreters today. There are so many deeply satisfying performances here … it is difficult to know which to alight on for special praise. A perfectly balanced recording adds to one’s pleasure in listening to this generously filled CD, which is up to the high standard of this series to date’ (Gramophone)

'This is a treasurable issue – generous in quality and quantity alike. As with the Hyperion Schubert Song edition one struggles for new ways of expressing one's admiration. Quite apart from the superb material, and the excellence of the performances, there is a booklet 122 pages long, packed with stimulating notes of great perception, accurate yet readable translations, small but clear illustrations and, most fascinating of all, a tabulated listing of the contents of Heine's books of verse, with against each the names of the composers who have set the lyrics. In a word: magnificent!' (International Record Review)

'This disc by itself is enough to establish [Maltman] as one of the genre’s most important recent exponents. This is a probing, generous Dichterliebe, full of detail and thoroughly engrossing from beginning to end – comments that in fact apply to everything on this disc. This disc is a strong contender for my Want List this year, and is very highly recommended' (Fanfare, USA)

'One of the most intelligently thought-out accounts of Dichterliebe on record' (Varsity)

'A magnificent achievement' (The Singer)

'There are so many delights to be found here, and the combination of a beautiful voice, Johnson’s superbly sensitive playing, and the intimacy of Hyperion’s benchmark recorded sound must surely propel this towards an awards ceremony or two. The Dichterliebe cycle is an intimate, deeply felt performance, winningly understated, and a great tribute to the intelligent musicality of both performers. It concludes a disc which absolutely bursts with goodies – 77 minutes of bliss' (Amazon.co.uk)
This lyric is not by Heine at all, but merely quoted by him. It is the central pillar in the set of three poems which constitute his Tragödie, a trilogy of lyrics published for the first time in the Taschenbuch für Damen, 1829. In this periodical Heine admitted that he was not the author of the second poem. He cites it as ‘a real folksong which I heard on the Rhine’. It certainly appears as a folksong in Deutsche Volkslieder by Krestschmer and Zuccalmaglio (Berlin 1840), a work which was to be of the highest importance to Brahms in his exploration of the German folksong tradition.

Perhaps Heine and Zuccalmaglio heard the same song at different times from the same source? As it happens, the Schumanns were well acquainted with Zuccalmaglio who was a contributor to the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. The poem is attributed to him in the Oxford Book of German Verse (2nd Edition), but it has somehow remained Heine’s, particularly in the minds of Robert and Clara.

It is a moot point whether Clara Schumann’s selection of this text led her husband later to compose Tragödie (tracks 15 to 17), his last Heine composition, or whether they discovered (and set) these poems at more or less the same time. Schumann, in one of his more melodramatic and pessimistic moods, might have imagined that he and Clara had only narrowly escaped the fate of the nameless couple in Heine’s trilogy. Certainly things might have turned out very differently for them if they had eloped illegally (at one time Robert urged this) rather than doing battle with Friedrich Wieck in the courts.

Clara’s title Volkslied seems to acknowledge the work’s provenance without choosing to deny that Heine is its author. It is not beyond possibility that the 1829 issue of the Taschenbuch für Damen was part of Clara’s library, or perhaps her mother’s (the title and date suggest the latter might be the case), and that Robert, who had already set as much of the Buch der Lieder as he saw fit, discovered these unfamiliar poems only thanks to his wife. Another possibility is that the words were lifted from Mendelssohn’s 1838 settings for a capella chorus Op 41 Nos 2/4. The poems were to be published as part of Heine’s Neue Gedichte only in 1844.

The song is in 9/8; the key is F minor, and the marking Adagio. The music begins on a dominant pedal with the same sighing figurations in rhetorical fits and starts that have initiated Sie liebten sich beide (track 10). The un-rhymed three-line verse form, unusual for Heine, reminds us that he is not the real author. It is set simply (truly in folksong style) with a spare accompaniment which shadows the vocal line, first in dotted crotchets and then in quavers. The second strophe, however, is propelled forward by pulsating triplets. The rise of an octave for ‘Sie flohen heimlich von Hause fort’ is dramatically telling, signifying some sort of breaking out, a lunge for freedom. The song is essentially in modified ABA form. The third strophe begins as had the first – the Zwischenspiel identical to the introduction. ‘Sie sind gewandert hin und her’ is the same as the song’s opening. Thereafter the vocal line is subtly different; it is fashioned to more dramatic words (‘gestorben, verdorben’) without representing a major departure from the initial musical ideas. The five-bar postlude is a touching little threnody; gently descending sequences, poignant reflections of the words, offer a commentary on the preceding little tragedy. This is a highly accomplished setting, stoically poignant without wallowing in melodrama. This is the only incidence of Clara composing a song to words also set by her husband; whether she was the first to have done so, or whether Robert followed her example days or months later is not known. Eric Sams avers that Schumann’s Tragödie may have been composed earlier than the date of 1841 normally ascribed to it.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2001

Other albums featuring this work

Schumann: Songs
CDH55275Archive Service
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