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This season’s series of Songs and Poets events revolves around Robert Schumann. What makes Schumann’s lieder so singular?
We get an incredible sensation of imagination with Schumann’s art songs. Of all the Romantics, he takes things furthest. Each lied has a mood that rises above everything else and is pushed to its limits. His fixation appears a touch eccentric and it’s not hard to associate it with Schumann’s schizophrenic tendency.
What part does the piano take in these excursions to the edge?
You’re right, Schumann composes his songs from the piano perspective and never focuses solely on melody and accompaniment but always gives the piano its own voice. Schumann’s songs are chamber pieces for two artists on a par with each other.
For the poets presenting their works alongside Schumann’s songs, is the lyrical intensity of the music a hard act to follow?
You could say that. Among the Romantics, none is more literary-minded than Schumann. Not only did he select the very finest poems to base his works on; he also drew on literature as a matter of course. Yet that’s exactly why it makes sense to intersperse his musical arrangements with fresh, modern-day poetry. If you ask me, Schumann would have liked that.