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Robert Schumann
Dichterliebe, Op. 48

(Leipzig: C.F. Peters, [1844?])


Schumann. Dichterliebe, Op. 48.  Leipzig: C.F. Peters, [1844?]
Schumann. Dichterliebe, Op. 48.  Leipzig: C.F. Peters, [1844?]
Schumann. Dichterliebe, Op. 48.  Leipzig: C.F. Peters, [1844?]

In the 1830s, most of Schumann’s compositions were for solo piano, but in 1840, the year of his marriage, he began composing songs in great profusion. He assembled some of them into sets with nondescript titles such as Sechs Gedichte, but others were conceived as unified cycles. The most famous of the latter is Dichterliebe (“Poet’s Love”), a setting of sixteen texts from the Lyrisches Intermezzo of Heinrich Heine. Taken as a whole, the poems Schumann selected are a story of amorous disappointment—a conventional romantic theme, but told with Heine’s characteristic combination of cynicism and humor. Heine (1797–1856) was perhaps the most celebrated German poet after Goethe, and Schumann had known him since 1828; the aspiring composer and writer, who was just eighteen years old at that time, dropped in uninvited on the eminent poet, and was pleasantly surprised by his warm reception.

Although Schumann composed a great number of songs in 1840, they were not published all at once. Rather, they appeared gradually over a period of several years; Dichterliebe was published in 1844, with a dedication to the distinguished soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (1804–1860). Our copy comes from the library of Lowell Mason (1792–1872), the influential American music educator and editor who composed “Nearer My God to the Thee.” During his trips to Germany, Mason amassed an extraordinary music collection. By donating it to Yale after his death, Mason’s family inaugurated the university’s tradition of special collections in music.

Schumann’s “Ich grolle nicht,” one of the best known songs in Dichterliebe, inspired a very different setting of the same poem by Charles Ives, seen elsewhere in this exhibit.