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.
In the cycle’s fifth song, Sehnsucht nach der Waldgegend (“Longing for the woodlands”), the poet muses on his separation from the “lofty and wondrous” woodlands. He recollects the sounds of birdsongs and streams while remembering the sound of the song that came from his own heart as he walked among nature. For the poet, the lone, empty meadows evoke no passionate song from him. Schumann maintains the G minor tonality of the previous song in his setting of Kerner’s text, establishing the twilit setting of the forest. The voice’s beautiful melody is accompanied by arpeggios in the piano spanning both hands, possibly as a musical suggestion of the sounds of a small stream among the trees. These arpeggios quicken in pace at the start of the third stanza when the poet recalls the wondrous melodies of the forest. Rounding out the song’s ternary design, the fifth and final stanza returns to the music of the beginning. Following the voice’s final syllable, the piano gives a somewhat terse final cadence. It then resumes the arpeggiated accompaniment as if about to take up another stanza but then suddenly dies away, leaving the audience deeply aware of the poet’s poignant separation from his beloved woodlands. Joseph DuBose
The Steans Music Institute is the Ravinia Festival's professional studies program for young musicians.
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