10 Hours Gives Us (Almost) All of Schumann’s Songs

Back in 1988, it was listening to the lieder of Robert Schumann that satisfied Christian Gerhaher, then a philosophy pupil in Munich, to ask a pianist he knew from faculty, Gerold Huber, whether or not they would possibly begin taking part in some songs collectively.

Three a long time later, Gerhaher and Huber have lengthy since grow to be the best partnership in singing, and so they come full circle this month with the discharge of an 11-disc field set of Schumann on Sony. As its cowl declares, it comprises “All the Songs.”

“Gerold and I have worked on singing Schumann for 33 years,” Gerhaher, 52, mentioned in an interview. “He composed nearly 300 songs, but what is astonishing is that every song is amazing, a revelation of possibilities, of thoughts, of beauty. There is maybe only one song I don’t like so much.” (It’s “Der Handschuh.”)

Schumann has had an unsure presence within the artwork track repertoire. While cycles like “Dichterliebe” are touchstones, a lot of his output stays neglected. Gerhaher can cite solely two prior makes an attempt at something comparable to an entire set, neither of them as cohesive as his new launch.

The baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, among the many main lieder advocates of the 20th century, taped about half the songs within the 1970s. Graham Johnson, an accompanist with encyclopedic tastes, compiled a really full set on Hyperion from 1996 to 2009. But he cut up the songs amongst completely different vocalists.

That makes Gerhaher the primary singer to complete a whole survey of his personal (albeit with the assistance of colleagues in works written for the feminine voice or for teams). Huber is on the piano all through, and the aim is lastly to provide Schumann his due as a connoisseur of lyrics — based on Gerhaher, “one of the best-read composers that there has ever been.”

Gerhaher believes that Schumann took a much more literary strategy to songs than, say, Schubert — an strategy that was supposed “to make these poems even more complicated than they are.” He did this not simply in introducing tensions between textual content and music (and vocalist and pianist), but additionally by writing virtually completely in cycles, combining disparate poems into coherent units.

That has all the time been apparent with cycles just like the Eichendorff “Liederkreis” (Op. 39), or the “Kerner Lieder” (Op. 35). But it’s true, too, Gerhaher mentioned, of much less monumental groupings with innocuous titles like “Three Songs” (Op. 83) or “Six Songs” (Op. 107) — their texts (generally by the identical poet, generally drawn from completely different ones) freighted with deeper, usually darker which means when set collectively.

Gerhaher is the primary singer to complete a whole survey of his personal (albeit with the assistance of colleagues in works written for the feminine voice or for teams).Credit…Daniel Etter for The New York Times

“He doesn’t want to finish thinking about a poem,” Gerhaher mentioned. “By putting them into music and then combining them into cycles, he stretches the semantic nature of a poem, in order to create something very different and new. This is what I love.”

Schumann composed his songs in two spells. The first interval, from 1840, has been seen because the epitome of Romanticism. The second has been heard skeptically, if in any respect, however Gerhaher has more and more discovered it the richer. Schumann wrote these songs from 1849 to 1852, not lengthy earlier than he jumped into the Rhine in 1854 and died in a psychiatric asylum two years later. Like most of his later works, the late songs have been lesser to some ears, as antiquated prejudices about psychological well being have led to misunderstandings of their experimental tone.

Gerhaher dissents, citing the Violin Concerto and the “Ghost Variations” as additional proof that this view is incorrect. “Saying that the late Schumann was a sick Schumann, mentally and spiritually weak, is an assumption which is dangerous,” he mentioned. “The assumption that we understand something as being weak is always combined with the assumption that we understand something else very well. Both are wrong, I think.”

With that in thoughts, Gerhaher selected 5 late songs to introduce his new recording. Here are edited excerpts from his feedback.

‘Schneeglöckchen’ (Op. 96, No. 2)

In Op. 96, you’ve 5 songs. Two and 4 are very disturbing, about human sorrow. The third, within the center, is an August von Platen poem that explains that phrases can’t convey what they attempt to convey. These three describe humanity’s horrible scenario: being thrown into the world and never even having the ability to discuss to one another correctly.

There is one other “Schneeglöckchen” (“Snowdrops”) within the “Liederalbum für die Jügend” (Op. 79), the place it means one thing good, as a result of it’s an indication of the tip of winter. But the nameless poem Schumann units right here in Op. 96 is more durable to grasp. A voice involves a snowdrop and says, you need to depart, a storm is coming. But why? It’s the tip of winter; the flower has nothing to worry. The voice solutions that the snowdrop’s “Liverei” — its uniform — is white, with a inexperienced trim.

Why does it discuss a uniform? I regarded via some uniform books, and located an analogous one for a cavalry known as the Scheither Corps, half of the Hanover regiment within the Seven Years’ War. There was a battle at Moys, close to Görlitz, the place the corps was defeated by Austria. There was one snowdrop rider left damage, who couldn’t get residence. And within the poem the voice says you need to go residence. This is so disturbing, even when I can’t show the connection.

‘Himmel und Erde’ (Op. 96, No. 5)

This final track, “Heaven and Earth,” is a decision for the Op. 96 cycle. The first track is Goethe’s “Nachtlied”; it begins with the 2 nouns “Gipfel” (“hills”) and “Wipfel” (“treetops”). This final one, by Wilfried von der Neun, begins with the reverse, with “Wipfel” then “Gipfel.” You are confronted with these opposites, then you might be confronted with heaven, and also you see that these oppositions will not be necessary anymore; they arrive collectively. It jogs my memory of the medieval German thinker Nicholas von Kues, who wrote concerning the “coincidentia oppositorum” — the falling collectively of opposites.

‘An den Mond’ (Op. 95, No. 2)

At first you possibly can’t perceive this cycle in any respect. You see primary, “Die Tochter Jephtas” (“Jephthah’s Daughter”), and quantity three, “Dem Helden” (“To the Hero”). All three are Byron texts. What does it imply?

In 1847, Fanny Mendelssohn died, and Felix Mendelssohn shortly after, and Schumann wrote some Byron into his guide of poems. The first track is a memorial to Fanny. Jephthah’s daughter was this warrior and not using a identify; she fought for her father, the king, however she didn’t get a reputation. This was Fanny’s destiny: She was a composer, however she didn’t make a reputation as one. “To the Hero” is about Felix’s position in these years, particularly to Schumann: the luxurious hero of music.

In the center is “To the Moon.” It says, look, moon, you might be variety of a star, however you’re a chilly star, since you mirror heat gentle from the solar — you might be solely a reminiscence, unhappy, chilly, onerous reminiscence. This is how Schumann mixed the deaths of his two pals.

‘Die Blume der Ergebung’ (Op. 83, No. 2)

This cycle so summary. You have three songs, and so they symbolize 3 ways to set a poem. The first track, “Resignation,” is essentially the most superior and through-composed; the second is a different strophic track; the third, “Der Einsiedler” (“The Hermit”), is an ideal strophic track. In “The Flower of Resignation,” you’ve 5 strophes, and within the center of the third strophe, you see this phrase “Liebesschalen” (actually “love bowls”). This is the middle of the center strophe of these three songs, the creation of a 3rd particular person by a pair. It can’t be an ongoing error that Schumann had this maniacal tendency to conceive of combos.

“Requiem” (Op. 90, No. 7)

Op. 90 is possibly my favourite cycle general. There is a downward spiral. It’s very darkish, about accepting the self-importance of the world and the unhappiness of being alone. We begin with a framing track once more, the track of a blacksmith who helps Faust on his travels, naïvely unaware that Faust is seducing his spouse. In the center you’ve two track couples, that are examples of dropping religion in life. The fourth is a superb track about love vanishing and demise taking on.

Then Schumann added this “Requiem” as a requiem for the poet, Nikolaus Lenau, whom he thought was useless however in reality solely died across the day of the primary efficiency of these songs. You have these illusions of eternity, of endless life. It’s so full of feeling, a coming-together of spirituality and sensuality.