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Fünf Lieder Op 40 (Five songs to words by Hans Andersen and Adalbert von Chamisso)

Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)

Julius Drake (photo credit: Sim Canetty Clarke)

Julius Drake (photo credit: Sim Canetty Clarke)

Composer
Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
Composition Year
1840
Work Movements
1.Märzveilchen
2.Muttertraum
3.Der Soldat
4.Der Spielmann
5.Verratene Liebe
Artists
Julius Drake [piano], Ruby Hughes [mezzo-soprano]

Programme Note Writer:
© Ian Fox

The year 1840 was an extraordinary one for Robert Schumann, even by his busy standards at the time. He finally married Clara despite her father’s machinations and he composed over 120 songs, including some of his greatest song-cycles. Adalbert von Chamisso [1781-1838] was a French viscount who fled the country in 1789 and settled in Prussia. A noted lyric poet in his day, his verse is now best remembered through Schumann’s songs, but he was also a noted botanist, travelling extensively, and in his later years became curator of the botanical gardens in Berlin. He translated Hans Andersen’s poems into German and Schumann took four of them plus, as the final song, another Chamisso translation from an anonymous Greek collection for this set.  They were performed in private at first and Andersen, who was a frequent visitor to Germany, heard them at the Schumann’s house in Leipzig in 1844 and was highly impressed. The first public performance took place on December 5th in 1868 in Vienna, with Gustav Walter accompanied by Clara Schumann. All five songs are superb and it is difficult to understand why they have not remained in the repertory, particularly the third and fourth, both clearly masterpieces.

The first song Märzveilchen is a happy little tale told in a charmingly folksy manner. It is followed by Muttertraum which employs a long, single-note Bach-like accompaniment; it starts like a cradle song but there is a sting in the end with some creepy phrases while the postlude maintains the “Bach” line as it fades away darkly. Der Soldat is a dramatic tale with Schumann providing a marvellous musical picture of the anguished soldier who is part of a firing squad about to execute a close friend. The final slow piano chords create an eerie stillness.  Der Spielmann depicts an unfortunate wedding, this was before Schumann won the right to marry Clara and the pain in the music may reflect his own worries. The final song Verratene Liebe is a delightful tale with suitably whimsical music, a fine ending to this splendid if neglected collection.

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Fünf Lieder Op 40 (Five songs to words by Hans Andersen and Adalbert von Chamisso)

Composer: Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
Performance date: Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Venue: St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland

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Composer Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
Work Title Fünf Lieder Op 40 (Five songs to words by Hans Andersen and Adalbert von Chamisso)
Composition Year 1840
Work Movements 1.Märzveilchen
2.Muttertraum
3.Der Soldat
4.Der Spielmann
5.Verratene Liebe
Artist(s) Julius Drake [piano], Ruby Hughes [mezzo-soprano]
Performance Date Tuesday 2nd July 2013
Performance Venue St. Brendan's Church, Bantry, Co Cork, Ireland
Event Stars in the Afternoon
Duration 00:10:45
Recording Engineer Damian Chennells, RTÉ lyric fm
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation S-solo, pf
Programme Note Writer © Ian Fox

The year 1840 was an extraordinary one for Robert Schumann, even by his busy standards at the time. He finally married Clara despite her father’s machinations and he composed over 120 songs, including some of his greatest song-cycles. Adalbert von Chamisso [1781-1838] was a French viscount who fled the country in 1789 and settled in Prussia. A noted lyric poet in his day, his verse is now best remembered through Schumann’s songs, but he was also a noted botanist, travelling extensively, and in his later years became curator of the botanical gardens in Berlin. He translated Hans Andersen’s poems into German and Schumann took four of them plus, as the final song, another Chamisso translation from an anonymous Greek collection for this set.  They were performed in private at first and Andersen, who was a frequent visitor to Germany, heard them at the Schumann’s house in Leipzig in 1844 and was highly impressed. The first public performance took place on December 5th in 1868 in Vienna, with Gustav Walter accompanied by Clara Schumann. All five songs are superb and it is difficult to understand why they have not remained in the repertory, particularly the third and fourth, both clearly masterpieces.

The first song Märzveilchen is a happy little tale told in a charmingly folksy manner. It is followed by Muttertraum which employs a long, single-note Bach-like accompaniment; it starts like a cradle song but there is a sting in the end with some creepy phrases while the postlude maintains the “Bach” line as it fades away darkly. Der Soldat is a dramatic tale with Schumann providing a marvellous musical picture of the anguished soldier who is part of a firing squad about to execute a close friend. The final slow piano chords create an eerie stillness.  Der Spielmann depicts an unfortunate wedding, this was before Schumann won the right to marry Clara and the pain in the music may reflect his own worries. The final song Verratene Liebe is a delightful tale with suitably whimsical music, a fine ending to this splendid if neglected collection.