Recorded on 11/05/2008, uploaded on 05/02/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Myrthen ("Myrtles") is dedicated to Robert Schumann's wife, Clara, and was presented to her on the day of their wedding. Myrtles are evergreen shrubs native to Europe and north Africa. The white or rosy flowers found on them are often used to make bridal wreaths. The first songs of Myrthen were begun in the early part of 1840 and the set of 26 songs was complete by April, well in advance of the wedding date on September 12th of that year. The songs were bound with a red velvet inscription that simply said, "To my beloved bride." Schumann was, then, offering his own unique wreath of myrtles to Clara.
Unlike Schumann's other song cycles, the text of Myrthen is taken from the works of several poets. Among these are the Scottish poet Robert Burns and the English poet Lord Byron (whose poems appear in translation), Friedrich Rückert, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Heinrich Heine. On the other hand, like so many of Schumman's compositions, the presence of his dual personality is more than evident. Florestan makes his appearance giving his songs a confident, out-going character, while those of Eusebius are of a more contemplative nature.
Several of the songs from Myrthen have become quite popular in their own right. One such is Heine's "Du bist wie eine Blume" ("You are like a flower"). Set in the key of A-flat major, the repeated low-voiced chords give a stately air to the song, though its quite demeanor color it with a sense of solemnity and perhaps even a hint of humility. Over this ceremonial accompaniment the voice gives a recitative-like utterance to Heine's words. In Der Nussbaum, by Julius Mosen, Schumann confonts his separation from Clara. Der Nussbaum is notable for its subtle integration of the accompaniment and voice, a technique that composers after him would greatly elaborate on, especially Johannes Brahms. Set over a gentle arpeggio figure, the piano's sole melodic idea both proceeds and succeeds the vocal phrases. Later in the song, in varied form it even becomes a counterpoint to the voice. Undoubtedly one the most popular songs of the set is the first, Widmung by Rückert. Schumann was greatly intrigued by Rückert's delicate mastery of the rhythmical aspects of poetry and found his poems easily set to music. Quite befitting as the opening song, Schumann uses Widmung to expresses his deepest emotions towards Clara. Combined with the last song of the set "Zum Schluss" ("In Conclusion"), these two songs make up the Lieder der Braut ("The Bride's Songs"). As a testament to its popularity, Franz Liszt transcribed the song for piano solo and premiered it in Paris in 1849 to much success.
Within the 26 songs of Myrthen, Schumann confronts many of the emotions and concepts that accompany love and marriage. From bravery and dedication to loneliness and even touching upon the subject of motherhood, Schumann's depiction of the most oft discussed topic in art is remarkably thorough. More so than that, they penetrate the human soul, reaching beyond Schumann's elegant gift to his bride but, instead, encompassing the very concept of love, dedication and marriage. Joseph DuBose
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