It was not until 1840 that, after a courtship strewn with difficulties, Robert Schumann was able to marry his beloved Clara Wieck. This was his ‘Year of Song’, and Joseph von Eichendorff’s melancholy poems of fearful wanderings, images of nature and lonely nights were the perfect vehicle for Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 39, which he described as his most romantic cycle.
Also from the same ‘Year of Song’, Schumann’s Drei Gedichte, Op. 30 conjure memories of medieval times. The narrative ballad Die Löwenbraut tells of a disturbingly violent love triangle, while the Sechs Gedichte, Op. 36 evoke an idealised, fairy-tale image of Germany. This is the seventh disc in the Naxos series of the complete Schumann Lieder.
Listen to an excerpt of Liederkreis, Op. 39
About Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 39
In his earlier years Schumann had written a quantity of piano music, a reflection of his current musical preoccupations and, at first, his ambitions as a pianist. It was in 1840, his engagement with Clara on the verge of realisation, that he turned in particular to the composition of songs in a period that has become known as his ‘Year of Song’, the time in which he became most prolific in the form.
Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 39, consists of twelve settings of poems by Joseph von Eichendorff, a cycle that Schumann described as his most romantic, enclosing much of Clara within it. The texts are treated with some freedom. Born at Schloss Lubowitz, near Ratibor in Silesia, in 1788, Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff enjoyed a varied career, with military service as a volunteer in the War of Liberation against Napoleon and appointments to various positions in government service until his retirement in 1844. Eichendorff was prolific as a writer, virtually throughout his life, with various studies of the history of literature and poems that combined his love of the countryside with the strong religious principles inherent in his Catholic family background. Schumann met him on various occasions in 1847, when he expressed his pleasure in Schumann’s settings of his poems, although the connection seems to have stopped there.
The Eichendorff Liederkreis, a set of songs imbued with melancholy, opens with In der Fremde (In a Foreign Land) , with its image of the traveller returning to his former home, soon to be forgotten there for ever. The second song, Intermezzo , is of love in absence, while the dramatic Waldesgespräch (Conversation in the Wood) , a poem taken from Eichendorff’s novel Ahnung und Gegenwart (Premonition and Present Time), brings romantic imagery in the lonely rider in the wood at night and the voice of the witch, Lorelei. Die Stille (Silence) , the poem drawn from the same source, treads gently, to be followed by the meditative Mondnacht (Moonlit Night) . Schöne Fremde (Beautiful Foreign Land) , the poem taken from Eichendorff’s novel Dichter und ihre Gesellen (Poet and His Companions), brings further romantic imagery of the forest and the night, a song, as always followed by Schumann’s postlude, whether in confirmation or contradiction of what has gone before. Auf einer Burg (In a Castle)  brings the picture of an ancient building, overlooking the Rhine, which brings its own final touch of drama. The title In der Fremde (In a Foreigh Land)  is used again for the eighth song, with its little stream running throughout, accompanying a song of final sorrow. Wehmut (Sadness)  sings of the sadness of things and Zwielicht (Twilight)  brings feelings of dread as the light fades. Im Walde (In the Wood)  brings deftly nuanced contrast between the opening and the setting of the final words, and the cycle ends with the optimism of Frühlingsnacht (Spring Night) .
About the Artists
In 2011 Thomas E. Bauer received five awards for recordings: the Orphée d’Or de l’Académie du Disque Lyrique and La Musica Korea prize for Die Winterreise, the Stanley Sadie Handel prize and the Gramophone Baroque Vocal Award award for Handel’s Apollo e Dafne, and the Echo Klassik Award for Elijah. He appears with such ensembles as the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Bernard Haitink), National Symphony in Washington, DC (Iván Fischer), Concentus Musicus (Nikolaus Harnoncourt), Gürzenich-Orchester, Köln (Markus Stenz), Netherlands Radio Chamber Philharmonic, Hilversum (Masaaki Suzuki), Orchester der Oper, Zürich (Adam Fischer), NDR Sinfonieorchester, Hamburg (Thomas Hengelbrock), New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra (Naoto Otomo), Orquesta Sinfónica de RTVE, Madrid (Walter Weller), Tonhalle-Orchester, Zürich (Sir Roger Norrington), Anima Eterna (Jos van Immerseel), Akademie für Alte Musik (René Jacobs), Residentie Orkest (Jan Willem de Vriend), Concertgebouw Orkest, Amsterdam (Philippe Herreweghe) and the Gewandhausorchester, Leipzig (Riccardo Chailly and Sir John Eliot Gardiner). He made his début at the Salzburg Festival in 2006 in Salvatore Sciarrino’s Quaderno di strada. In addition, he has sung in numerous world premières and received the Schneider-Schott Music Award for his outstanding achievements in contemporary music.
Born in Tokyo, the pianist Uta Hielscher has lived since 1988 in Munich, where, in the same year, she won the Jugend Musiziert prize. After the completion of her studies at the Munich Hochschule under teachers including Michael Schäfer, Helmut Deutsch and Siegfried Mauser, she was a prize-winner and scholarship recipient of the German Music Competition, and of the Aoyama Music Foundation in Kyoto, chosen as regional young concert artist of 1998/99, and a winner in the International Chamber Music Competition in Pavia (1999). She has played in important concert series, including the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, the Toblach Mahler Festival, the Académies Musicales Saintes, the Schwarzenberg Schubertiade, the Schwetzinger Festival, and Chicago Vocal Journeys, and has won praise for her collaborative interpretations as an accompanist.
In 1840, a proverbial Year of Song for a composer who had last written romantic songs when at school, Schumann was galvanised by his love for Clara Wieck and the prospect of his forthcoming marriage, to pour out almost 140 of his finest Lieder. The first disc in this new Naxos series of the complete Schumann Lieder features two of the most popular cycles, Dichterliebe (Poet’s Love), completed in just one week at the end of May, and Liederkreis (Song Cycle). Inspired by the poetry of unrequited love in Heine’s Buch der Lieder, these settings are notable for their romantic sensibility and ironic sophistication.
This second disc in the Naxos complete Schumann Lieder series features Twelve Poems from Rückert’s Liebesfrühling (Love’s Springtime), one of the most successful cycles of German love poems of the 19th century. Composed jointly by Robert and his wife during 1840 and 1841, the settings met with the rapturous approval of Friedrich Rückert himself. The much later Minnespiel (Love’s Game) and Wilhelm Meister settings display a substantially new treatment of the voice part, making greater use of recitative, declamation and chromaticism.
In 1840, a proverbial Year of Song for a composer who had last written romantic songs when at school, Schumann was galvanised by his love for Clara Wieck and the prospect of his forthcoming marriage, to pour out almost 140 of his finest Lieder. This, the third disc in a series of the complete Schumann Lieder, features his Album of Songs for the Young, described by the composer as settings of ‘poems suitable for children and of course only from the best poets’. Both musically and poetically, the cycle gradually increases in maturity and technical difficulty. It is coupled here with his Opus 27, in which Lieder with the themes of nature and love predominate.
This fourth disc in the Naxos series of the complete Schumann Lieder focuses on settings of poems by Justinus Kerner, whose almost folk-song-like lyrics first captured Schumann’s imagination as early as 1828 in the five Jugend-Lieder. Schumann returned to the poems of Kerner in his ‘Year of Song’ (1839/40) with his Zwölf Lieder, Op. 35, of which Clara Schumann wrote in her diary: ‘He understands the texts so beautifully, more deeply than any other composer I know; none has his sensitivity’. The Op. 127 and 142 cycles, also from 1839/40, include settings of texts by Heine and Shakespeare, of which the most remarkable is Mein Wagen rollet langsam. Here the novel accompanying figure, as it alternates between stopping and starting, suggests an irregular jolting forward movement.
This fifth disc in the Naxos series of the complete Schumann Lieder features one of the key works of the entire 19th century song repertoire, Frauenliebe und –leben (A Woman’s Love and Life). Written during the summer of 1840, at a time when Schumann and his wife-to-be Clara Wieck were fighting her father in court over their right to marry, these bitter-sweet, passionate yet intimate settings embody a nineteenth-century patriarchal conception of love and marriage, when a woman was expected to be submissive and deferential. For all the sexist overtones, however, the sincerity of feeling expressed in these songs is never in doubt and Frauenliebe und -leben continue to be among Schumann’s most popular works.
Robert Schumann’s literary interests influenced his choice of the poems he used for his songs, many of which were composed in a burst of activity during the ‘Year of Song’ 1840. This sixth disc in the Naxos series of the complete Schumann Lieder features the 26 songs of Myrthen (Myrtles), which date from February of that year. Dedicated to his beloved Clara (myrtles were used for bridal wreaths), this album of exquisite songs explores themes of devotion, longing, loneliness, matrimony and maternity. His Six Poems and Requiem of August 1850 set mournful texts by Lenau, concluding with an anonymous Medieval poem ‘Héloïse's lament for Abelard’.