About this Recording
8.557074 - SCHUMANN, R.: Lied Edition, Vol. 1 - 12 Gedichte aus "Liebesfruhling", Op. 37 / Lieder und Gesange aus Goethes Wilhelm Meister, Op. 98a / Minnespiel
English  German 

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)
Liebesfrühling • Minnespiel • Wilhelm Meister Lieder

The poet Friedrich Rückert wrote his Liebesfrühling (Love’s Springtime) in 1821, when he himself was courting his future wife, Luise Wiethaus-Fischer. The complete collection of poems was first published in the Collected Poems of 1834, where the poet put them in five separate ‘garlands’, which, in a later, posthumous edition were increased to six in number.

From this most successful cycle of love poems of the Biedermeier period Robert Schumann had already set Du meine Seele, du mein Herz (Thou my soul, thou my heart) in 1840, publishing it in the collection Myrthen, Op. 25 under the title Widmung (Dedication), a wedding present for his bride Clara. A little later, in 1841, followed the setting of Twelve Poems from Rückert’s “Liebesfrühling”, partly composed by his wife Clara and partly by Robert Schumann himself, an artistic confirmation of a partnership still not overshadowed by sorrows and disagreements.

For Christmas 1840 Clara had placed on the Christmas gift-table for her husband some songs she herself had written, and this inspired Robert Schumann to this project: ‘The idea of producing together with Clara a book of songs inspired me to this work. From Monday to Monday nine songs from Rückert’s Liebesfrühling were written, in which I think again I have found a special voice’, one reads for the week from 3rd to 10th January 1841 in the Marriage Diary kept alternately between the two.

Immediately preceding the Spring Symphony, the six solo songs which Schumann contributed to Liebesfrühling include three duets. These come in the middle with No. 6 Liebste, was kann denn uns scheiden (Beloved, what can part us then?) and No. 7 Schön ist das Fest des Lenzes (Fair is the feast of spring), and at the end of the cycle comes No. 12 So wahr die Sonne (So true shines the sun). However, in lay-out, No. 6 is not a true duet, as the second voice is limited to a few parallels with the upper part at the interval of a third. In the present recording this is balanced so that the verses are heard from the singers in alternation.

To his diary entry Schumann added: ‘Clara must now compose settings for some of the Liebesfrühling. O do it, little Clara!’ She was hampered by the start of pregnancy and also prevented through Robert’s eagerness for his own compositions, but first fulfilled this wish for Schumann’s birthday in June 1841: ‘I have this week sat down to compose a great deal and have set four poems by Rückert for my dear Robert’, we read in the Marriage Diary. Three of these songs, Warum willst Du And’re fragen (Why will you ask others), Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen (He has come in storm and rain) and Liebst Du um Schönheit (If you love for beauty) were published in autumn 1841, together with Robert’s nine songs and duets, by Breitkopf und Härtel.

In a letter to the publisher Robert Schumann stressed that his contribution to the work was ‘mostly light and simple’. This applies particularly to the second song, O ihr Herren (O you lords) and the strophic sixth, Liebste, was kann denn uns scheiden. No. 5, Ich hab in mich gesogen (I have drunk in) is ingenious with its polyphonic accompaniment that repeats an ostinato figure of wideranging harmony, and the tripartite No. 8, Flügel! Flügel! (Wings! Wings!), with its slower central section.

Robert and Clara Schumann were delighted that Friedrich Rückert, to whom they had sent a copy of their settings, replied to the gift with an ingenious ghazal:


Long it is, long
Since my love’s springtime song
At the urge of my heart
As it sprang,
The music died away in solitude.

It was at twenty years
I heard here and there
From the flock of birds
One that clearly
Piped a tune, that was from there.

And now even
Comes in the twenty-first year
A pair of birds,
First makes clear to me
That not a note was lost.

My songs
You sing again,
My feelings you sound again,
My emotions
You bring to life again,
My spring
You bring back again,
Me, how fair,
You make young again:

Take my thanks,
Since the world too,
As with me once,
Witholds it from you!

And may you win thanks
As I have achieved with mine.

With his Minnespiel, Op. 101, (Love’s Game), Schumann returned years later to Rückert’s Liebesfrühling, a reminiscence of 1840/1841, but also the continuation of an idea that he had first tried out in his Spanisches Liederspiel, Op. 74. As there, separate numbers in alternating setting for one or more voices form a loose sequence that yet has no connection with the Singspiel concept going back to Carl Friedrich Zelter of the Liederspiel with a continuing plot.

Much in Op. 101 points back clearly still to the ecstatic cadences of the compositions of the Year of Song, 1839- 1840, when Schumann had been seized by a truly creative burst of enthusiasm. This is heard in the tenor Meine Töne still und heiter (My music quiet and cheerful), that is to be imagined as a serenade by the window of the beloved and from the initial four-crotchet metre which finds its way to a spirited 6/8. Liebster, deine Worte stehlen (Beloved, your words steal), starts in recitative style, with which the soprano answers the tenor’s wooing, before a syncopated figure leads forward to the song proper. To the climax of the cycle surely belongs Mein schöner Stern! (My fair star), where the ecstasy of the singer is bound into a thoroughly ingenious, wide-layered polyphonic lay-out of the whole song with solemn bass accents. Melancholy permeates, in contrast, O Freund, mein Schirm, mein Schutz (O friend, my shield, my shelter). In this song the rhythmically rigid accompaniment is marked by many chromatic turns: the setting seems rather to represent the torments of the quest than the finding of this shelter.

Typical of the songs of Schumann’s later period, like Minnespiel, are the Wilhelm Meister settings, Op. 98a of 1849, expanded to the dimensions of an oratorio in Requiem for Mignon, Op. 98b. In the arrangement of the nine numbers of Op. 98a, Schumann preferred changes in the order of the lyrical interpolations in Goethe’s novel. Mignon’s songs were brought further forward to create a contrast with the songs of the harper. Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Only he who knows longing), originally in Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre indicated as an ‘irregular duet’, is, following Goethe’s later version, also given by Schumann to Mignon alone.

It is not by chance that the title of Schumann’s work is given as Lieder und Gesänge. The Wilhelm Meister settings display a substantially new treatment of the voice part, in contrast to the compositions of the Year of Song. The Lieder element, in the narrower sense of the word is only slight, and much in Op. 98 has come in from Schumann’s intervening experiences with the composition of oratorio and opera, elements of drama, recitative and declamation. This may be connected with a plan Schumann had already conceived in February 1844, to make an operatic libretto from Wilhelm Meister, as emerges from a note in his diary.

For the gloomy songs of the harper, in which the burden of former guilt is expressed, Schumann finds exceptionally expressive music with theatrical outbursts, excited octave leaps and unvocal diminished intervals. The accusation ‘Ihr führt ins Leben uns hinein’ (You lead us into life) in No. 4 is suddenly hurled out, before the song ends over heavy piano chords in the manner of a recitative, and Mignon’s Heiß mich nicht reden (Tell me not to speak) is also influenced by this dramatic lay-out. The setting forms a sequence of recitative and arioso, and the eloquent piano gestures before the concluding Schumann repetition of the opening words sound exactly like a Leitmotiv from Wagner’s Ring.

Lieder technique marks the harper’s An die Türen will ich schleichen (To the doors will I creep), No. 8, with its motivically uniform piano accompaniment, and the first of the group, Kennst du das Land, that had already formed the conclusion of the Lieder Album for the Young, Op. 79, and taken from there by Schumann, is in strophic form. This song is not given again here, but is included with the complete recording of Op. 79. Unlike many other setters of Goethe Schumann also took into consideration Philine’s song Singet nicht in Trauertönen (Sing not in tones of mourning), with the omission of one verse. With its soubrettish simplicity it forms an effective contrast with the dark songs of the harper and Mignon, so full of longing, and follows completely Goethe’s specification of a ‘little song with a very graceful and pleasing melody’.

Gerhard Dietel
English version by Keith Anderson


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