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German Lieder in the

Nineteenth Century


R. Larry Todd, General Editor

Keyboard Music before 1700, 2nd edition

Alexander Silbiger, Editor
Eighteenth-Century Keyboard Music, 2nd edition
Robert L. Marshall, Editor
Nineteenth-Century Piano Music, 2nd edition
R. Larry Todd, Editor
Nineteenth-Century Chamber Music
Stephen E. Hefling, Editor
Twentieth-Century Chamber Music, 2nd edition
James McCalla
German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century, 2nd edition
Rufus Hallmark, Editor

German Lieder in the

Nineteenth Century


Rufus Hallmark

First published 1996

by Schirmer Books
This edition published 2010
by Routledge
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Simultaneously published in the UK
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
German Lieder in the nineteenth century / edited by Rufus Hallmark.2nd ed.
p. cm.(Routledge studies in musical genres)
Includes bibliographic references and index.
1. Songs, German19th centuryHistory and criticism. 2. Music and literature
History19th century. I. Hallmark, Rufus E., 1943
ML2829.4.G47 2009
ISBN 0-203-87749-7 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN10: 0415990378 (hbk)

ISBN10: 0415990386 (pbk)
ISBN10: 0203877497 (ebk)
ISBN13: 9780415990370 (hbk)
ISBN13: 9780415990387 (pbk)
ISBN13: 9780203877494 (ebk)

This book is dedicated to the memories of

Christopher Lewis (19471992) and
John Daverio (19542003)


1. The Literary Context: Goethe as Source and
Harry Seelig


Folk Song OriginsGoethes Contribution

Rationalism and RomanticismGoethe and
SchubertRomantic Poetry and Romantic Lieder
Romanticisms AftermathNaturalism and
DnouementAppendix: Lyric Poets and
Lied Composers

2. Franz Schubert: The Lied Transformed

Susan Youens


Traits of Schubertian SongSchubert and Poetry

Schubert Revising SchubertSchubert and the
Miracle Year of 1815From 1817 to
1822Schubert in 1822Between Die schne Mllerin
(1823) and Winterreise (1827)Schubert and the
Song Cycle

3. Robert Schumann: The Poet Sings

Rufus Hallmark


Early Career and the LiederjahrPoets and Poetry

The Character of Schumanns Songs: Individual Lieder
and CyclesInterpretationsSongs for Multiple
Solo VoicesLate Songs

4. Johannes Brahms: Volkslied/Kunstlied

Virginia Hancock
Folk Song SettingsFolklike (volkstmlich) Songs
Hybrid SongsArt Songs (Kunstlieder)Postlude:
The Vier ernste Gesnge Op. 121



German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

5. Crosscurrents in Song: Six Distinctive Voices

Jrgen Thym


The Storyteller: Carl Loewe (17961869)Making Her

Voice Heard: Fanny Hensel (180547)Cosmopolitan
Infusions: Franz Liszt (181186)In Search of
Chasteness: Robert Franz (181592)The Gift of
Songs: Clara Schumann (181996)Reluctant
Wagnerian: Peter Cornelius (182474)

6. Hugo Wolf: Subjectivity in the Fin-de-Sicle Lied

Lawrence Kramer


The Oedipal RegimeThe Lucky Third SonThe

Scrutinizing Mode: Confession and Recognition
Oedipal Careers: The SongbooksSampling Oedipus:
Four Songs

7. Gustav Mahler: Romantic Culmination

Stephen Hefling (after the original essay by
Christopher Lewis)


School and Apprentice YearsFirst Published Lieder

Lieder eines fahrenden GesellenSongs from Des Knaben
WunderhornRckert Lieder, Kindertotenlieder, and
Farewell to the Wunderhorn

8. Richard Strauss: A Lifetime of Lied Composition

Barbara A. Petersen


Poets and PoetryTraditional Beginnings: The Early

SongsSelected Songs: The 1880sAn Important
Opus: Vier Lieder Op. 27Increasingly Varied Lieder:
18951906The Lied in TransitionOrchestral Songs
and Orchestrated Lieder

9. The Song Cycle: Journeys Through a Romantic

John Daverio (revised and with an Afterword by
David Ferris)
The Romantic Song Cycle as a GenreThe Prehistory
of the Romantic Song Cycle: Performance or Work of
Art?Schuberts Song Cycles: Biedermeier Sensibility
and Romantic IronySchumanns Song Cycles: The
Composer as Poet and HistorianAfter Schumann:
Experiments, Dramatic Cycles, and Orchestral Lieder
(Corneilus, Brahms, Wagner, Wolf, Mahler,



10. Performing Lieder: The Mysterious Mix

Robert Spillman







Du, Lied aus voller Menschenbrust,

Wrst du nicht, ach, was fllte noch
In arger Zeit ein Herz mit Lust?

You, song from the fullness of the

human breast,
If you did not exist, ah, then what
In grave times would fill a heart with joy?
(Frage Justinius Kerner)

Words make you think a thought.

Music makes you feel a feeling.
A song makes you feel a thought.
(E.Y. Yip Harburg)
More than one acquaintance has marveled (or deplored) that I have spent
most of my scholarly career on the German lied. For many the lied is a
genre that is both outdated and overrefined. And it comes in very small
packages, no match for piano sonatas, string quartets, symphonies, operas.
The lied constitutes a large body of music, touted in music history texts and
specialized studies (vested interests, one might argue), but otherwise oddly
neglected. Young singers would generally prefer to move up to opera; song
is the spinach they have to eat as growing children (though, ironically, few
of them will make it to the opera stage). Most young pianists care little for
the vocal repertory, in which they feel relegated to mere accompaniment.
This particular body of song is, moreover, in German, one of the least
obliging major European languages to sing, much less to learn. Singers
begin with the pure vowels and easy consonants of Italian, and they are
familiar with that language from the Italian airs of their voice lessons and
the operas of Mozart, Verdi, and Puccininot to mention the Italianate
pronunciation of church Latin. Germanwith its comparatively harsher
and more difficult sounds, a vocabulary with many fewer cognates, and a
forbidding grammarisnt nearly as inviting. (Observers note, too, that the
German-speaking migr generation of the first half of the twentieth century, which constitutedit is arguedthe major devotees of the lied, has
died off and not been replaced.)
Then there are the sentiments of the poems these lieder have as their
texts. What does a postmodern youth in the age of environmental plunder
know of the beauty and allure of nature? When light pollution in large,
sprawling urban areas is so severe that one cannot see the stars, who knows
the real darkness and mystery of night? Who can hear of Romantic love



sickness without feeling one is eavesdropping on incurable neurotics? Can

the world of today be congenial to such sentiments as a yearning for the
infinite, a belief in a higher, other reality, even hope itself? Even more
basically, who reads poetry anymore, in any languagemuch less memorizes, recites, enjoys, and treasures it?1
Furthermore, the musical scene today is not the same as that of the
nineteenth century, which, as Carl Dahlhaus has observed (NineteenthCentury Music, trans. J. Bradford Robinson. Berkeley, 1989: 5), provided a
very different context for lieder. Although the ages instrumental music
and opera are emphasized in performance and teaching today, nontheatrical vocal and choral music was dominant at the time. The
nineteenth-century public were readers, quite conversant with poetry, and
associated literature with music more freely than todays audiences. Vocal
music was performed by the lay public; song was a staple in domestic musicmaking, and amateurs filled the ranks of ubiquitous community choral
groups. So, all told, perhaps the German lied is a bit precious for todays
world (especially the non-German-speaking one). Especially a world in
which the vast body of popular songrock, hip-hop, country-western,
Broadway, and so on that dominates contemporary musical cultureall
but occludes this relatively obscure art song repertory.
I seem to be arguing for the irrelevance of the book you have before
you. Yet nothing could be further from my true intentions. As a singer as
well as a scholar, I am a fervent lied enthusiast, as are many musicians and
musical scholars. Why? To put it plainly, in the repertory of the nineteenthcentury German lied one finds a tremendously rich vein of musical beauty.
Its that simple! Here is musical expressiveness in crystallized form, the
operation of musical elementsmelody, harmony, rhythm, vocal and
piano timbrein a condensed time frame. By operation, I mean not only
the describable, chartable course of technical musical events (though these
events and their analysis constitute an important and satisfying part of the
musicians study), but also the emotional concomitants of the lied, the
affective content that we all feel and that scholars are growing less reluctant
to talk about. Nearly every major (and minor) composer wrote songs,
and for many their songs are among their best efforts. For some, such as
Schubert and Mahler, the lied was a central genre, without which our perception of these composers would be disfigured. For others, such as Hensel, Franz, and Wolf, the lied was their almost exclusive arena of activity,
without which they would practically disappear from music history. For still
others, such as Schumann and Brahms, song was one part of a balanced,
multifaceted compositional program, yet one without which the physiognomy of nineteenth-century music would not be the same. In short, only
at the peril of gross musical ignorance and immense aesthetic loss does one
neglect this repertory.
It is not the purely musical elements alone, but their combination
with the verbal text and the interaction with the singer that set the art song
apart and imbue it with some of its most special and attractive qualities.


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

Although chamber music has the intimacy of a song recital and opera the
beauty of the human voice, in neither is there the unique bond of eye
contact between musician and audience. Singers and instrumentalists alike
acknowledge this crucial distinction. (The young singer finds this one of
the hardest things to become accustomed to.) A good song recitalist
becomes the persona in the poem-song and engages each member of
the audience in the shared lyrical experience of poet and composer (see
Chapter 10 below and Cone 1974, 5780 and 11535). To use a hackneyed
but apt expression, the singer bares her or his soul and draws the sympathetic beholder-listener into an aesthetic, psychological, and emotional
experience evoked by the words and mediated by the music. For some, the
words get in the way of the music. But for others, this apparent drawback is
the very thing that keeps the lied potent. The lied invites us, as in no other
common modern situation (beyond school and college classrooms), to
read poetry. It enlivens thoughts and feelings, delineated by the text, that
we thought were no longer part of our sensibilities. The music insinuates
them, and we discover that this medium defines and releases feelings that
are not so outdated or superseded as we may have thought. (Consider: Did
we once believe that technology and contentTechnicolor, wide screens,
flawless special effects with computer-generated images, fast-paced editing,
sexual and linguistic explicitness, graphic violencehad rendered the
great movies of the 1930s and 40s second rate, outmoded, and irrelevant?)
We need not depend for our enjoyment on a museum recreation of what
lieder meant when they were new; with intelligence and imagination we can
find readings that still speak to us today.
Through lieder, many musicians have their only significant contact
with German literature (other than a novel or two in translation)the
native literature of many of the most important and beloved composers in
the Western European canon. This is the body of philosophy, prose fiction, drama, and poetry that (together with its English counterparts) gave
voice to the cultural consciousness named Romanticism. Though no one
challenges the existence of Romanticism in late eighteenth-century and
early nineteenth-century Europe, it admits no easy definition dependent
on a simple set of traits. An understanding of this phenomenon is best
formed inductively, through the slow accretion of impressions. There
could be no better place to start than with the poetry and music of the
German lied. Here one encounters Goethe and Schiller, the collectors and
imitators of German folk poetry, and other poets of the first Romantic
generation; then their successorsthe spiritual symbolist Eichendorff, the
balladist Uhland, and the hard-surfaced and curiously modern Heine, to
name but a few. These figures, though active and frequently set to music
well before midcentury, persist into the songs of Brahms, Wolf, Strauss,
and Mahler. Many who are considered lesser figures by literary historians
and critics were nevertheless prized and set to musicfor example, the
poet Friedrich Rckert, who was favored especially by Schumann
and Mahler.



And the pianist? Far from serving as a mere accompanist, the pianist
who delves into lieder will soon discover what balanced partners voice and
instrument are, and how crucial to the total effect of the song the piano
writing is and how gratifying it is to play. By the same token, the singer
should not think her- or himself the sole focus of the audiences attention,
but must learn the mutual attentiveness and pleasure of chamber musicmaking.
This is a great time to be studying German lieder. In the first place,
reports of the death of the genre have been greatly exaggerated. Professional singers continue to feature lieder in recitals and recordings; many
new and re-issued CD sets of the complete songs of majors composers are
available, and less well known lied composers are finding their way onto the
market. Lieder remain a staple of vocal instruction. And more scholars have
taken an interest in the lied, producing numerous articles and books of
historical, source-critical, and style studies; older interpretive discussions of
lieder have been scrutinized, and fresh analytical approaches are being
proposed to take their place. The updated bibliographies of the individual
chapters of this book will serve as a guide to this rich, rewarding, and
burgeoning secondary literature, and some of the more general seminal
studies are found in the (partially annotated) bibliography appended to
this preface. There is no lack of specialized studies to draw on as a guide to
appreciating the repertory. (The growth of this secondary literature is
manifest in the roughly 20 percent increase in the chapter bibliographies
since first publication of this book in 1996.)
* * *
The nineteenth-century German lied is often said to have been born on
19 October 1814, when Franz Schubert composed Gretchen am
Spinnrade. The quantity and quality of Schuberts songs were important,
even crucial, determinants in music history, so much so that it is not farfetched to suppose that without his example many of the composers in this
book might have ignored this genre altogether or devoted much less creative effort to it. But there are other factors to keep in mind: (1) the predecessors of the eighteenth century: the two Berlin schools (the second
one including the prolific lied composers Johann Friedrich Reichardt and
Carl Friedrich Zelter), as well as the songs of Gluck, Haydn, and Mozart;
(2) Schuberts predecessors and contemporaries in early nineteenthcentury Vienna, such as Beethoven and the balladist Johann Rudolf Zumsteeg;2 and (3) the tradition of domestic music-making, the growing popularity of the piano,3 and the market for accessible keyboard music and
keyboard-accompanied song.
Although these factors are not treated in this book, a fourth, crucial
factorthe lyric impulse of late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century
poetryis discussed in the opening essay, by Harry Seelig. Seelig essentially
argues for the seminal role of Goethe in launching the new, unbuttoned
lyricism in German poetry. Although I considered organizing this book


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

systematically by genre and form, as in a recent German book on the lied

(Drr 1984), I decided to proceed by composer. Thus, in the subsequent
chapters on individual composers, the authors treat the six time-honored
mastersSchubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Mahler, and Strauss. These
chapters are not superficial surveys but fresh, well-investigated, thoughtful
essays that discuss a limited number of songs in detail. The authors have
been encouraged to give attention to less well-known repertory and to
produce original, provocative, and specific (but not overly technical) discussions that draw the reader into the heart of each composers style. In
preparing the first edition of the book, I asked contributors not to dwell
extensively on their composers song cycles, in light of the later chapter
surveying this genre; but I came to feel that this was an artificial and arbitrary exclusion, and for this edition authors were encouraged to add discussions, where appropriate, of the cycles.
Susan Youens begins by tempering the pervasive notion of Schuberts
originality with a discussion of his indebtedness to other composers; she
then surveys his choices of poets and musical styles in preparation for a
meaningful look at selected songs from different periods. In my chapter on
Schumann, I argue that he (more than Schubert) offered heavily interpretive readings of the poetry he set to music. Though I deal with the fruits of
the 1840 song year, I also devote much attention to the later songs and try
to shake them free of the ignorance and prejudice that shroud so much
of Schumanns late music. Virginia Hancock, writing about Brahms, also
offers a corrective essay that treats his folk-tune and folk-lyric settings on an
equal footing with his Kunstlieder. Lawrence Kramer looks at the lieder of
Hugo Wolf in the broader cultural context of the Vienna of his day, which
included the practice of mental science; he sees Wolf as involved in
nineteenth-century discourse on psychology and sexology and, at the same
time, in his own, personal rite of passage. In her chapter on Richard
Strauss, Barbara Petersen discusses the great range of poetry and musical
aesthetics found in his eight remarkable decades of lied composition.
Stephen Hefling, coming to terms with the plethora of new writing about
Mahlers songs in the last fifteen years, found he needed to rewrite Christopher Lewiss chapter more fundamentally; his survey provides an incisive
account of Mahlers evolving style through his lieder. Jrgen Thyms longer
chapter is devoted to a representative selection of other composers who are
little discussed and seldom performed in English-speaking countries. His
treatments of Carl Loewe, Robert Franz, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara
Schumann (who is newly added for this second edition), Franz Liszt, and
Peter Cornelius impart the distinctive character of each of these composers, whetting readers curiosity to hear and learn more about their songs
and those of other, comparable lied proponents. Musical examples are
added to his chapter in this revised edition.
John Daverios overview chapter on the song cycle raises conceptual
and historical issues, both literary and musical, that merit extended
treatment. Daverios essay is complemented by David Ferriss substantial



Afterword on recent interpretive and analytical approaches to the song

cycle. Finally, Robert Spillmans chapter on performance deals with the
practical issue of communicating in what, for most users of this book, is
a foreign language. He puts matters related to this problem ahead of
questions of musical technique and style. Students will find this chapter
tantamount to a series of masterclasses, and more experienced hands will
find themselves nodding in agreement with his helpful ideas.

In late summer 1992, not long after he had submitted his original chapter
on Mahler, Christopher Lewis was killed in an automobile accident. John
Daverio died in a drowning incident in March, 2003. Their untimely deaths
cut short two remarkable careers. I am grateful to Stephen Hefling and
David Ferris for taking on the revision and expansion of the chapters on
Mahler and the song cycle, respectively. In accordance with the wishes of
the contributors, this revised version of the book is dedicated to the memory of these two scholars.
Rufus Hallmark

1. Some signs perhaps undercut this pessimistic conclusion. A feature story on
the PBS Newshour (6/16/08) told of a literature professor who teaches reading and
writing poetry to prison inmates in Arizona. PBS has a regular poetry series, of
which this was a part. An article in the New York Times the very next day described a
poetry program at a Navajo school in Santa Fe, N.M.; its students were preparing to
participate in the Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival
in Washington, D.C. These two unrelated and supposedly irrelevant reports are
perhaps symptomatic of a renewed interest in poetry per se.
2. For a sympathetic and informative account of the eighteenth-century, preSchubertian, lied see Parsons (2004, 3582), which champions this neglected and
overshadowed repertory.
3. For a discussion of the piano, see Nineteenth-Century Piano Music, ed. R. Larry
Todd (New York, 1990), especially Leon Plantingas essay The Piano and the
Nineteenth Century, 115.

(Note: The following works are recommended for further reading about the
German lied in general. Some specialized studies are included in the third section
because they present interesting methodological approaches to lieder.)

Brody, Elaine, and Robert Fowkes. The German Lied and Its Poetry. New York, 1971.
Drr, Walther. Das deutsche Sololied im 19. Jahrhundert. Wilhelmshaven, 1984.
Gorrell, Lorraine. The Nineteenth-Century German Lied. Portland, 1993.
Landau, Anneliese. The Lied. The Unfolding of its Style. Washington, D.C., 1980.


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

Moser, Hans Joachim. Dos deutsche Lied seit Mozart. Tutzing, 1968.
. The German Solo Song and the Ballad. New York, 1958.
Parsons, James, ed. The Cambridge Companion to the Lied. Cambridge, 2004.
Radcliffe, Philip. Germany and Austria. In A History of Song, ed. Denis Stevens,
22864. London, 1960. Rev. ed. New York, 1970.
Smeed J. W. German Song and its Poetry 17401900. London, 1987.
Whitton, Kenneth S. Lieder. An Introduction to German Song. London, 1984.
Wiora, Walter. Das deutsche Lied. Zur Geschichte und sthtetik einer musikalischen
Gattung. Wolfenbttel and Zurich, 1971.

Lied Texts
(These are the standard anthologies of lied texts and translations. For more comprehensive collections, see the bibliographic notes for each individual composer.)
Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich. The Fischer-Dieskau Book of Lieder. The Texts of Over 750 Songs
in German. London, 1976.
Miller, Philip, ed. and trans. The Ring of Words. An Anthology of Song Texts. New York,
Prawer, Siegbert S., ed. The Penguin Book of Lieder. Baltimore, 1964.

Interpretive and Analytical Studies

(Note: Some of these entries are annotated.)
Agawu, Kofi. Theory and Practice in the Analysis of the Nineteenth-Century Lied,
Music Analysis 11 (1992): 336. (Clear-sighted essay uncovering the assumptions behind most lied analyses, differentiating them into categories, and
suggesting an alternative approach.)
Clarkson, Austin, and Edward Laufer. Analysis Symposium: Brahms, Op. 105/1. A
Literary-Historical Approach [Clarkson] and A Schenkerian Approach
[Laufer], Journal of Music Theory 15 (1971): 157. Reprinted in Readings in
Schenker Analysis and Other Approaches, ed. Maury Yeston, New Haven and
London, 1977: 22772. (These two essays exemplify two approaches to lied
analysis. Though they may contain some of the unexamined assumptions
later identified by Agawu and others, each one is an exemplary, detailed study
with much to recommend it.)
Cone, Edward. The Composers Voice. Berkeley, 1974. (A truly seminal study of music
as language, discussing speculatively the nature of the persona that is speaking in a musical work. The book has engendered numerous responses and
expansions, as well as the refinements the late author himself made in
subsequent publications. It is highly recommended for performers as well as
speculative musical thinkers.)
Dunsby, Jonathan. Making Words Sing. Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Song. Cambridge, 2004.
Frisch, Walter, ed. Franz Schubert. Critical and Analytical Studies. Lincoln, Nebraska,
1986. (A compilation of essays, including often-cited studies of Schuberts
lieder by Joseph Kerman, Arnold Feil, Georgiadessee belowDavid Lewin,
Anthony Newcomb, Lawrence Kramer, and Frisch himself.)
Georgiades, Thrasybulos. Schubert. Musik und Lyrik. Gttingen, 1967. (Considered a
path-breaking book in the close reading of the relation between the linguistic
and grammatical structure of language and the corresponding elements of



music. A key chapter appears in English as Lyric as Musical Structure: Schuberts Wanderers Nachtlied (ber allen Gipfeln, D. 768) in Frisch 1986,
Ivey, Donald. Song. Anatomy, Imagery, and Styles. New York, 1970. (A basic primer in
studying the elements of poetry and song.)
Kerman, Joseph. An die ferne Geliebte, Beethoven Studies, ed. Alan Tyson, New York,
1973: 123157. (Imaginative and incisive study of Beethovens famous song
cycle, discussing poetry, music, and the biographical implications of the
Kramer, Lawrence. Music and Poetry. The Nineteenth Century and After. Berkeley, 1984.
(In Chapter 5 Song, 125170, Kramer argues provocatively that song often
subverts the meaning of the poetry. His thoughts prefigure some of Agawus
critical approach.)
Stein, Deborah, and Robert Spillman. Poetry into Song. Performance and Analysis of
Lieder. New York & Oxford, 1996. (Written for use as a textbook, it surpasses
Ivey as an introduction to the study of the lied.)
Stein, Jack. Poem and Music, in the German Lied from Gluck to Hugo Wolf. Cambridge,
M.A., 1971. (By approaching lieder as a literary historian, Stein places the
poetry at the forefront, challenges cozy assumptions about the superiority of
the music, and faults irresponsible scholarship that ignores or slights the text.
Though Steins pronouncements have been challenged, his book provided a
healthy corrective at the time and is still valuable.)
Thym, Jrgen, ed. Of Poetry and Song. Approaches to the Nineteenth-Century Lied.
Rochester, 2010. (Essays, solo and jointly authored, by Thym, Ann C. Fehn,
Harry Seelig, and Rufus Hallmark. Includes studies of, among other things,
how composers approach particular verse forms, poetic meters, etc., in their
song settings.)
Winn, James, Unsuspected Eloquence. A History of the Relations between Poetry and Music.
New Haven, 1981.
Zbikowski, Lawrence M. Conceptualizing Music. Cognitive Structure, Theory, and Analysis. Oxford, 2002. Ch. 6 Words, Music, and Song: The Nineteeth-Century
Lied, 243286. (A painstakingly systematic attempt to rationalize the discussion of how poetry and music interact to produce song. Should be considered
together with Agawu, Cone, and Kramer.)


I wish to thank R. Larry Todd, the general editor of the original series of
which this book was a part, for his invitation to produce the book and for
his periodic gentle urgings and helpful suggestions. The book owes much
to the confidence, patience, and prodding of Schirmer Books editor in
chief Maribeth Anderson Payne and to her successor, Richard Carlin. In
addition, I most gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of all my fellow
contributors, who were able with equanimity and generosity to bear up
through the vicissitudes of the production of a book with ten authors, one
of whom was also the sometimes foot-dragging editor.
For this revised edition, I am grateful to Constance Ditzel of Routledge
for her confidence and encouragement. I also thank the anonymous
reviewers who made many valuable suggestions about improving the book;
if we did not follow all of them, the oversight lies entirely with me. I also
wish to express my thanks to the original contributorsHarry Seelig, Susan
Youens, Virginia Hancock, Lawrence Kramer, Barbara Petersen, and
Robert Spillmanwho generously updated and revised their chapters, to
Jrgen Thym, who added an additonal composer to his chapter, and especially to David Ferris and Stephen Hefling, for their sympathetic updating
and reworking of the chapters originally written, respectively, by the late
John Daverio and Christopher Lewis.
Finally, I wish to thank all of those who have spoken or written to me
asking about the republication of this book. It is gratifying to know that our
work has aided colleagues in introducing the German lied to their students
and has also provided a helpful survey for readers who have come to the
book independently.
Rufus Hallmark


John Daverio was Professor of Music at Boston University. His publications

include Nineteenth-Century Music and the German Romantic Ideology (1993),
Robert Schumann. Herald of a New Age (1997), and Crossing Paths. Schubert,
Schumann, & Brahms (2002), plus many specialized articles on the nineteenth century. His article Schumanns Im Legendenton and Friedrich
Schlegels Arabesque (1987) won the Alfred Einstein Award of the American Musicological Society.
David Ferris is Associate Professor of Music at the Shepherd School of
Music, Rice University. He is the author of Schumanns Eichendorff Liederkreis
and the Genre of the Romantic Cycle (2000) and has published articles in the
Journal of the American Musicological Society, Music Theory Spectrum, and the
Journal of Musicology. His most recent publication is Plates for Sale: C. P. E.
Bach and the Story of Die Kunst der Fuge, in C. P. E. Bach Studies (2006).
Rufus Hallmark, Professor of Music at the Mason Gross School of the
Arts, Rutgers University, is the author of The Genesis of Schumanns Dichterliebe (1979) and of a projected book on Schumanns song cycle Frauenliebe
und Leben (2010). He has published many articles on the songs of Schumann, Schubert, and Vaughan Williams, is editor of Schumanns Dichterliebe
and Frauenliebe und Leben for the new critical edition, and of Recent Researches
in the Music of the 19th and Early 20th Centuries (A-R Editions). Hallmark
served as Secretary of the American Musicological Society (20017). He is
also a singer.
Virginia Hancock, Professor of Music at Reed College, is the author of
Brahms Choral Compositions and His Library of Early Music (1983) and of a
number of articles on the composers study and performance of Renaissance and Baroque music, his own choral music, and his songs. Hancock is
also active as a choral conductor.
Stephen E. Hefling, Professor of Music at Case Western Reserve University, has also taught at Stanford, Yale, and Oberlin. He is the author of
Gustav Mahler. Das Lied von der Erde (2000), editor of Mahler Studies (1997),
and is currently preparing a two-volume study of The Symphonic Worlds of
Gustav Mahler. Hefling serves on the editorial board of the Mahler Neue
Kritische Gesamtausgabe, for which he edited Mahlers voice and piano


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

version of Das Lied. He also edited Nineteenth-Century Chamber Music (2003)

for this book series.
Lawrence Kramer, Professor of English and Music at Fordham University,
is the author of Music and Poetry. The Nineteenth Century and After (1984),
Music as Cultural Practice, 18001900 (1990), Classical Music and Post-Modern
Knowledge (1995), After the Lovedeath. Sexual Violence and the Making of Culture
(1997), Franz Schubert. Sexuality. Subjectivity. Song (1998), Musical Meaning.
Toward a Critical History (2002), Opera and Modern Culture. Wagner and Strauss
(2004), Critical Musicology and the Responsibility of Response: Selected Essays
(2006), and Why Classical Music Still Matters (2007). He has edited or coedited several other volumes, is the editor of the journal 19th-Century
Music, and is a composer with numerous song cycles among his works.
Christopher Lewis was Assistant Professor of Music at the University of
Alberta, Edmonton. His publications include Tonal Coherence in Mahlers
Ninth Symphony and several articles on Mahler, Schoenberg, and late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century tonality, including a study of the compositional chronology of the Kindertotenlieder. His essay The Minds
Chronology: Narrative Times and Tonal Disruption in Post-Romantic
Music appeared in The Second Practice of Ninetheenth-Century Tonality (1996).
Barbara A. Petersen, Assistant Vice-President of Classical Music Administration at BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and a member of the Executive
Committee of the American Music Center, wrote Ton und Wort. The Lieder of
Richard Strauss (1980; revised version in German, 1986). She is the author of
articles for both The New Grove Dictionary of American Music and The New
Grove Dictionary of Opera.
Harry Seelig, Professor Emeritus of German at the University of
Massachusetts, Amherst, is the author of musical-literary studies on
Suleika-Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Hensel, Mendelssohn, and Wolf, on
nineteenth- and twentieth-century settings of Goethes Wanderers
Nachtlieder, on Hugo Wolfs cyclic settings of Goethes Divan lyrics, on
twentieth-century settings of poems by Hlderlin and Rilke, and of a comparison of Mahlers Symphony No. 8 and Strausss Die Frau ohne Schatten as
libretto and story.
Robert Spillman is Professor Emeritus of piano at the College of Music at
the University of Colorado, Boulder and he also taught at the Eastman
School of Music and the Aspen Music School. He is the author of The Art of
Accompanying. Master Lessons from the Repertoire (1985) and Sight-Reading at
the Keyboard (1990). With Deborah Stein he coauthored Poetry into Song.
Performance and Analysis of Lieder (1996).
Jrgen Thym, Professor Emeritus of the Eastman School of Music



(University of Rochester), has published on the music, mostly lieder, of

Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Weill and others (co-authoring several essays with the late Ann Clark Fehn). He edited the anthology 100 Years
of Eichendorff (1993), co-edited several volumes in the Arnold Schoenberg
edition, and was co-translator of music theory treatises by Kirnberger and
Schenker. Most recently he has edited Of Poetry and Song. Approaches to the
Nineteenth-Century Lied, a collection of essays on text-music relationships by
various authors.
Susan Youens, Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Notre
Dame, has written extensively on the lied. Her books include Retracing a
Winters Journey. Schuberts Winterreise (1991), Hugo Wolf. The Vocal Music
(1992), Franz Schubert. Die schne Mllerin (1992), Schubert and His Poets. The
Making of Lieder (1996), Schubert, Mller, and Die schne Mllerin (1997),
Schuberts Late Lieder. Beyond the Song Cycles (2002), and Heinrich Heine and the
Lied (2007).


The Literary Context: Goethe

as Source and Catalyst
Harry Seelig

Because the nineteenth-century German lied and German Romantic poetry

are both so inextricably associated with musicthe lieder most obviously,
the poems less explicitlythis introduction will trace their origins in the
late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century literary-musical culture that
gave rise to each genre.1 The very term lied clearly indicates a symbiosis
of literature and music. In addition to designating a fully independent
literary text in and of itself, as well as the art songs that are the subject
of this book, it has often been used in the titles of large-scale works in
poetry (e.g., Schillers Das Lied von der Glocke) and in music (e.g., Mahlers
Das Lied von der Erde) that have very little to do with the miniature
forms we are primarily concerned with here. Yet the basic and still current understanding of lied is that of an autonomous poem either intended
to be sung or suitable in its form and content for singing (Garland
1976, 535).

Folk Song Origins

For all its subtlety and complexity, the German lied has its origin in
the simple German folk song. German lieder generally consist of two or
more stanzas of identical form, each containing either four lines of alternating rhymes or rhymes at the ends of the second and fourth lines only.
This pattern also defines the basic four-line stanza of the Volkslied (folk
song), whichwith its abab or abcd rhyme schemeis arguably the most
important source of the nineteenth-century art song. The German term
Volkslied was coined by the philologist, theologian, and translator-poet
Johann Gottfried Herder (17441803) after reading the spurious popular
poetry of Ossian as well as the authentic examples in Bishop Thomas
Percys Reliques of Ancient English Poetry of 1765. Herder thereupon avidly
collected folk songs and in 177879 published two volumes of Volkslieder.
Somewhat later, Romantic theorists such as Friedrich Schlegel and the
brothers Grimm took these verses to be a kind of spontaneous expression
of the collective Volksseele (or folk soul); this rather mystical term received

German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

further conceptualization in their theories on Natur- und Kunstpoesie, or

nature and art poetry (Garland and Garland 1976, 900).
The search for the poetic roots of the German people reached its
apex in the work of Clemens Brentano and Achim von Arnim, who collected and published the many folk songs and quasi-folk songs of Des
Knaben Wunderhorn (18068). Goethereflecting the nascent nationalism
of central European literary Romanticismfelt that this excellent source of
lieder had a place in every German home. His praise is understandable,
given his experience over thirty years earlier as a student in Strasbourg
collecting folk songs in the Alsatian countryside, under the tutelage of his
mentor Herder. It was the infectious poetic spirit of Herderwho had
meanwhile published a second edition of his seminal Volkslieder, now known
as Stimmen der Vlker in Liedern (1807)and the earlier folk-song versions of
Heidenblmlein that had inspired Goethe to write one of his best-known
early poems, Heidenrslein. The folk-song-like simplicity and freshness
of Goethes Sah ein Knab ein Rslein stehn was so invigorating that
Herder enthusiastically quoted from it in his Ossian essay of 1773, which
introduced the word Volkslied and, also, led to the false assumption that
Heidenrslein was a true folk song. Both real folk song and its imitations,
then, ushered in an entirely new lyric style.2
Although German poets had been writing lieder for centuries preceding Herder, it is a peculiarity of the nineteenth-century art songs heritage
that its presumably primordial forerunner, believed to be a spontaneous
expression of the Volksseele, arose as a concept only with the Romantic theories of the early nineteenth century. Whereas the Romantic lied finds its
theoretical origin in the retroactive speculative constructs of Romantic
theoreticians, Romantic poetry per se derives its fundamental impetus
from the vast and varied earlier poetic achievement of Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe, whose musically inspired lyricism was already flourishing in
the three decades before 1800, when the specifically German literary
movements of Sturm und Drang (Storm and Stress), Empfindsamkeit
(Sentimentalism), and Klassik (Classicism) effectively served as the wellspring of German Romantic poetry even while Classicism stood in opposition to some of the Romanticists lyric intentions during the first third of
the nineteenth century.

Goethes Contribution
German literary Classicismi.e., Deutsche Klassikrefers to the
relatively brief but halcyon period in German letters and culture that followed Germanys brief but rebellious post-Enlightenment storm and
stress era; it began soon after Goethe moved from Frankfurt to Weimar in
1785. There he joined his younger and equally gifted compatriot Friedrich
Schiller, with whom he would engage in some twenty years of aesthetic
discourse exemplary in its intellectual give-and-take and in its celebrated
yield of mutually inspired literary publications lasting until Schillers

The Literary Context

untimely death in 1805 (Garland 1976, 466). This Classical Age of Weimar
embraces salient parts of Goethes vast oeuvre from as early as 1786 onward
and coexists temporally with much of Germanand EuropeanRomanticism well beyond the turn of the new century and is often referred to in
Germany as the Age of Goethe (Brown 1997, 183). The designation
Romantic is notoriously controversial in its own right (cf. Plantinga 1997,
829), but it is problematic in this context because it has been applied
to three generations of artists generally regarded as belonging to both
Classical and Romantic camps in literature and music. Goethe (born
1749), Beethoven (1770), and Schubert (1797), whose careers coincided in
successive waves from 1790 to 1827 and who played major roles in the era
under discussion, illustrate this period overlap.3
The word romantic was first used in 1798 by Friedrich Schlegel.
In influential public pronouncements, he formulated the quintessentially
romantic concept of progressive Universalpoesie to express the almost
infinite scope of German Romanticisms aesthetic aspirations. By progressive and universal Schlegel meant not only that the basic epic, lyric,
and dramatic genres of the literary enterprise should be imaginatively
combined and juxtaposed, but also that this endeavor should involve
interdisciplinary elements from the other arts, particularly music: It
embraces everything that is poetic, from the most comprehensive system
of art . . . to the sigh or kiss which the poetic child expresses in artless
song.4 He singled out Goethes novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (Wilhelm
Meisters Apprenticeship), the first edition of which was published with
musical settings of the interpolated lyric passages sung by Mignon and
the Harper, as one of the seminal events and accomplishments of the
(Romantic) age.5
Nur nicht lesen! immer singen! (Dont ever read it! always sing it!)
With these urgent and sonorous words (from his twelve-line poem An
Lina), Goethe addresses the central cultural-aesthetic issue of the entire
art-song century. Although this seventh line has attracted the most attention from critics, it is the last quatrain that actually explains why Goethe
feels that lieder should be sung and not merely read:
Ach, wie traurig sieht in Lettern,
Schwarz auf wei, das Lied mich an,
Das aus deinem Mund vergttern,
Das ein Herz zerreien kann!

Ah, how sad the lied looks to

me, in letters black on white,
which your voice can sing divinely
as it breaks a loving heart!
(Staiger 1949, 93)

And the actual musical performance qua lied transcends the mere physical
proximity of the lovers, which was primary when she originally played and
sang his songs to him at the piano (as the first quatrain describes it).
A similarly proto-romantic articulation of this fundamental conception
can be found in Herders writings (Martini 1957, 214): Melodie ist die
Seele des Liedes . . . Lied mu gehrt, nicht gesehen werden (Melody is

German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

the soul of song . . . song must be heard, not seen). Goethes clarion call
always to sing his otherwise incomplete lieder expresses in nuce the aspirations of poets as well as composers throughout the nineteenth century.6
Goethes lyric insistence, immer singen!taken together with Schlegels
artless song and programmatically progressive view of the Mignon and
Harper settings by Reichardt (see Schwab 1965, 31)emphatically anticipates the importance of musical settings of poetry in the late eighteenth
and nineteenth centuries.
Musical settings of many kinds of poetry had been a vital part of
aristocratic and bourgeois social activity since the optimistic and confident
Enlightenment spirit of the mid-eighteenth century had taken hold in the
three hundredodd domains that made up the German territories of central Europe. A five-volume novel published in 177073, in which songs are
sungusually at the pianosome fifty times, illustrates this literarymusical
activity and justifies the conclusion that the accompanied song was the most
important aesthetic feature of everyday bourgeois life (Albertsen 1977, 175;
cf. Smeed 1987, xii). Numerous theoreticians have sought to explain the
interrelatedness of poetry and musical settings throughout this period (and
up to the present day).7 Moreover, the social-aesthetic dichotomy between
Volkslied (folk song) and Kunstlied (art song), as well as the more modern
theoretical distinction between musical and (more or less) non-musical
poetry, further complicates an already problematic situation. The latter
distinction engages primarily those theoreticians who feel that only less
musical poems allow enough aesthetic space for the lied composer
to add something musical and meaningful to the text, achieving a true
literary-musical synthesis.

Rationalism and Romanticism

Such antinomies are fundamental to the speculative theorizing of
German Romanticism itself. Yet the philosophic basis for Romantic aesthetics is best understood as an inevitable development of the preceding era,
the Age of Enlightenment. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century panEuropean rationalism is the logical antecedent of European Romanticism
generally, and has provided more than enough reason for the aesthetic
speculation in abstract and metaphorical terms that has been thriving ever
since. From this perspective, it is appropriate that throughout his long life
Goethe worked to improve and renew in a rational way the more ordinary
literary genres of his day; these efforts proved of great consequence for the
development of the lied. He was joined regularly by members of Weimar
society, meeting weekly to read and sing poetry; as Max Friedlnder (v.31,
vii) has attested, some of Goethes amateur associates in Weimar were more
prolific composers of lieder than many professional musicians of the time.8
In seeking to ennoble ordinary verse through skillful parodies of
existing songs, Goethe inspired and participated in a form of dilettantism
that is hard to comprehend today. In Weimar, well before 1800, the poetic

The Literary Context

lied was thoroughly grounded in the regular practice of group singing,

which, in turn, inspired numerous parodies: Selecting simple and wellknown melodies, the poets supplied texts that could be sung at sight to
popular tunes (Sternfeld 1979, 13). Goethe . . . wrote parodies by creating new texts to older tunes and rhythms, without any implication of irony
(Sternfeld 1979, 8) using an age-old technique to generate poetry of firstrate quality. Given this robust activity, it is no wonder that many of Goethes
poems were first published alongside their musical settings (Albertsen
1977, 177). Thus twenty of Goethes early poems were published in musical
settings in the Leipziger Liederbuch of 1769.
The ubiquitous folk song Da droben auf jenem Berge (Up there on
that mountain) illustrates the interdependence of literary and musical
traditions; Sternfeld (1979, 12) explains, poems wandered as freely as
melodies and by 1802 both the model and Goethes parody were being
widely circulated. Sternfeld documents the popularity and parodistic
potential of Da droben auf jenem Berge by juxtaposing the first stanzas,
respectively, of the folk song itself, Goethes original parody as well as a
second version, and three even more varied parodies by Heine, Uhland,
and Brentano.9 Brentanos version seems to derive more directly from
the folk song (Sternfeld 1979, 12) even as its first line alters the traditional
droben auf dem Berge image to the more distinctively Romantic im
Abendglanze (in the glow of evening), underscoring the vast possibilities
inherent in the folk-song tradition. (It was Clemens Brentano, of course,
who together with Achim von Arnim collected and published the many folk
songs and quasi-folk songs of the consistently popular compendium Des
Knaben Wunderhorn of 18068.)
When Goethe arrived in Strasbourg in 1770, he met Herder, who had
rapturously welcomed Johann Georg Hamanns postulation of the primacy
of poetry in human language through mystical epigrams like Die Poesie ist
die Muttersprache des menschlichen Geschlechts (Poetry is the mother
tongue of the human race, Rose 1960, 159). These attitudes provided the
perfect antidote for Goethes literary experience in Leipzig, where his
youthful linguistic exuberance had been criticized by the controlled and
mannered rhetoric of conservative figures like Johann Christoph Gottsched
and Christian Frchtegott Gellert, who reigned supreme in matters
poetical as well as moral. Herder had heeded Hamanns call to unleash
the sensuality of language through the originality of linguistic genius
(Sprachgenie), and encouraged Goethe to trust his heart and imagination
rather than the arbitrary rules and regulations of the Leipzig academic
establishment (Blackall 1959, 481).
The crucial difference between Goethes innovative lyric power and
the older mode of poetry (as exemplified in the works of Friedrich Gottlob
Klopstock, whose ecstatically poetic religious epic in classical hexameters
had catapulted him to fame as the mid-eighteenth-century literary genius
par excellence) may be seen in the juxtaposition of two lines from
Klopstocks Die frhen Grber (Early Graves) of 1764:

German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

O wie war glcklich ich,

als ich noch mit euch
Sahe sich rten den Tag,
schimmern die Nacht.

O how happy was I

when still in your company
I saw the days red dawn,
the shimmering night.

with the opening quatrain of Goethes Maifest (May Celebration) of

Wie herrlich leuchtet
Mir die Natur!
Wie glnzt die Sonne!
Wie lacht die Flur!

How glorously Nature

glows for me!
How the sun sparkles!
How the fields laugh!

In Klopstocks poem there is antithesis, but in Goethes there is reciprocity. Throughout May Celebration, subjective and objective terms
interpenetrate, at times to the point of indistinguishability:
O Erd, o Sonne,
O Glck, o Lust,
O Lieb, o Liebe

Oh earth, oh sun,
Oh bliss, oh pleasure
Oh love, dear love

Boyle comments, The unprecedented fluency of this rhyming litany seems

at a single stroke to render obsolete the gawky sentiment of the previous
quarter of a century. It is no wonder that the received chronology of modern German literature dates its beginning from 1770 (Boyle 1991, 15758).
One of the supreme examples of Goethes new-found trust in the
sensuality of poetic language is found in Gretchen am Spinnrade,
Gretchens lament at her spinning wheel for the absent Faust, beginning
with the lines Meine Ruh ist hin, / Mein Herz ist schwer (My peace is
gone, / My heart is sore, emphasis added). Not only is this ten-stanza
sequence of short (mostly iambic dimeter) lines a brilliant example of
Goethes ability to distill one of the most poignant scenes in all dramatic
literature (Stein 1971, 71) into purest lyricism, but its ingenious structure,
as reflected by Schuberts inspired setting, makes it the first and foremost
example of what the German lied was to become.
A survey of the most recent scholarly literature on Goethes poetry as
it re-emerges in Schuberts music generally and in Gretchen am Spinnrade
(Gretchen at the Spinning-wheel, D118) in particularsince publication of the first edition of this book in 1996reveals widespread agreement with this view of the poets pivotal role in the composers sudden
and unprecedented development into the mature and singular art song
innovator he was destined to be. For example:
The establishment of the Lied as an autonomous musical form
was by far the greatest achievement of Schuberts early years. . . .
he laid the foundations of both his own greatness and a vast

The Literary Context

literature of Romantic song from Schumann to Richard

Strauss. . . . when all is said, it was Schuberts genius, under the
stimulus of Goethes poetry, which created Gretchen am
Spinnrade, and which was responsible for the great outpouring
of song which followed.
(Reed 1997, 26)
In her recent contribution to The Cambridge Companion to the Lied,
however, Jane Brown expands the developmental parameters of Lied
poetry and demonstrates that the historical relation between poetry and
song is rather more complex than most Goethe-centric studies would suggest. Readers interested in the latest scholarship on these issues would be
well advised to consult the following additions to this chapters updated
bibliography: Brown (1997; 2002; 2004), Busch-Salmen (2003), Byrne
(2003), Byrne and Farrelly (2003), Gibbs (2000), Jung (2002), Lambert
(2006), Plantinga (1997), Reed (1997), Tschense (2004), and Whitton
(1999; 2003).

Goethe and Schubert

Many commentators have considered 19 October 1814, the day
Schubert actually composed Gretchen am Spinnrade, the birthday of
German art song, but few have seen that the stanza-by-stanza development
of Goethes poem actually dictatesin the perfection of aesthetic symbiosisa musical form that mediates between strophic and throughcomposed structure. Just as Schuberts startling composition (at age seventeen) breaks new ground in musicopoetics (Scher 1992, 32837), so did
Goethes seemingly straightforward lyric stanzas probe new depths in
human emotion rendered as poetry. The crucial refrain-that-is-not-arefrain, the stanza that begins the whole, is central to the thrust of the
Meine Ruh ist hin,
Mein Herz ist schwer,
Ich finde sie nimmer
Und nimmermehr.

My peace is gone,
My heart is sore,
Never will I find it,

It recurs twice at strategic points within the poem but not at the end,
as a true refrain would, and obviously inspired both the melody and the
onomatopoeic accompaniment, which reflects the spinning-wheel imagery
in its relentless sixteenth-note motion. But the text itself, couched in quatrains of increasing intensity and expanding referencemoving from
Gretchens person and psychic condition to Fausts physical attributes, as
she idealizes them, and finally to an emotional agitation of grief that has
become indistinguishable from sexual desire (Kramer 1984, 152)calls
for varied musical treatment as it builds from an anguished but moderated

German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

outcry (the very first instance of the refrain) to a violent and open
expression of sexual fantasy (Kramer 1984, 153) in the climactic final
Und kssen ihn,
So wie ich wollt,
An seinen Kssen
Vergehen sollt!

And kiss him

As my heart would choose,
In his kisses
To swoon, to die away!10

The composer ultimately returns to the first two lines of the refrain
Meine Ruh ist hin, / Mein Herz ist schweras a musically apt denouement, but which nevertheless vitiates the stunning effect (Stein 1971, 72)
of the poems deliberately abrupt ending. Goethe achieves this stunning
effect, as Jack Stein observes, by ending both poem and scene (in the Faust
drama) at the moment of highest intensity, on the words An seinen Kssen
vergehen sollt: The theater audience is left limp with empathy as the
curtain closes. But the song is so much more aggressive in impact that the
effect of breaking it off at this climax would be brutal. Hence, the necessary
tapering off (Stein 1971, 72).
Schuberts ending can be seen as a combination of both possibilities:
(1) the breaking off has been transferred to the final statement of the
refrain, which is then truncated after the reason for Gretchens anguish
in the textis revealed to be her heavy heart; (2) the tapering off results
from the reiteration of the very first statement of the songs basic melodicharmonic substance. Inasmuch as this denouement does not contain
any trace of the innovative merger of strophic variation and throughcomposition developed elsewhere in the composers profoundly progressive setting, the music parallels Goethes dramatic literary truncation in
its own terms.
In the earliest form of Goethes play (the Urfaust), the poems strategic enjambment combines Und halten ihn (And hold him close) and
Und kssen ihn (And kiss him) into one eight-line stanza, which gains
even more energy and urgency from the brutally honest words Scho
(womb) and Gott! (God), in place of Busen (bosom):
Mein Scho, Gott! drngt
Sich nach ihm hin.
Ach drft ich fassen
Und halten ihn
Und kssen ihn,
So wie ich wollt,
An seinen Kssen
Vergehen sollt!

My womb, God! drives

Me toward him so,
Oh could I clasp
And hold him close
And kiss him
As my heart would choose,
In his kisses
To swoon, to die away!10

The enjambment itself is brilliantly reflected in Schuberts musical extension, strengthening both enjambed stanzas. Furthermore, the music

The Literary Context

embodies the spirit of Goethes earlier, more explicit outburst (Mein

Scho, Gott!) in an extended ascending melodic sequence that, in its
relation to the whole setting, makes this song innovative and archetypal at
the same time.
The pivotal position of Meine Ruh ist hin in the development of the
German lied is thus a function of its unique formits strategically recurring refrainas well as its ever-intensifying content, which might have
been set in the traditional strophic manner by a less comprehending and
less sympathetic composer. Goethes revolutionary sense of dramatic development within the confines of lyric poetry facilitated the advent of throughcomposed art songs. In reacting musically to Goethes developmental
(dramatic) lyricism, Schubert rendered strictly strophic settings as something less than representative of the German Kunstlied at its best. The paradigmatic Romantic lied can be characterized as a modified strophic setting
in which a given poems individual stanzas are autonomous literary-musical
entities as well as interrelated units seamlessly integrated into the overall
development of the word-tone synthesis.
Goethes role in fostering this innovation can be seen by comparing
Schuberts settings of Meine Ruh ist hin (D. 118) and Als ich sie errten
sah (When I saw her blush, D. 153), the light and slight little song
(Capell 1957, 89) that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has deemed a more subjective Schubertian counterpart to Gretchen am Spinnrade (FischerDieskau 1972, 72). Bernhard Ambros Ehrlichs five quatrains of trochaic
tetrameter represent a perspective opposite that of Gretchen: a masculine outpouring of rhapsodical praise, generated by desire for the feminine
All mein Wirken, all mein Leben
Strebt nach dir, Verehrte hin!
Alle meine Sinne weben
Mir dein Bild, o Zauberin! [I]

All my effort, all my life

Strives toward you, revered one!
All my senses conjure up
Your image, oh enchantress!

Wenn mit wonnetrunknen Blicken

Ach! und unaussprechlich schn,
Meine Augen voll Entzcken
Purpurn dich errten sehn. [V]

When with rapture-laden glances

Oh, how unspeakably beautiful!
My ecstasy-intoxicated eyes
Behold your crimson blush.

The contrast between Ehrlichs cascade of metaphoric adulation

the muses, a lyres harmony, the souls storm, and Auroras sunset are
summoned to descriptive service in stanzas 24and the avoidance of
obvious poetic embellishment in Gretchen (except in the description of
the magic stream of Fausts forceful words: seiner Rede / Zauberfluss)
could not be greater. But Schubert chose to give Ehrlichs flowery verses
a through-composed setting, revealing the influence a poem can have on a
setting. Fischer-Dieskau points to some similarities in the rhythm, melodic
shape, and sixteenth-note accompaniment figuration of both, but the effect


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

of Als ich sie errten sah is disappointing: not only are the accompaniment figures empty arpeggios throughout, but the smattering of melodic
interest attending the first strophe degenerates thereafter into desultory
arpeggiated meanderings as well, particularly in the fourth and fifth
These two settings demonstrate that a modified strophic form, however varied and unorthodox, is the more appropriate form for musical
settings of lyric poetry, which, after all, usually exists in strophes of one
form or another. Yet Romantic lieder are apt to be formally anything other
than the simple strophic settings of their eighteenth-century predecessors.
Three factors help explain this change. The first, as Gretchen am Spinnrade indicates so poignantly, is Goethes timeless structural lyricism
itself. The second is the emerging awareness of an individual self, which
evolves into the self-consciousness of distinctly Romantic poetry, if the
insights of poet and literary critic W. H. Auden can be taken at face value.11
Equally important is a third element in Romantic poetry: reverence
for nature. This deeply felt worship of nature, articulated with specific reference to German Romanticism by Madame de Stal in 1810, stresses
thatin direct contrast to the classical literary representation of man as
determined by external societal forcesRomantic literature sees mans
actions and behavior as primarily governed by inner energies and emotions. Although mindful that the Romantic personality tends toward
unbridled emotionalism, and that its enthusiasm for the moon, the forest,
and solitude runs the risk of mindless faddishness, Stal considers the
unusual wealth of feeling coming to the fore in Romanticism as a particular
strength of the Germans in poetic, religious, and even moral terms (Peter
1985, 1023).
These characteristics infuse the specifically Romantic poems chosen
by most lied composers, but they are especially prominent in Goethes
lyrics. Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Only one who knows longing), one
of the four Mignon songs from Wilhelm Meister, embodies in astonishingly
concentrated lyrical form the proto-Romantic emotional fervor and selfawareness:
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt,
Wei, was ich leide!
Allein und abgetrennt
Von aller Freude,
Seh ich ans Firmament
Nach jener Seite.
Ach! der mich liebt und kennt,
Ist in der Weite.
Es schwindelt mir, es brennt
Mein Eingeweide.
Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt,
Wei, was ich leide!

Only one who knows longing

knows what I suffer!
Alone and cut off
from all joy,
I gaze at the firmament
in that direction.
Ah, he who loves and knows me
is far away.
My head reels,
my body blazes.12
Only one who knows longing
knows what I suffer!

The Literary Context


Although Goethe concentrates all of Mignons passion into only one

strophe, the symmetry occasioned by the repetition of rhymes and lines
verse lines 12 and 1112 are identicalhas led most composers to employ
strophically varied forms that reflect this ABA structure in their settings.
The extreme prosodic economy of employing but two alternating rhymes
throughout twelve dactylic trochaic lines is rare enough, but there is also
the repeated expression of extreme yearning, in which longing and aloneness have become so poignantly merged that the cause of the anguished
sufferingthe distant loveris all but forgotten by the reader. This radical
compactness of lyric texture may have influenced Schubert to expand and
enrich his early strophic settings so ingeniously.
Another single strophe of utter succinctness, ber allen Gipfeln ist
Ruh, exemplifies two Romantic themesmans reverence for nature and
his self-consciousnesswith simplicity, brevity, and profundity, making it
probably the most praised poem in the German language (Plantinga
1984, 121). Its integration of form and content is so complete and infinitely
nuanced as to offer an inexhaustible subject for aesthetic and cultural
ber allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Sprest du
Kaum einen Hauch;
Die Vgelein schweigen im Walde.
Warte nur, balde
Ruhest du auch.

Over all summits

Is peace,
In all treetops
You feel
Hardly a breath;
The birds in the woods are hushed.
Just wait, soon
You too shall rest.

There is in it not a simile, not a metaphor, not a symbol (Wilkinson 1962,

21). Yet a profounder poetic paradox is unimaginable: nature and man
have here been totally fused and fatefully juxtaposed. Only man can be
conscious of how and why: the Hauch of breeze and breath is both figurative and literal, since the air of mans breath is dependent on the oxygen of
natures breeze; even the birds are unnaturally mute in the face of this
inscrutable existential dichotomy. The topic is timeless even as the persona
measures time.
Goethes title Ein Gleiches (Another One) makes reference to the
earlier Wanderers Nachtlied (Wanderers Night Song) of 1776: Der du
von dem Himmel bist, (Thou that from the heavens art) which Schubert
set in July 1815 (D. 224). ber allen Gipfeln ist Ruh was written in 1780
and set by Schubert before May 1824 (D. 768); its title is therefore best
rendered as Another Wanderers Night Song. This explicit reference
to the night song genre is crucial to a full understanding of the poem, since
the pervasive stillness invoked and evoked in it is normally experienced in
the evening twilight, in celebration of which countless Abendlieder (evening
songs) have been written. The theme of night is particularly prevalent in


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

Romantic poetry. Hymnen an die Nacht (Hymns to the Night), by Novalis

(Friedrich von Hardenberg), the most lyrical and influential of the early
Romanticists, undoubtedly inspired countless Nachtlieder (night songs) of
later poets and composers; Nacht (Night), Nacht liegt auf den fremden Wegen (Night Lies on the Unfamiliar Ways), Nacht und Trume
(Night and Dreams), Nachtgang (A Walk at Night), Nachts (At
Night), Nachtstck (Nocturne), Nachtwandler (Sleep-walker), and
Nachtzauber (Night Magic) are only some of the titles found in FischerDieskaus compilation.
The impact of Goethes unadorned poem on all subsequent lyric style
and lied composition is impossible to exaggerate. Its radically concentrated,
nonmetaphorical character or objective lyric style seems even leaner when
juxtaposed with the first eight lines of a sonnet written in Britain at about
the same time and about the same theme by William Wordsworth:
It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods oer the Sea:
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thundereverlastingly.
Not only is the poetic language of British Romanticism richer in similes,
metaphors, personifications, and symbols than its German counterpart, but
the subtle elegance of its diction has little of the direct access to the emotions and Volksseele (folk soul) that were the concern of Herder and Goethe
in the 1770s and 1780s,13 and which became the goal of the German
Romanticists after the turn of the century. It was the directly affecting,
concisely objective lyric evocation of evening on Goethes part that
prodded Schubert to a superlative 14-measure setting, in which the all but
imperceptible movement from inorganic through organic and animate
nature to mankind itself is given the musical objective correlative that
constitutes another highpoint in the history of the Romantic lied.14
The consistently stressed final syllable of each line of Wordsworths
sonnet points to another salient aspect of German Romantic poetry: the
propensity for unstressed syllables (whether rhymed or unrhymed) at the
ends of lines. The first four lines of Goethes Nachtlied (Night Song)
demonstrate the regular alternation of unstressed and stressed rhyme
words in final position:
ber allen Gipfeln
Ist Ruh,
In allen Wipfeln
Sprest du


The Literary Context


In German prosodic terminology, the term klingend (resonating)

describes the unstressed verse ending, while stumm (mute) designates the
stressed alternative. The more frequent occurrence of unstressed rhyme
words in Germanas compared to Englishis caused by such multisyllabic
forms as infinitives (uniformly ending in -en), strong participles (e.g., gesprochen, sprechend), and the plural conjugations of verbs, not to mention
all the nominal, pronominal, and adjectival declensions that the three
genders and four cases of a highly inflected language require. This structural difference between German and English, which does not offer its
poets a superabundance of unstressed final syllables, can explain at
least partially why German lyric poetry strikes many ears as particularly

Romantic Poetry and Romantic Lieder

Ultimately most noteworthy and defining for the poetic structures
underlying the nineteenth-century or Romantic German lied is the proportion of line and stanza types in the poetry that was set, as represented in
Fischer-Dieskaus Texte deutscher Lieder (1968). About half of the 750 song
texts consist of quatrains with three or four stresses per line, the form most
readers associate with the Romantic poetry of, say, Eichendorff or Heine.
There is, then, a substantial number of folk-like, romantic verses in the lied
texts set to music. But the other half of the texts demonstrate that composers did not hesitate to set quite diverse poetic forms to music as well. In
fact, the variety of forms (and themes) once again points to the multifaceted
oeuvre of Goethe as the obvious source of this diverse lyric outpouring.
A history of the German lied might be written on the basis of Goethes
poems alone, so influential on composers and so diverse in content, style,
and form were they (Abert 1922, 107; Forbes 1972, 59). No other poet
induced Beethoven to attempt four and Schubert seven settings of the
same poem, Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt (Only he who knows longing). Nor could another poet prompt three composers like Schubert,
Schumann, and Wolf to try their hands on the Mignon and Harper poems,
or for that matter, even two of themSchubert and Wolfto tackle the
large-scale, unrhymed, lyrically philosophical hymns Ganymed, Prometheus,
and Grenzen der Menschheit (Limits of Mankind).
A good example of the difficulty Goethes classical lyrics posed
for the development of Romantic poetry is Brentanos Der Spinnerin
Nachtlied (The Night Song of the Spinning Girl) which could be seen as
a combination of elements from Goethes Gretchen am Spinnrade and
Wanderers Nachtlied:
Es sang vor langen Jahren
Wohl auch die Nachtigall,
Das war wohl ser Schall,
Da wir zusammen waren.

Many years ago there surely

Sang the nightingale,
That was a lovely sweet sound,
Because we were together.


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

Ich sing und kann nicht weinen,

Und spinne so allein . . .
Der Mond scheint klar und rein,
Ich sing und mchte weinen.

I sing and cannot weep,

And do my spinning so alone . . .
The moon shines clear and pure,
I sing and would like to weep.

In six quatrains Brentanos lovelorn maiden projects the new Romantic

sensibility and self-consciousness in a nostalgic and rhapsodic style suggesting strophic setting. Yet its meandering repetitions of the same prosodic
soundsvowels, semivowels, diphthongs, and alliterative wordsseem to
beg for more than strophic musical treatment.
Such a series of trimeter quatrains is found in many Romantic
poemspreeminently by Eichendorffincluding those of Schumanns
Liederkreis Op. 39, to take a familiar example. The poem Mondnacht contains three iambic trimeter quatrains; in fact, of the twelve poems in the
entire cycle, three are in two quatrains, five are in three, and four are in
four. But the meandering and repetitious quality of the Brentano poem is
foreign to the structured development favored by Eichendorff:
Es war, als htt der Himmel
Die Erde still gekt,
Da sie im Bltenschimmer
Von ihm nun trumen mt.

It was as though the sky

Had softly kissed the earth,
So that in gleaming blossoms
Shed now dream (only)16 of him.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,

Die hren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis die Wlder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

The breeze ran through the fields,

The ears of grain swayed gently,
The woods did rustle faintly,
The night was so starry and clear.

Und meine Seele spannte

Weit ihre Flgel aus,
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flge sie nach Haus.

And then my soul spread out

Its wings so wide and far,
Flew over the quiet landscapes
As if it were flying home.

The explicit movement within and between the individual stanzas here
is a crucial difference between Eichendorff and other Romantic poets
generally.17 Although Mondnacht (Moonlit Night) manifests all the
figurative devicesmetaphors, personification, onomatopoeia, and as if
subjunctivescommonly associated with the atmospheric nature imagery
of Romantic poetry, it also reveals a carefully crafted structure very much
like that of Goethes ber allen Gipfeln (Over every summit), where
there is an order of the inner process of nature as known by the mind, an
organic order of the evolutionary progression in nature, from the
inanimate to the animate, from the mineral, through the vegetable, to the
animal kingdom, from the hill-tops, to the tree-tops, to the birds, and
so inevitably to man (Wilkinson 1962, 317). But here the structure is

The Literary Context


Romantically transmuted from the external order of nature to the internal

but equally natural realm of the psyche: in Eichendorffs vision, the persona imagines a marriage18 between heaven and earth in the nighttime
skysealed by a metaphorical kiss and sanctioned by a continuing dream
that not only causes the grainfields and forests to sway and rustle
empathetically in a breeze but also enables his soul to spread its wings and
take flight through the nocturnal countryside, as if flying homethe
utopian goal of virtually all German Romantic poetry.
This combination of poetic order and psychic drama inspired the
imaginative musical forms, somewhere between strophic and throughcomposed, through which Schumann projected the poets evocatively
structured landscapes. The music feels as strophic as the poem in fact is, but
it sounds as rhapsodic as the spatially conceived poetic imagery seems. Even
when the poem and the setting are both clearly strophic, as in the first
song of Dichterliebewhere the poem consists of two brief quatrains and
the music has an improvisational quality suggested by the freeflowing accompaniment figures of the piano (Brody and Fowkes 1971,
119)the overall effect can be anything but conventionally strophic. It is
the prosodic structure of the poem, however, as much as anything else, that
portrays the yearning for release that is the overwhelming burden of the
Im wunderschnen Monat Mai,
Als alle Knospen sprangen,
Da ist in meinem Herzen
Die Liebe aufgegangen.

In the wondrous month of May,

When buds were bursting open,
Then it was that my heart
Filled with love.

Im wunderschnen Monat Mai,

Als alle Vgel sangen,
Da hab ich ihr gestanden
Mein Sehnen und Verlangen.

In the wondrous month of May,

When all the birds were singing,
Then it was I confessed to her
My longing and desire.

The poems lyric structure goes further toward actual release than
does Schumanns setting, which delays the musical releasethat is, the
dominant-tonic resolutionuntil the third measure of the next song, Aus
meinen Trnen sprieen (From my tears burst). The latter contains no
fewer than six dominant-tonic cadences, lavishly compensating for the
unresolved harmonic tension of the first song. Even if the poetic bursting forth of Im wunderschnen Monat Mai (In the wondrous month of
May) does not find overt musical realization until Schumanns second
song, in which fully blossoming flowers literally burst forth from the personas tears, Heines quatrains provide the structural integrity and varied
rhythmic movement that inspired Schumann to compose such an evocatively delaying musical texture.
Heines mostly sentimental, often ironic, and occasionally sarcastic
poetry contributed markedly to the development of the Romantic lied.


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

A typically German way of dealing with the adversities of life in post-1815

Europe was sentimental lament, which isaccording to Meno Spann
(1966)the prevailing quality in the love poems of Heines Book of Songs
that makes them unbearable to read in our time. These poems nonetheless produced exquisite lieder in the settings of Schubert, Schumann,
Brahms, and other composers. What inspired the composers was the
perfect structure, and often elegant antithesis of these ballad-like lyrics, in
which unfortunately all of nature with her weeping little flowers and
golden little stars and pale roses and saddened larks sympathizes with
the unhappy love of the poet whose heart bleeds or breaks whenever
rhyme, meter, or climactic effect require it (Spann 1966, quoted in Komar
1971, 113). A particularly good instance of the perfect poetic structure
that Heine could achieve is this jewel-like merging of alliteration and
Leise zieht durch mein Gemt
Liebliches Gelute.
Klinge, kleines Frhlingslied,
Kling hinaus ins Weite.

Gently through my soul

Sweet bells are pealing.
Sound, tiny song of spring,
Sound out far and wide.

Kling hinaus, bis an das Haus,

Wo die Blumen sprieen.
Wenn du eine Rose schaust,
Sag, ich la sie gren.

Sound out as far as the house

Where the flowers are blooming.
And, should you see a rose,
Convey from me a greeting.

The first two lines, with their gorgeous liquid alliteration, are a good
example of what an inspired opening will do to make a poem famous
forever; apart from Goethe and Eichendorff, hardly any poet was as skilled
in extracting such sounds from the German language. But the whole poem
continues to be superb. Although it contains not a single pure rhyme, the
lattice of near-rhymes and near-assonances gives it a genuine musicality
(Sammons 1969, 18283). This genuine musicality, paradoxically, may
help explain why there is only one setting (Mendelssohns Op. 19a, No. 5,
Gruss) of Leise zieht durch mein Gemt (Gently through my soul)
listed by Fischer-Dieskau (1972): the metaphorical musicality of poetry may
preclude or leave no space for actual music.

Romanticisms Aftermath
Heines younger contemporary Eduard Mrike (180475), though
humorous and witty, did not share the older poets vitriolic tendencies, but
embodied instead the holdes Bescheiden (gracious moderation) that
epitomizes the Biedermeier period. This was a specifically German version
of the ubiquitous European Realism that reigned in the aftermath of
the Vienna Congress of 1815.19 Germanists are prone to call this general
literary movement Poetic Realism, which suggests why the lyrical style of a

The Literary Context


poet like Mrike might not immediately attract the musical interest of
cosmopolitan composers like Schumann and Brahms, though both did set
several of Mrikes poems.20 It remained for Hugo Wolf (18601903) to
discover the modernity and musical utility of Mrikes poetry in general,
over a decade after the poets death.
Two poems, both set by Wolf, express graphically the introspective
conservatism and subtle sensitivity of Mrikes paradigmatic nineteenthcentury worldview that looks both backward and forward:
Herr! schicke was du willt,
Ein Liebes oder Leides;
Ich bin vergngt, da beides
Aus deinen Hnden quillt.

Lord! Send what Thou wilt,

Delight or pain;
I am content that both
Flow from Thy hands.

Wollest mit Freuden

Und wollest mit Leiden
Mich nicht berschtten!
Doch in der Mitten
Liegt holdes Bescheiden.

May it be Thy will neither with joys

Nor with sorrows
To overwhelm me!
For midway between
Lies gracious moderation.

Whereas holdes Bescheiden (gracious moderation) clearly harks back

to an imagined realm of pietistically quiescent balance between the delight
and pain or the joys and sorrows of some bygone age, Mrikes Verborgenheit (Seclusion) anticipates the infinitely nuanced psychic ambivalences of a later Freudian and fin-de-sicle age:
La, o Welt, o la mich sein!
Locket nicht mit Liebesgaben,
Lat dies Herz alleine haben
Seine Wonne, seine Pein!

Leave, O world, oh, leave me be!

Tempt me not with gifts of love,
Leave this heart to have alone
Its bliss, its agony!

Was ich traure, wei ich nicht,

Es ist unbekanntes Wehe;
Immerdar durch Trnen sehe
Ich der Sonne liebes Licht.

Why I grieve, I do not know,

My grief is unknown grief,
All the time I see through tears
The suns delightful light.

Oft bin ich mir kaum bewut,

Und die helle Freude zcket
Durch die Schwere, so mich drcket
Wonniglich in meiner Brust.

Often, hardly aware am I,

As pure joy flashes through
The oppressing heaviness
Flashes blissful in my heart.

La, o Welt, o la mich sein! . . .

Leave, O world, oh, leave me be! . . .

The candid intimacy and innovative importance of Verborgenheit

(Seclusion) for its time1832, the year of Goethes death21can
be seen in the difficulty of translating its title: the translation by Bird
and Stokes (1977) as Obscurity insufficiently renders the pleasurable


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

withdrawal from society practiced by mid-nineteenth-century poets in the

wake of Goethes very public aesthetic triumphs. Although many successors no doubt felt intimidated by the legacy of Goethes lyric achievement,
Mrike reacted with a degree of poetic introspection that represents a
major step on the road toward late nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury symbolist poetry. His subtle interweaving of thought, mood,
emotion, impression, and suggestion; the enchanting mellifluousness of
his words, phrases, and rhythms, are unrivaled in any lyric poetry that had
gone before (Stein 1971, 155). Mrikes plea for undisturbed Verborgenheit (in hiding) perceptively foresees the subconscious realm of the
Freudian ageOft bin ich mir kaum bewut (often I am hardly aware,
line 9)even as it registers the unbekanntes Weh (unknown grief )
that this seductive probing of the extremes of the human psyche will
entail (line 6).22
Another example of Mrikes pre-Impressionist sensitivity is the
following two-line excerpt from Im Frhling (In Spring)
Es dringt der Sonne goldner Ku
Mir tief bis ins Geblt hinein;

The sun kisses its gold

Deep into my veins;

the imagery of which goes further even than Goethes evocative metaphors, but the theme of whicha lover lying on a hilltop in springtime
(Hier lieg ich auf dem Frhlingshgel, line 1), borne on the wing of a
cloudis unthinkable without the equally cloud-borne spring paean
Ganymed (Ganymede) that Goethe had written some fifty-four years
earlier. Yet Goethes influence did not guarantee public success by any
means. The significance of Hugo Wolfs fifty-three settings, in 1888, for the
general popularity and critical acceptance of Mrikes poetry some five or
more decades after its original publication, is legendary.23 But although
Mrikes fame is indelibly connected with Hugo Wolf, his poetry has not
found as many different composers as, say, Friedrich Rckert (17881866),
whose poetry has been set as often as Heines and Eichendorffs, though
not nearly as often and as consistently as Goethes (Fricke 1990, 18).24
Harald Fricke candidly admits that the lyric quality of Rckerts poetry is
not as high as that of Goethe, Eichendorff, and Heine: he shrewdly analyzes
their lyric structure and finds thatalthough their diction is typically
non-musicalthey are rich in varied repetition (variierte Wiederholung)
and relatively sparse in themes or subjects. Although Rckerts poems do
not stray far from the usual Romantic topics of love, suffering, distress,
nature, season, and pious devotion, the use of these themes is carefully
limited; no more than two-and-a-half such subjects are presented in a
given poem.25
In addition to the lyrical poem, another poetic genre, the ballad, has
been an important source of art song settings. Because this genre can be
characterized as a combination of epic, dramatic, and lyric elements, its
appeal to composers who want to tell a story as dramatically as possible,

The Literary Context


even while they evoke a pervasive mood, is obvious. The most celebrated
composer of ballads, Carl Loewe (17961869), provided many settings of
Goethes ballads, as well as a brilliant alternative to Schuberts famous
Erlknig (Erl-king). But he is generally given greatest credit for his
evocative rendition of the horrific Edward, a grisly dialogue between a
young man and his mother, translated from a Scottish source by Goethes
mentor Herder.26
Almost all the poets so far considered wrote ballads as a matter of
course, so that Heines Die beiden Grenadiere (The Two Grenadiers)
of 181920, set by Schumann in a dramatic through-composed version,
is not unusual. However, both Heines Bonapartism (Sammons 1969, 45)
and Schumanns climactic quotation of the Marseillaisein 1840
represent a response to the eras invidious censorship that emboldened
creativity even as it sought to restrict its existence. The Swabian poet
Johann Ludwig Uhland (17871862), whose Frhlingsglaube (Spring
Faith) is the only work of the poet that Schubert set, served the development of the Romantic lied in at least two respects: his folk song-like poems
have often been taken to be authentic VolksliederUhlands scholarly
updating of earlier folk song collections in his Alte hoch- und niederdeutsche
Volkslieder (Old high and low German Folk songs) of 184445 no doubt
enhanced their apparent genuineness27and his masterly ballads inspired
Schumann and Liszt to rhapsodic musical emulations.
Some of the same poems by Goethe and Heine prompted both Liszt
and Schumann to compose lieder that are staples of todays art song canon.
Another poet who inspired Schumann and Liszt is Nikolaus Lenau
(180250), an Austrian of German, Hungarian, and Slavic descent, whose
poems met with enthusiastic reception in 1832 and thereafter no doubt
because they echoed the Weltschmerz of the times (Brody and Fowkes
1971, 218).28 Georg Friedrich Daumer (180075), on the other hand,
reflected another passion of the times: Orientalism. He translated the
Persian poet Hafiz (130088) and wrote pseudo-Oriental poetry; Brahms
set nineteen Daumer poems, including lyric versions of Hafizs originals.
The repetitions of the word wonnevoll (blissful) in Wie bist du meine
Knigin (How Blissful, My Queen), Op. 32, No. 9 reflect the Persian
ghazel, which, in its German realizations, is perhaps the most unusual and
highly patterned structure (Fehn and Thym 1989, 33) that Romantic lied
composers chose to set. Whereas the sonnets length and meter are strictly
limited to fourteen pentameter lines, the ghazel can vary in length from four
to perhaps fifteen couplets; its meter is freely chosen by the given poet.
Only the rhyme is constant, but it binds each ghazel absolutely by virtue of its
twofold appearance in the first couplet, whereafter it recurs at the end of
every subsequent couplet. Friedrich Schlegel was the first German poet to
use the ghazel in 1803, but it was Joseph Hammer-Purgstalls 1812 translation of the fourteenth-century poet Hafiz, master poet of the ghazel, that
inspired Goethes West-stlicher Divan (West-eastern Divan) of 1819 and
established the literary fashion of German Orientalism that enthralled


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

Rckert and Platen in the 1820s, as well as Daumer, Geibel (181584),

and Keller (181990).
Daumers Orientalism was by no means the first instance in which
more or less exotic (or foreign) prosodic forms were prized in German
poetry and art song. Already during the later eighteenth century, odes
and sonnets found favor as well. The strict Classical meter of Hltys ode
Die Mainacht (May Night) is reflected in the carefully declaimed
melody and richly chromatic harmony of Brahms Op. 43, No. 2, which
conforms to the prosodic strictures of the asclepiadean ode even as it
expresses late Romantic musical sensibility. The sonnet, a highly shaped
poetic form not obviously and immediately compatible with the musical
idiom of the nineteenth-century lied (Fehn and Thym 1986, 1), was
prized at the end of the eighteenth century by A. W. Schlegel, whose
translations of Petrarch were widely read, encouraging Goethe, Platen,
Eichendorff, Rckert, Uhland, Heine, Mrike, and Rilke to try their
hands at it. Schubert set eight sonnets to music, including three by
Petrarch in Schlegels translation; Pfitzner set Petrarchs ninety-second
sonnet in Frsters translation, and there are two each by Brger and
Eichendorff. Mendelssohn, Wolf, and Strauss set only one sonnet each,
Brahms two. (Liszts three sonnet-settings are not in German translation,
but in Petrarchs original Italian.)
As these translations of Petrarch suggest, foreign poems (in wellcrafted German equivalents) provided sources for many later Romantic
poets and composers. Schubert, Schumann, and Brahms all set translated
poems ranging from Anonymous to Burns, Byron, Moore, Pope, Scott,
Shakespeare, and the Bible. Schumann used the translations of a Frenchman of noble descent, Adelbert von Chamisso (17811838), who fled the
Revolution and spent the rest of his life in Prussia. Chamisso left France at
age 9 for Berlin, whereamong many other literary pursuitshe translated the poems of Hans Christian Andersen and Pierre Branger into
German; these, together with his cycle Frauenliebe und -leben (Womans
Love and Life), account for sixteen of Schumanns settings. But it was the
translations of Emanuel Geibel (181584) and Paul Heyse (18301914)
thatin addition to numerous Schumann settingsprovided the poetic
raw material for the ninety settings that make up Hugo Wolfs major cycles
of 1891 and 1895: the Spanish and Italian Songbooks. Although translated
texts constitute at least half of Wolfs lieder, as contrasted with 5 percent
for Brahms, they account for a modest but significant share of the poems
set by Richard Strauss (Petersen 1980, 36).

Naturalism and Dnouement

Even more interesting in literary terms, however, is Strausss
encounter (in the mid-1890s) with the poetsand the poetryof Naturalism. These socially engaged contemporary poetsparticularly Richard
Dehmel (18631920), John Henry Mackay (18641933), and Detlev von

The Literary Context


Liliencron (18841909)were then considered quite modern and even

revolutionary. In 189899 Strauss set three of Dehmels new social lyrics
(Petersen 1980, 170), Der Arbeitsmann (The Laborer, Op. 39, No. 3),
Befreit (Freed, Op. 39, No. 4), and Am Ufer (At the Shore, Op. 41,
No. 3). The grimly realistic (i.e., naturalistic) protest of the vainly
laboring father, who is nonetheless mindful of natures bounty and his
familys rightful place therein, gains a Nibelungen-like aura of joyless
futility in Strausss darkly Wagnerian setting of Der Arbeitsmann (The
Wir haben ein Bett, wir haben
ein Kind,
Mein Weib!
Wir haben auch Arbeit, und gar
zu zweit,
Und haben die Sonne und Regen
und Wind,
Und uns fehlt nur eine Kleinigkeit,
Um so frei zu sein, wie die Vgel
Nur Zeit.

We have a bed, we have a child,

My wife!
We also have work, and work for
And have the sun and rain and
And just one bit we lack
To be as free as are the birds:
Just time.

The second stanzaomitted heredescribes a Sunday stroll through

natures fields of grain, where the familys clothing is as fine as that of
the birds. The third equates human needs with an impending storm and
culminates in the oxymoron that expresses hope and hopelessness
simultaneouslyhuman deprivation as a brief eternity:
Nur Zeit! wir wittern Gewitterwind,
Wir Volk.
Nur eine kleine Ewigkeit;
Uns fehlt ja nichts, mein Weib,
mein Kind,
Als all das, was durch uns gedeiht,
Um so khn zu sein, wie die Vgel
Nur Zeit.

Just time! We sense windy storms

We People.
Just one brief eternity;
Naught do we lack, my wife, my
Save all that flourishes through us,
To be as bold as are the birds:
Just time.

The extreme economy of rhyming words is a structural feature that

makes the unrhymed, single occurrence of Volk (people) an emphatic call
for social justice in the intimate context of the (nuclear) family. Strauss
brightens the gloomy F-minor texture with smatterings of major harmony
when the words sun as well as the laborers wife and child are
mentioned, but in the crescendo-enhanced F-sharp-minor context of
the anticipated storm, the sudden F-major fortissimo harmony underlying
Volk emphasizes the political message as well.


German Lieder in the Nineteenth Century

In the poem Befreit (Freed), Dehmel displays the psychological

ambivalence and ecstatic rhetoric typical of Nietzsches influence on the
poets and composers of this age: although Dehmel said that the three
quatrains describe a man speaking to his dying wife, the threefold refrain
O Glck! (Oh happiness) suggests that the liberation involved is the
ultimate devotion which has freed the loving pair from suffering to a
point which not death itself can threaten (Del Mar 1972, 316). An even
more Nietzschean utterance of Dehmels in 1896, Am Ufer (On the
Shore), evokes a twilight-nighttime hallucination far removed from
Goethes serene nocturnal vision of 1780:
Die Welt verstummt, dein Blut
In seinen hellen Abgrund sinkt
Der ferne Tag,
Er schaudert nicht; die Glut
Das hchste Land, im Meere ringt
Die ferne Nacht,
Sie zaudert nicht; der
Flut entspringt
Ein Sternchen, deine Seele trinkt
Das ewige Licht.

The world grows mute, your blood

Into its bright abyss sinks
The distant day,
It shudders not; the glow engulfs
The highest land, in the sea wrestles
The distant night,
It lingers not; out of the tide
A small star springs, your soul drinks
The eternal light.

Psychic eons seem to have passed between the late-eighteenth-century

simplicity and harmony of Goethes Warte nur, balde / Ruhest du
auch (Just wait, soon / you too shall rest) and the anthropomorphic
aestheticism of Dehmels fin-de-sicle conception of the bond between
mankind and nature that can be expressed only metaphorically and synesthetically as deine Seele trinkt / das ewige Licht (your soul drinks / the
eternal light).
This shoreline vision, so fatefully poised on the threshold of the
twentieth century, received another setting in 1908, by Anton Webern, that
heralds the atonal musical idiom that the younger Strausss post-Wagnerian
chromaticism sought but did not attain (Velten 1986, 46467). Even
more prophetic is a very different shoreline vision by an all but ignored
earlier German poet who precariously bridges German Classicism and
Romanticism: Friedrich Hlderlin (17701843). At some time between
1799 and 1803, the tormented Hlderlin wrote a short poem whose
imagistic concentration and radically disjunctive view of life, whose intoxicated Romantic lushness and despairing, existential hopelessness, have rarely
been equaled, even by deliberate modernists (Hamburger 1970, 268):
Mit gelben Birnen hnget
Und voll mit wilden Rosen

With yellow pears the land,

And full of wild roses,

The Literary Context


Das Land in den See,

Ihr holden Schwne,
Und trunken von Kssen
Tunkt ihr das Haupt
Ins heilignchterne Wasser.

Hangs down into the lake,

You lovely swans,
And drunk with kisses
You dip your heads
Into the hallowed, the sober, water.

Weh mir, wo nehm ich, wenn

Es Winter ist, die Blumen, und wo

But oh, where shall I find,

When winter comes, the flowers,
and where
The sunshine
And shade of the earth?
The walls loom
Speechless and cold, in the wind
Weathercocks clatter.

Den Sonnenschein
Und Schatten der Erde?
Die Mauern stehn
Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde
Klirren die Fahnen.

Except for the adjective heilignchtern (holy-sober), Hlfte des

Lebens (The Middle of Life) is written in the language of common
speech. But as Hamburger points out (1970, 269), it creates new
rhythmsas the expression of a mood so new as to be terrifying. This
dynamic syntax, which became typical of the early twentieth-century
Expressionists, literally speaks for itself without any poetic or emotional
embellishment. Yet the vast difference between Hlderlins drastic conjunction of two diametrically opposed seven-line stanzas and Goethes
single eight-line strophe ber allen Gipfeln (Over every summit) is a
measure of the capacity of German poetry to express the vicissitudes of
human experience during the extended period when the major Romantic
lieder were composed. In his schizoid but lyrically conjoined utterances,
Hlderlin pits mans classically discerned oneness with a harmoniously
perceived and aesthetically experienced nature (in stanza 1) against a
Kafkaesque twentieth-century anxiety (in stanza 2) that calls into question
the very existence of such relationships. By contrast, Goethes lateeighteenth-century confidence in the secure place of man in the natural
scheme of things seems a long lost utopian dream.
Given the century that passed before Hlderlins schizophrenically
prophetic poetic insights could be discovered, it is understandable that it
took another half-century for them to be set (in 1958) to congenial music
by the English composer Benjamin Britten (191376).29 The ingenious use
of carefully controlled intervalic movement of the melody and arpeggiated
ostinato harmonies to express two contrasting strophesin radically
differentiated ways for summer and wintermakes Brittens setting a paragon of musico-poetic congruence, as well as an apotheosis of Schuberts
through-composed lied ideal. Just as the quintessential (musical) Romantic
lied is all but unthinkable without the folk song tradition of preceding
centuries, it is inconceivable that the many-faceted nineteenth-century
lied would not continue to influence receptive composers in the
decades thereafter.30