Robert Schumann was born in Zwickau, Saxony on June 8th, 1810. From age 7, he studied piano and composition. However, due to a worsening weakness in his right hand, he gave up piano and focused on composition and music criticism. In 1840 he married concert pianist Clara Wieck and had eight children. Two years before his death, he attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge and was committed to an asylum. He died in 1856.
Dichterliebe is a song cycle written in 1840, before Robert’s marriage to Clara, based on a text by Heinrich Heine. It describes the emotions of a poet who falls in love and is rejected, then finally comes to terms with his pain. Throughout, the piano and voice are equally important, at times the piano finishing a thought that the words were insufficient to express.
In Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, the poet has fallen in love during the month of May. The music is harmonically vague showing both the beautiful summer day and the poet’s love.
In Aus meinen Tränen sprießen, the poet expounds on how his life and emotions have changed because of his love. Sorrow is turned to joy, represented by the double metaphor of tears becoming flowers and sighs becoming bird songs.
In Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne, the poet states that his previous ideals of beauty have been surpassed by his beloved and are only shadows of her.
In Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’, the poet describes the emotional whirlwind of love.
In Ich will meine Seele tauchen, the poet reminisces about a kiss which he describes as a “wonderfully sweet hour.”
In Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome, the music starts slowly and stately as the poet describes a cathedral and setting on the Rhein river. However, it gets softer and more delicate as he focuses on a statue which he describes as the sculpted ideal of his beloved.
In Ich grolle nicht, the poet has been rejected by his beloved. He describes her heart as being filled with darkness and gnawed by a serpent but insists that he “bear[s] no grudge.”
In Und wüßten’s die Blumen, die kleinen, the poet is expressing his pain amidst a world which continues on regardless.
In Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen, the poet is at a wedding dance when he realizes to his horror that the bride is his beloved. The music is in triple meter giving the strong impression of a dance.
In Hör’ ich das Liedchen klingen, the music and text focus deeply on the pain of the rejected poet. The music is slow and introspective, and the piano completes the piece giving expression to emotions that could not be expressed lyrically.
In Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen, the song takes an ironic turn claiming that the cycle of love and rejection has simply repeated again.
In Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen, the pain of loss returns still deeply expressed through a lyrical melody. The accompaniment is slow and delicate.
In Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet, there is a continuation of the idea from the previous song. It is sparsely accompanied; the vocal line taking the majority of the song. The poet laments even in his dreams.
In Allnächtlich im Traume seh’ ich dich, the music is happy as the poet dreams that his beloved has returned to him. But he wakes up, and she is gone.
In Aus alten Märchen, the poet describes a happy, fairy tale land which he attempts to enter only to have it vanish in mist as he wakes up.
In Die alten, bösen Lieder, the song takes on a funereal air as the poet states that he will put all of his sorrow and love into a giant coffin and sink it into the heart of the sea.
Daverio, J., & Sams, E. (n.d.). Schumann, Robert. Retrieved September 22, 2010, from Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online: http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/40704
Grout, D. J. (2010). A History of Western Music, 8th Edition. New York: W. W. Norton and Company.