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He had long encouraged Clara to turn to the composition of lieder. On 13 March 1840 he had written to his fiancée: ‘Why not write a song! Once you’ve begun you just can’t stop. It is simply too tempting.’. In reply Clara was less optimistic: ‘I can’t compose. It makes me very sad at times, but it is really impossible. I have no talent for it. But don’t think that that is because of laziness. A song, you say. No, I simply cannot. In order to write a song, to comprehend a text completely, this requires intelligence.’ Robert knew his bride-to-be was very intelligent, and he did not give up. A month after their marriage (in October 1840) he encouraged her to set a text by Robert Burns, but to no avail. It was only in December 1840 that she decided to surprise him with a Christmas present of three songs, one setting of Burns (perhaps the same one suggested earlier in the year) and two by Heine (these songs will be heard in a later volume of this series). Clara’s own estimation of these works (‘naturally of no value … only very feeble attempts …’) was not shared by her enthusiastic husband: ‘I was delighted by the three songs, in which she gushes like a girl and is much more compositionally precise than before. We now have the clever idea of interspersing them with some of mine and having them printed.’
As it turned out, these Christmas songs were not included in the shared venture. Instead Schumann decided to return to a favourite source, Ruckert’s Liebesfrühling, to find texts for a completely new cycle. He was so enthused with this idea that he had completed nine songs within a week (Monday 4th to Monday 11th January 1841). In the marriage diaries (where it was usual for the pair to post messages, sometimes concerning issues where it was judged more tactful not to confront each other face-to-face) he urged Clara to so the same – ‘Now Clara should also compose a few from the Liebesfrühling. Oh, do it, Klärchen!’ In the same entry however, he writes of Clara being in pain as a result of her first pregnancy (‘Clara has had to suffer a great deal – from pain, which she gladly tolerates on my account’). She was clearly unable to write the songs at this time, but Schumann went ahead with his plans. In April he wrote to the publisher Kistner informing him that ‘my wife has written some very interesting songs, which have inspired me to compose others.’ He thus broached the idea of issuing these works in a single book Clara had begun to work on any Rückert settings.
It was only in June 1841 that Clara settled down to work, probably with the intention of making a birthday present for her husband. Her initial reaction was typically negative: ‘Composing just won’t work – I sometimes just want to hit myself on my stupid head! … I sat around composing quite a bit this week, and produced four Rückert poems for my beloved Robert. I just hope that they please him a little.’
Please him they did. Clara’s entry in the marriage diary tells us that the ‘very delighted’ Robert treated the songs ‘with great respect’ and that he wanted to ‘publish them with some of his own which makes me very happy.’ Only one of the four songs composed in that June – Die gute Nacht, die ich dir sage – was not included in the cycle; it concludes this disc, however, following Robert Schumann’s choral setting of the same poem. The finished cycle was not published by Kistner as Schumann had first envisaged, but by Breitkopf und Härtel in two books. He took care however that the work was engraved in time to surprise his wife on her 22nd birthday, 13 September 1841. The work was given two separate opus numbers: it was Robert’s Op 37, and Clara’s Op 12.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2000
extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 2010
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris
aus dem Begleittext von Graham Johnson © 2010
Deutsch: Henning Weber
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