Six Nikolaus Lenau Poems and Requiem Op.90

Composer: Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
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Composer: Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)

Performance date: 04/07/2012

Venue: St. Brendan’s Church

Composition Year: 1850

Duration: 00:17:37

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: S-solo, pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Julius Drake - [piano]
Ruby Hughes - [mezzo-soprano]

There are many stories of life imitating art but this
cycle of songs has a particularly unfortunate ending. When Schumann returned in
early July from the not very successful Leipzig
premiere of his opera Genoveva, he
heard that the poet Nikolaus Lenau had died. So he set six of his poems and
added a Requiem to mourn the poet. However it turned out Lenau, who had been
locked up in an asylum for 6 years, was still alive. Nonetheless the music was
written and must perforce be performed, then on the very day, news came that
the poet had just died, the kind of melancholic coincidence that would upset
Schumann’s ultra-sensitive disposition. After this Schumann went out of his way
to ensure the publication of the songs was treated with especial care so it
could be a suitable monument to the poet.


This haunting cycle that begins so simply with a
blacksmith’s song culminates in Héloïse’s Lament on the death of Abelard. The
anonymous translation of the famous Latin text is not well done but its sentiment
is undeniably sincere and Schumann’s music reflects this. As Graham Johnson
points out in his incomparable notes, Schumann may have been mourning the
golden days of the great love of Robert and Clara just as Héloïse was mourning
the memory of her tragic love for Abelard, the great lover and philosopher who
ended his days stripped of his manhood and vilified by the church.


The opening forging song is from Lenau’s version of Faust. The piano hammers away smithy
style and the singer is given a simple and catchy tune. Meine Rose is the best-known song in this cycle with its beautiful,
flowing melody exploring the symbolic imagery of the rose and the reviving
water drawn from the dunklem, tiefen
The miniature Kommen und
catches to perfection the terrible wrench of parting from a lover.
Die Sennin comes from the long
tradition of romanticised Alpine songs where the mountain girl minds her herd
singing her glorious, bright, echoing song, to be remembered forever by the grauen Felsenzinnen – poet, composer and
singer all seeking immortality in their song. Einsamkeit shows Schumann’s genius for creating in three brief
minutes an entire world, the deserted lover, the silent wood, the unceasing
lament that seeks der Geist der Liebe, a
single moment of soaring perfection followed a moment later by the return to
hopelessness. The final song, Der schwere
revisits a dark dream of lost and anguished love from Dichterliebe, the final terrible line a
fitting prelude to the subject if not the mood of Requiem. For this great setting of Héloïse’s Lament is more a celebration than a mourning, with a
great and stirring climax and even, at seligem
a hint of Schumann’s wonderful creation the Davidsbund, the league of David, who forever fight against the