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An Anna II

First line:
Nicht im Tale der süssen Heimat
31 July 1828; first published in the supplement to the Gesamtausgabe in 1893
author of text

Schumann leaves out the third and final strophe of Kerner’s poem (which is Part 5 of the sequence entitled Episteln), but it would have been better if he had ignored the lyric entirely. As a piece of music the song is eloquently melodic; if one did not understand German it would sound acceptable if unexceptional – a juvenile Du bist wie eine Blume with some evidence that Schumann’s mature style is developing nicely. But it is the poem which makes a difference, and Schumann has bitten off more than he, and almost any other composer, could chew. Mortally wounded in the battlefield, the dying Andreas sends his last message of love to Anna. From the point of view of the poetry this plumbs a level of bathos not found elsewhere in Kerner’s work – the word ‘bleich’ is shamelessly over-used. It is no surprise that he cuts all the Episteln poems from his next publication. Musically Schumann does not have the ability to create a believable aria in these circumstances; he was certainly not to attempt anything like it again. Such a situation needs to be set up (as it certainly would have to be in an opera) and the lack of context is decisive.

If we have not read the complete Episteln, the listener has last caught sight of Andreas in An Anna I where he watches Anna’s window from the hilltop. Now we find him fatally wounded in a war of which we know nothing, and welcoming the pale messenger to take him ‘home’ – the halls of death in which Anna already resides. The juxtaposition of this chromatically sentimental musical style with the very word ‘Schlachtfeld’ merely sounds silly, as if Roger Quilter were attempting to set the harrowing First World War poems of Wilfred Owen. Of course there are Victorian ballads which attempt this sort of tear-jerking, but if they are not risible they somehow survive within their own limited emotional world. But this is Schumann, we expect more of him.

One can only speculate that this song was written to celebrate (if that is the right word) the death of his passion for Agnes Carus, a musical means of bidding her farewell. In listening to this music we can almost hear the young composer’s enthusiasm for the medium draining away. This has resulted in a certain slap-dash attitude; the interlude between the first and second verses contains perhaps the least convincing (and laziest) modulation that he was ever to write. These awkward bars did not survive the song’s new incarnation as the second movement of the Piano Sonata in F sharp minor Op 11 (1833 -1835). This movement is subtitled ‘Aria’ and marked ‘senza passione, ma espressivo’. The song is in F major (more than high enough for a tenor) but the piano piece is transposed into A major with radiant results – instrumental music capable of surmounting its curious vocal origins.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2003


Schumann: The Complete Songs
CDS44441/5010CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Schumann: The Complete Songs, Vol. 8 - Christopher Maltman, Jonathan Lemalu & Mark Padmore
CDJ33108Last few CD copies remaining


Track 8 on CDJ33108 [2'37] Last few CD copies remaining
Track 9 on CDS44441/50 CD1 [2'37] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

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