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Music column

Schumann Forum 2010

"Song Cycle Opus 39"

by Wolf-Dieter Seiffert

01. August

This and the next entry on the Schumann Forum 2010 will focus on Schumann’s vocal music. The occasion for this topic is the recent release of Henle’s new Urtext edition of the “Liederkreis” Opus 39. Schumann took the poetry for these songs from Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff.

Our edition is singular and differs from other publications not only because the music has been newly edited and improved - that is a matter of course. Rather, the volume contains the complete first version of the song cycle composed by Schumann in 1842. Schumann actually revised his “Liederkreis” in 1850 and had it reprinted in the version generally known today.

For the first time G. Henle Verlag offers readers the opportunity to visualize the differences and alterations in one volume. A detailed preface and a critical apparatus provide additional insight into the problematics of the two co-existing versions, and we even included some first publications, namely early authentic versions of “Mondnacht”, “Frühlingsnacht” and “Intermezzo” that never before appeared in print. The following chart gives you an overview of the complete contents of the new Henle volume:

„My Favourite Cycle“ (Christian Gerhaher)

from left:
Dr. Annette Oppermann,
Prof. Christian Gerhaher,
Dr. Wolf-Dieter Seiffert,
Gerold Huber

Christian Gerhaher, the world-famous baritone singer who lives near our offices in Munich, reveres Robert Schumann’s “Liederkreis“ op. 39 as the “highest summit of song composing”, and claims the “Liederkreis” as his favourite cycle. Reason enough for an invitation to Henle together with his congenial piano accompanist Gerold Huber. The interview was conducted by my colleague Dr. Annette Oppermann who is a member of the editing staff at Henle.

We had a very animated discussion that soon went deep into the heart of the matter. I have summarized our talk for you in writing. Please review my short précis (in English or German) here. I am convinced that all vocalists, all pianists interested in song, and of course all song and Gerhaher fans will discover new aspects and valuable insights:

Abstract Gehrhaher

But it’s not my aim to deprive you of the original sound of our lively conversation. We had some highlights cut together for you in the media room that you will certainly enjoy listening to (only in German language):

The important role that Eichendoff’s poetry had for Schumann in general, and of course especially for the “Liederkreis“ op. 39 became evident several times in our talk with Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber. Why not, dear readers, make use of your summer leisure time to enjoy (for the first time, or again) Eichendorff’s wonderful poetry? Whosoever does not yet own a printed and nicely bound Eichendorff poetry volume should blush in shame and hasten to the next bookshop. Or, for those of you who do not mind reading texts on a computer screen, I advise following this link; it leads you to almost the complete lyrical works of Eichendorff:

[Link no longer available]


I’d like to let Marc-André Hamelin, Canadian pianist, composer and (since recently) provider of fingerings for Henle, close today’s entry on the Schumann-Forum. He answered my nine questions on Chopin and Schumann very personally and clearly. Please read here.

9 Questions for Marc-André Hamelin

And now “Aufschwung“ from “Fantasiestücke op. 12“, played by Marc-André Hamelin, with fury and delicacy both:

[Video no longer available]

On 15. August we will dip into that singular piece, the “Mondnacht“.


Schumann Forum at a glance