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ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUMANN, C.: Songs (Complete) (Craxton, Djeddikar)
Clara Schumann the composer often worked in her husband’s shadow, many of her songs being mistaken for his, although those best loved by the public flowed from her pen. Some were composed and performed before their marriage, others set texts which he had suggested. “There is really nothing better than composing for oneself”, Clara notes in her diary in 1853, yet after Robert’s death three years later she composed no more, making these, the fruits of mutual love, all the more precious.
By David Denton
It was her father’s young piano student, Robert Schumann, that turned Clara Wieck’s life upside down, his presence in their household bringing love and turmoil in almost equal quantities. As a child prodigy Clara had made her first public appearance aged nine, and three years later was touring as a major concert artist, while at the same time continuing her piano, singing, violin and composition studies. As his piano student her father had allowed Schumann, nine years older than his daughter, to live with the Wiecks. The two youngsters fell in love and after a bitter legal battle, in which Friedrich Wieck vehemently opposed the marriage to his teenage daughter, the law intervened to allow the marriage. Though Robert wished to be seen to encourage her continued concert and composing career, in reality it was a position made almost impossible by having 8 children in 14 years. Yet she managed to write a few piano pieces and the songs that are contained on this disc. They show a very gifted person who in this genre could have rivalled her husband. Strangely after his death in 1856 she wrote no more, but returned to the concert stage, touring extensively almost until her death in 1896. The major works came in two groups gathered as Six Lieder opus 13 and opus 23, though her most famous pieces were the four to Ruckert poems, three of which Robert published with his own to form the Twelve Ruckert Songs. Thirteen unrelated songs complete the disc, the texts speaking of love and the sadness that love can often engender, each one showing Clara’s ready gift of creating attractive melody. Certainly Geheimes Flustern (Soft whispers) from 1854 and to words by Hermann Rollett, is one of the most gorgeous songs of that era. Always kind to the voice in the range and lyric flow, Clara’s piano background is evident in the beautifully crafted accompaniments. I came to know many of them some years ago in a mixed recital disc from Barbara Bonney and Vladimir Ashkenazy that is still unsurpassed. They are here performed by the German soprano, Dorothea Craxton, best known as the founder of the Immortal-Bach-Ensemble and a champion of music by women composers. She is partnered by Hedayet Djeddikar playing Clara Schumann’s magnificent fortepiano.
Clara Schumann (1819–1896)
“Write a song!” wrote Robert Schumann to Clara Wieck on 13 March, 1840, shortly after he himself had enthusiastically switched from composing piano pieces to song composition. Clara Wieck published her first piano composition when she was twelve years old. In the same year, 1831, Robert Schumann also published his Opus 1. By 1840 she had composed nearly a dozen works, including a large concerto for piano and orchestra. She played her first piano concert in the Gewandhaus in Leipzig when she was just nine years old. In the 1830s she gave about eighteen concerts a year, mostly on tours organized by her father, the instrument-dealer and piano teacher Friedrich Wieck. Even between the years 1830 and 1832 some of Clara’s own song compositions were included in the programmes of some of the concerts. Singers such as Agnes Schebest and Henriette Grabau, who would later become famous, were sometimes featured on these occasions. Sometimes her compositions were simply described as “song by Clara Wieck”. In one case, however, two titles were given: Alte Heimat (Old Homeland) and Der Wanderer (The Wayfarer).
Clara Schumann did not publish any of these songs, but two do appear to have survived. In 1832 she gave her composition teacher Heinrich Dorn a page from an album with the first eleven bars of a setting of Justinus Kerner’s Der Wanderer in der Sägemühle (The Wayfarer in the Sawmill). This page can be found today in the Robert-Schumann-Haus in Zwickau. Clara’s half sister Marie Wieck published this song in 1875; she had found the work among her father’s unpublished works and assumed the song was by him. The same publication from 1875 contains a setting of another poem by Kerner, The Wayfarer, also listed as the work of Friedrich Wieck. Marie Wieck was probably wrong about the identity of the composer of this piece as well. It is probably the composition Clara Wieck performed in 1831.
A last song, Walzer, composed by Clara Wieck in her childhood was created to celebrate a publication by Johann Peter Lyser, a painter and writer from Leipzig. She provided Lyser’s text—Horch, welch ein süßes harmonisches Klingen (Hark, what a sweet, harmonious sound)—with a spirited waltz that would also be effective as a pure piano piece.
It was not until her wedding to Robert Schumann on 12 September 1840, that Clara Schumann responded to his request that she begin writing songs again. She presented him with three—Am Strande (a German version of Musing on the Roaring Ocean by Robert Burns), Ihr Bildnis (Her Likeness) and Volkslied (Folksong)—at their first Christmas together in 1840. Robert Schumann had already suggested the text of the first song in October of that year. In the title of the dedication, which can also be seen in the Robert-Schumann-Haus, Clara notes “in deepest modesty dedicated to her most fervently beloved Robert at Christmas 1840 from his Clara”. Robert writes exhilaratingly in their shared marriage diary, “…how the clarity of my heart brings me such delight with this present. Notably three songs pleased me, where she rhapsodizes like a young girl and, moreover, as a much clearer musician than before. We have had the pleasant idea to weave them together with some of mine and to have them printed. That would be quite a truly love-inspired book.” Schumann printed the song from Burns in his Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Magazine for Music). As for the other two Heine songs, Clara later published only Ihr Bildnis (Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen / I stood in dark dreams) in 1844 as Op.13/1. The expressive Volkslied (Es fiel ein Reif in der Frühlingsnacht / There fell a frost in the spring night) remained unpublished. Ihr Bildnis, along with a second Heine song from 1842, Sie liebten sich beide (They were both in love), was heavily reworked for the published edition of the Sechs Liedern, Op. 13 (Six Songs) in 1844. The present recording provides both versions, the early version written by Clara Schumann and to be found in the Robert-Schumann-Haus, and the later published edition for comparison.
Inspired by the idea of a shared composition with Clara, Robert Schumann composed ten songs from Rückert’s Liebesfrühling (Love’s Spring) in 1841. He chose five other poems from the collection, suggesting Clara set them. In July 1841 she gave her husband settings of four of these poems for his birthday. Robert Schumann then printed, unbeknown to her, nine songs of his own with three of Clara’s Rückert songs. He surprised her with the first finished copies on her birthday on 13 September 1841. The simple but very deeply felt song Gute Nacht (Goodnight) remained unpublished. The twelve songs appeared with the title Zwölf Gedichte aus F. Rückert’s Liebesfrühling für Gesang und Pianoforte von Robert und Clara Schumann (Twelve Poems from F. Rückert’s Love’s Spring for Song and Pianoforte, by Robert and Clara Schumann). Their contemporaries, therefore, did not know who had written which of the various settings in the collection. Some, in consequence, assumed that Clara Schumann had composed only a few of the melodies, upon which Robert Schumann had then elaborated. It is, then, all the more significant that the songs best liked by the public were those written by Clara Schumann. Evidently she was well able to compete with her husband in song composition. The three songs are included here as Clara Schumann published them in the Schumann Complete Edition in 1882. She not only corrected obvious printing mistakes from the first edition, but also introduced later variations in the piano accompaniment.
In the years of marriage that followed, songs continued to be welcome birthday presents. On 8 July 1842, Robert Schumann received the song Liebeszauber (Love’s Magic), and a year later Heine’s Loreley and the two Rückert songs Ich hab’ in deinem Auge (I once saw in your eyes) and O weh des Scheidens (Oh the pain of parting). The last is notable for its dissonant beginning and its ending, which does not return to the original key. In accordance with Robert Schumann’s wishes, Clara Schumann published six songs in an independent collection (Op. 13). The collection included four of the previous Christmas and birthday presents, as well as two songs composed in July 1842. These two texts from Emanuel Geibel, Der Mond kommt still gegangen (Quietly comes the moon), and Die stille Lotosblume (The quiet lotus blossom), were probably composed specifically for publication in this collection. Clara Schumann dedicated the songs to the Danish Queen Caroline Amalie, whose hospitality she had enjoyed in spring 1842 during a concert tour.
Clara had known the art-loving Major Serre and his wife Friederike Serre since childhood. In 1819 the retired major had acquired ownership of Schloss Maxen, where Clara and Robert Schumann often visited them. During a holiday there in the early spring of 1846, Clara Schumann set two of Friederike Serre’s poems and dedicated to her the manuscript, which can be found today in the Robert-Schumann-Haus. While one of the songs, Beim Abschied (Parting), was not published until relatively recently, Clara Schumann published the other, Mein Stern (O Thou My Star), with English words for a charity album to benefit the German hospital in Dalston in 1848.
It was not until her time in Düsseldorf in 1853 that Clara began composing songs again. Robert Schumann had read the novel Jucunde by Hermann Rollett around the turn of the year 1852/53 and described the poems in his reading diary as “very musical”. Clara Schumann noted in her diary on 10 June: “Composed two songs from Hermann Rollett’s ‘Jucunde’. It gives me great pleasure, composition. I wrote my last song in 1846, seven years ago!” On 22 June she completed an entire song collection: “Today I composed the sixth song by Rollett and now have a little book of songs that please me and have given me pleasant hours. There is really nothing better than composing for oneself. Even if one were only to do it for the pleasure of those hours in which one can forget oneself, where one inhales only sounds.”
The poet discovered a short time later that his poems had been set to music and wrote a letter of thanks to Robert Schumann, who had to tell him that his wife had been the composer. “My wife composed six songs from your Jucunde that I should like very much, even if they were not by my wife” (Letter of 7 February, 1854). Although Rollett had put the poems together to form a novel, Clara Schumann apparently had no intention of composing a song cycle. She changed the order of the songs she chose from their order in Rollett’s work.
Clara Schumann’s last song also came about while Robert Schumann was still alive; after his death in 1856 Clara Schumann composed no more. Directly after the Jucunde songs, she set Goethe’s Veilchen (Violet) on 8 July 1853, apparently unaware of Mozart’s famous setting of the same poem. According to a report by her biographer Berthold Litzmann, Robert Schumann laughed at her over this, but enjoyed her composition all the same. Litzmann was able to draw upon her diaries, which have since been lost. As Clara Schumann had heard Mozart’s song at a public performance in March 1853, she could hardly have forgotten it completely just four months later. In childhood she had met Goethe and played for him several times in October 1832, and he had given her a medallion with his likeness on it in return.
Clara composed the piece in question on the grand piano she owned at the time. The instrument, built by Matthäus Andreas Stein in Vienna, was labelled number 513 and was ordered for her by her father Friedrich Wieck. Clara wrote in her diary in 1828, “4 March I received the six-octave grand piano ordered for me in cherry from Mr Stein in Vienna” (Robert-Schumann-Haus archive). On 20 October, 1828, the nine-year-old Clara Wieck played her first public concert on it in Leipzig’s Gewandhaus. Her father later sold the instrument to family friends, the Fockes. The Schumann Museum in Zwickau received the piano as a gift from their great-great-grandchildren in 1911. In 1995–96 it was professionally restored by Robert A. Brown (Arnsdorf near Salzburg). The Zwickau grand piano was the model for the illustration on the back of earlier 100 DM bills.
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SCHUMANN, C.: Songs (Complete) (Craxton, Djeddikar...