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Zwölf Gedichte von Justinus Kerner, Op 35

20-25 November & 6-29 December 1840
author of text

This has been, until fairly recently, the least known of all the great Schumann song cycles. Two of the songs (Erstes Grün and Wanderlied) are included in the first volume of the Peters Edition while the remaining ten are to be found in Volume Two. This has hardly encouraged performers over the years to consider the work as a whole; indeed, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recently stated that one of the things that had made him most proud in his earlier career was that he had ‘rescued’ this cycle and reminded audiences of a work that had been all but ignored as a totality. (Schumann called it a Liederreihe—literally a ‘row of Lieder’.) The fact that the songs are difficult to sing, and that the accompaniments are also demanding, has further counted against them. But there is another reason why any but the most determined singer might turn away from these songs and return to the more familiar Dichterliebe or Liederkreis: the music seems to weigh heavier on the soul than those earlier joyous and ardent expressions of a composer awaiting his bride. There is something darkly introspective about the Kerner cycle which makes it less than a perfect audience piece. It is an 1840 work certainly, and its musical excellence attests to its vintage; but it is the first cycle completed after the marriage, and so it is not surprising that we hear in these songs evidence of a fundamental change in the composer’s emotional and musical outlook.

There had been so much energy and fantasy invested in waiting for that moment of consummated hopes in September 1840 that it is impossible to imagine that any experience, no matter how blissful, could have lived up to what had been expected of it. The air of anticlimax in the Schumanns’ life together was inevitable. The long period of fighting for Clara’s hand had been exhausting and tense, and now that the composer had achieved his heart’s desire the focal point of all his breathless creative activity had receded and changed. Robert was perhaps a better lover at a distance than at close quarters—he was moody and self-centred, and Clara was perplexed by his periods of total withdrawal. Coded signs in the household book entered with scrupulous regularity inform our prying eyes that the couple enjoyed a good physical relationship, and often—the number of children born would be testament enough of this. But as any newly-wed soon finds out, the day-to-day business of marriage cannot be built on sexual compatibility alone. It was not long before the question of husband’s versus wife’s career raised its head, and it was something which would remain ever-present. Clara was a great pianist and a composer in her own right, and no matter how much she attempted to do her duty as a nineteenth-century housewife, she resented, even if mostly silently, that marriage had swept away a large part of her former professional life. Money was a constant worry, and the composer took his duties as a husband seriously. ‘It never mattered to me whether or not the public took an interest in me,’ Schumann wrote, ‘but with a wife and children all this changes. One must plan for the future, one wants to harbour the fruits of one’s labours—not the artistic rewards, but the material ones which lead to a better life.’

Song had been the natural means of expression in the courtship days. What could be a more romantic gesture than to roll up a piece of manuscript paper containing a wonderful love poem clothed in newly created music, and send it winging on its way to the beloved? On arrival it would be read and deeply understood in a way that outsiders could never fathom. The song was, in short, a telegram of love. Schumann was very good at writing these telegrams and it is our luck that in 1840, the great song year, he was able to compose so many masterpieces when his personal circumstances coincided so completely with the type of music that he felt inspired to write. After the marriage the Muse of Song was still in residence, but one senses a ménage à trois which was working less happily. Robert wrote that ‘the price Clara had to pay for my songs was frequent silence and inaccessibility on my part’. There was also a nagging feeling that songs alone were no longer adequate to establish the career and fame necessary for a married man. Schumann advised the composer Kossmaly: ‘Compose large works: symphonies, operas. It’s hard to reach the top with short pieces.’ The Kerner Lieder were written during an interregnum, before the desire to write symphonies had become paramount in the composer’s life, but after the euphoric period of his life when song had seemed the perfect means of expression.

It is hardly surprising that they seem to embody a melancholy sense of striving and introspection—‘sadness, loneliness, sacrifice and madness’ as Fischer-Dieskau puts it. Much of the music is veiled by a darker poignancy than the earlier songs, and the two or three powerfully manly outbursts of the Wanderbursch are more than counterbalanced by music which seems wounded and at a loss. Of course this is no hindrance to a deeply poetic atmosphere. On the contrary, the Kerner songs are pervaded by a unique sensibility that makes them closer to Schubert’s Winterreise than anything else Schumann composed. Fischer-Dieskau writes of ‘tense harmonies’ which ‘remind one of a face distorted by pain. Lonesome and from a distance the composer gazes upon a busy world’.

A word may seem apposite on the composer’s key-structure for the cycle. The original keys are the following: I E flat; II A flat ending in C; III beginning on F then into B flat; IV G minor/G major; V G minor; VI E flat major; VII B flat major; VIII E flat major; IX E flat major ending in G major; X C major; XI and XII A flat major. It seems obvious that the composer has taken considerable care to assemble an impressive musical construction in flat keys with one song following on from the other in a carefully arranged sequence. This makes it even more of a pity that, in organizing the range of the various songs, Schumann seems not to have envisaged the cycle for a single voice: he writes ‘preferably for tenor’ at the head of song II, and ‘Preferably for baritone’ at the head of song XI. Almost every singer has to transpose some of these songs, both demandingly low and high at times, to bring them into the range of a single voice; consistent transposition is also impossible, again placing certain songs out of the range of any single voice. It is customary for the baritone voice, as in this performance, to transpose some of the songs, but care has been taken to preserve as many as possible of the crucial key relationships between the numbers.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 1998

Dès le début de cette œuvre extraordinaire, nous sommes plongés dans le monde d’un poète sans nul autre pareil dans la littérature allemande—profondément humain, excentrique, névrosé, médecin et guérisseur, un visionnaire considéré comme fou par nombre de ses contemporains, mais quelqu’un qui était une immense personnalité et qui se moquait de ce que les autres pouvaient penser de lui. Schumann était d’habitude attiré par la poésie des poètes du nord de l’Allemagne—sur le plan des Souabes, il ignore Hölderlin et ne s’intéresse à Mörike et à Uhland que vers la fin de sa carrière—mais il fait une exception pour Kerner comme pour une âme sœur. Kerner a compté parmi les premiers Verts: il croyait dans le pouvoir curatif de la nature qu’il préférait aux manières sophistiquées de l’humanité arrogante. C’est en outre l’un des premiers psychiatres à avoir cru que l’affliction mentale pouvait se guérir par la compréhension, l’amour et la bonté (sa propre demeure était ouverte pour abriter des gens qui, sinon, auraient été consignés à l’asile) et il préfigure Carl Jung dans son mélange entre médecine et mysticisme. Ce recueil comporte des paroles narratives (Stirb’, Lieb’ und Freud’!) et aussi des lieder tout simples qui célèbrent la marche en plein air, mais un portrait fascinant de Kerner émerge qui le montre comme un bon père de famille très heureux (Lust der Sturmnacht), un guérisseur de la nature (Erstes Grün), l’un des premiers interprètes des rêves (Stille Tränen), un fervent adepte des séances de spiritisme et du surnaturel (Auf das Trinkglas) et, dans les deux derniers lieder du cycle, un prophète des dégâts causés à la santé et au bonheur par l’industrialisation massive qui gagne du terrain.

extrait des notes rédigées par Graham Johnson © 2010
Français: Marie-Stella Pâris

Schon zu Beginn dieses außergewöhnlichen Werks tauchen wir in die Welt eines Dichters ein, der in der deutschen Literatur nicht seinesgleichen hat: zutiefst human, ekzentrisch, besessen, ein Arzt und Heilkundiger, ein Visionär, der von zahlreichen Zeitgenossen für vollkommen verrückt gehalten wird, ein Mann mit enormer Persönlichkeit, dem vollkommen einerlei ist, was andere Leute von ihm denken. Normalerweise bevorzugt Schumann die norddeutschen Dichter, ignoriert Schwaben wie Hölderlin und beginnt sich erst gegen Ende seiner Laufbahn für Mörike und Uhland zu interessieren, doch bei Kerner macht er eine Ausnahme aufgrund einer Art Seelenverwandtschaft. Kerner war einer der ersten „Grünen“ und bevorzugte Naturheilkräfte anstelle der hoch entwickelten Methoden der arroganten Menschheit. Er war auch einer der ersten Psychiater und meinte, psychische Erkrankungen könnten durch Verständnis, Liebe und Güte behandelt werden. In seinem Heim waren stets Leute willkommen, die sonst in einem Asyl untergebracht worden wären, und mit seiner Kombination von Medizin und Mystik nimmt er Carl Jung voraus. Dieser Zyklus enthält erzählerische Dichtung (Stirb’, Lieb’ und Freud’!) und unkomplizierte Lieder zur Feier des Wanderns im Freien, doch auch ein faszinierendes Porträt von Kerner als ungemein glücklicher Familienvater (Lust der Sturmnacht), als Naturheiler (Erstes Grün), als früher Traumdeuter (Stille Tränen), als glühender Verfechter von Séancen und übernatürlichen Kräften und schließlich, in den beiden letzten Liedern des Zyklus, als Prophet der Schäden an Gesundheit und Glück durch die alles erdrückende Industrialisierung.

aus dem Begleittext von Graham Johnson © 2010
Deutsch: Henning Weber


Schumann, Kilpinen & Brahms: Nature's solace
Studio Master: SIGCD554Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
Schumann: Kerner Lieder & Liederkreis
Schumann: The Complete Songs
CDS44441/5010CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Schumann: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2 - Simon Keenlyside
CDJ33102Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
My Garden
CDA66937Archive Service


No 01: Lust der Sturmnacht  Wenn durch Berg und Tale draussen
Track 1 on CDH55011 [1'40]
Track 13 on CDJ33102 [1'42] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 11 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [1'42] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 1 on SIGCD554 [1'36] Download only
No 02: Stirb', Lieb' und Freud'!  Zu Augsburg steht ein hohes Haus
Track 2 on CDH55011 [5'47]
Track 14 on CDJ33102 [5'34] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 12 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [5'34] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 2 on SIGCD554 [5'54] Download only
No 03: Wanderlied  Wohlauf, noch getrunken den funkelnden Wein!
Track 3 on CDH55011 [3'10]
Track 15 on CDJ33102 [3'11] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 13 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [3'11] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 3 on SIGCD554 [3'09] Download only
No 04: Erstes Grün  Du junges Grün, du frisches Gras!
Track 4 on CDH55011 [2'22]
Track 5 on CDA66937 [2'18] Archive Service
Track 16 on CDJ33102 [2'10] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 14 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [2'10] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 4 on SIGCD554 [2'15] Download only
No 05: Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend  Wär' ich nie aus euch gegangen
Track 5 on CDH55011 [2'29]
Track 17 on CDJ33102 [2'29] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 15 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [2'29] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 5 on SIGCD554 [2'06] Download only
No 06: Auf das Trinkglas eines verstorbenen Freundes  Du herrlich Glas, nun stehst du leer
Track 6 on CDH55011 [4'24]
Track 18 on CDJ33102 [4'29] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 16 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [4'29] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 6 on SIGCD554 [3'43] Download only
No 07: Wanderung  Wohlauf und frisch gewandert
Track 7 on CDH55011 [1'24]
Track 19 on CDJ33102 [1'27] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 17 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [1'27] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 7 on SIGCD554 [1'22] Download only
No 08: Stille Liebe  Könnt' ich dich in Liedern preisen
Track 8 on CDH55011 [3'35]
Track 20 on CDJ33102 [3'08] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 18 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [3'08] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 8 on SIGCD554 [3'11] Download only
No 09: Frage  Wärst du nicht, heil'ger Abendschein!
Track 9 on CDH55011 [1'10]
Track 21 on CDJ33102 [1'14] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 19 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [1'14] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 9 on SIGCD554 [1'17] Download only
No 10: Stille Tränen  Du bist vom Schlaf erstanden
Track 10 on CDH55011 [3'30]
Track 22 on CDJ33102 [3'28] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 20 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [3'28] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 10 on SIGCD554 [3'21] Download only
No 11: Wer machte dich so krank?  Dass du so krank geworden
Track 11 on CDH55011 [2'02]
Track 23 on CDJ33102 [1'58] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 21 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [1'58] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 11 on SIGCD554 [2'07] Download only
No 12: Alte Laute  Hörst du den Vogel singen?
Track 12 on CDH55011 [2'22]
Track 24 on CDJ33102 [2'10] Archive Service; also available on CDS44441/50
Track 22 on CDS44441/50 CD5 [2'10] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)
Track 12 on SIGCD554 [2'27] Download only

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