Recorded on 08/11/2011, uploaded on 09/26/2011
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
Robert Schumann was already familiar with the poetry of Justinus Kerner when in late 1840 he composed an entire song cycle based on selections from the poet’s works. Published as his opus 35, the 12 Gedicthe are perhaps unusual in that they do not reflect the otherwise joyful period of that prolific “Year of Song” during which his love for Clara came to fruition in their marriage. Instead, the songs echo feelings of longing and at times even sorrow. Though a song cycle, there is no narrative to it as there was in Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. However, there is a decidedly strong relationship between the tonic keys of each song—all (except for the one song in C major) are among the nearly related keys of E-flat major, in which four of the songs are written.
The fourth song of the cycle, Erstes Grün (“First Green”), is the poet’s heartfelt welcome to the first signs of Spring. Originally entitled Frühlingskur (“Taking the Spring Cure”) by Kerner, the poem ponders on the uplifting and healing effects on the soul when the first specks of green appear in the barren winter landscape. To capture the essence of the poem, Schumann quite creatively juxtaposes a G minor vocal melody with G major interludes for the piano. Here we see the poet still under the dismal spell of winter and longing for the vivacious scenery of Spring. The piano interludes, on the other hand, represent the “first green” with a lively melodic motif and accompaniment. The song is strophic with reminisces of Schubert and concludes with the uplifting G major motif. Joseph DuBose
The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.
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