Dichterliebe, 'A Poet's Love' (composed 1840), is the best-known song cycle of Robert Schumann (Op. 48). The texts for the 16 songs come from the Lyrisches Intermezzo of Heinrich Heine, composed 1822–1823, published as part of the poet's Das Buch der Lieder. Following the song-cycles of Franz Schubert (Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise), those of Schumann constitute part of the central core of the genre in musical literature.
The source: Heine's Lyrisches Intermezzo
Author of the sarcastic Die Romantische Schule, Heine was a vocal critic of German romanticism, though he himself is often described as a quintessentially Romantic writer. In some of his poetry, and notably in Deutschland. Ein Wintermärchen of 1844, the romantic lyrical conventions are used as vessels to deploy content of biting, satirical nature. Schumann's Dichterliebe was composed before Heine's Deutschland and does not appear to portray this ironic dimension: scholarship is divided as to what extent Schumann intended to express it.
Heine's Lyrisches Intermezzo consists of a verse Prologue and 65 poems. The Prologue (Es war 'mal ein Ritter trübselig und stumm – There once was a Knight, woeful and silent..) tells of the sorrowful knight that sits gloomily in his house all day, but by night is visited by his fairy (nixie) bride, and dances with her until daylight returns him to his little poet's room (Poeten-stübchen). The 65 poems follow, of which the 16 of the Dichterliebe are a selection. The conclusion of it all is that he is going to put the old bad songs and dreams, all his sorrowful love and suffering into a huge coffin, which twelve giants will throw into the sea. This catastrophe is slightly reminiscent of Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, in which the hero ends by drowning himself in the brook which he has followed through the cycle.
Das Buch der Lieder was given its second edition, with preface from Paris, in 1837, the songs were composed in 1840, and the first edition of Dichterliebe was published in two volumes by Peters, in Leipzig, 1844. Though Schumann originally set 20 songs to Heine's poems, only 16 of the 20 compositions were included in the first edition. (Dein Angesicht (Heine no 5) is one of the omitted items. Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, On Wings of Song (Heine no 9), is best known from a setting of Felix Mendelssohn's).
The very natural, almost hyper-sensitive poetical affections of the poems are mirrored in Schumann's settings, with their miniaturist chromaticism and suspensions. The poet's love is a hothouse of nuanced responses to the delicate language of flowers, dreams and fairy-tales. Schumann adapts the words of the poems to his needs for the songs, sometimes repeating phrases and often rewording a line to supply the desired cadence. Dichterliebe is therefore an integral artistic work apart from the Lyrisches Intermezzo, though derived from it and inspired by it. Schubert's selection of lyrics for his own Heine songs had sought different themes.
Although frequently associated with the male voice, the work was dedicated to the great soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient, so that the precedent for performance by a female voice is primary. The first complete public recital of the work in London was given by Harry Plunket Greene, accompanied from memory by Leonard Borwick, on 11 January 1895 at St James's Hall.
(The synopses here are made from the Heine texts)
- Im wunderschönen Monat Mai (Heine, Lyrical Intermezzo no 1). (In beautiful May, when the buds sprang, love sprang up in my heart: in beautiful May, when the birds all sang, I told you my desire and longing.)
- Aus meinen Tränen sprießen (Heine no 2). (Many flowers spring up from my tears, and a nightingale choir from my sighs: If you love me, I'll pick them all for you, and the nightingale will sing at your window.)
- Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne (Heine no 3). (I used to love the rose, lily, dove and sun, joyfully: now I love only the little, the fine, the pure, the One: you yourself are the source of them all.)
- Wenn ich in deine Augen seh (Heine no 4). (When I look in your eyes all my pain and woe fades: when I kiss your mouth I become whole: when I recline on your breast I am filled with heavenly joy: and when you say, 'I love you', I weep bitterly.)
- Ich will meine Seele tauchen (Heine no 7). (I want to bathe my soul in the chalice of the lily, and the lily, ringing, will breathe a song of my beloved. The song will tremble and quiver, like the kiss of her mouth which in a wondrous moment she gave me.)
- Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome (Heine no 11). (In the Rhine, in the sacred stream, great holy Cologne with its great cathedral is reflected. In it there is a face painted on golden leather, which has shone into the confusion of my life. Flowers and cherubs float about Our Lady: the eyes, lips and cheeks are just like those of my beloved.)
- Ich grolle nicht (Heine no 18). (I do not chide you, though my heart breaks, love ever lost to me! Though you shine in a field of diamonds, no ray falls into your heart's darkness. I have long known it: I saw the night in your heart, I saw the serpent that devours it: I saw, my love, how empty you are.)
- Und wüßten's die Blumen, die kleinen (Heine no 22). (If the little flowers only knew how deeply my heart is wounded, they would weep with me to heal my suffering, and the nightingales would sing to cheer me, and even the starlets would drop from the sky to speak consolation to me: but they can't know, for only One knows, and it is she that has torn my heart asunder.)
- Das ist ein Flöten und Geigen (Heine no 20). (There is a blaring of flutes and violins and trumpets, for they are dancing the wedding-dance of my best-beloved. There is a thunder and booming of kettle-drums and shawms. In between, you can hear the good cupids sobbing and moaning.)
- Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen (Heine no 40). (When I hear that song which my love once sang, my breast bursts with wild affliction. Dark longing drives me to the forest hills, where my too-great woe pours out in tears.)
- Ein Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen (Heine no 39). (A youth loved a maiden who chose another: the other loved another girl, and married her. The maiden married, from spite, the first and best man that she met with: the youth was sickened at it. It's the old story, and it's always new: and the one whom she turns aside, she breaks his heart in two.)
- Am leuchtenden Sommermorgen (Heine no 45). (On a sunny summer morning I went out into the garden: the flowers were talking and whispering, but I was silent. They looked at me with pity, and said, 'Don't be cruel to our sister, you sad, death-pale man.')
- Ich hab' im Traum geweinet (Heine no 55). (I wept in my dream, for I dreamt you were in your grave: I woke, and tears ran down my cheeks. I wept in my dreams, thinking you had abandoned me: I woke, and cried long and bitterly. I wept in my dream, dreaming you were still good to me: I woke, and even then my floods of tears poured forth.)
- Allnächtlich im Traume (Heine no 56). (I see you every night in dreams, and see you greet me friendly, and crying out loudly I throw myself at your sweet feet. You look at me sorrowfully and shake your fair head: from your eyes trickle the pearly tear-drops. You say a gentle word to me and give me a sprig of cypress: I awake, and there is no sprig, and I have forgotten what the word was.)
- Aus alten Märchen winkt es (Heine no 43). (The old fairy tales tell of a magic land where great flowers shine in the golden evening light, where trees speak and sing like a choir, and springs make music to dance to, and songs of love are sung such as you have never heard, till wondrous sweet longing infatuates you! Oh, could I only go there, and free my heart, and let go of all pain, and be blessed! Ah! I often see that land of joys in dreams: then comes the morning sun, and it vanishes like smoke.)
- Die alten, bösen Lieder (Heine no 65). (The old bad songs, and the angry, bitter dreams, let us now bury them, bring a large coffin. I shall put very much therein, I shall not yet say what: the coffin must be bigger than the 'Tun' at Heidelberg. And bring a bier of stout, thick planks, they must be longer than the Bridge at Mainz. And bring me too twelve giants, who must be mightier than the Saint Christopher in the cathedral at Cologne. They must carry the coffin and throw it in the sea, because a coffin that large needs a large grave to put it in. Do you know why the coffin must be so big and heavy? I will also put my love and my suffering into it.)
Texts of some in the Schumann form are displayed in Wikibooks
These are some landmarks among the many recordings of Dichterliebe:
See also Keith Falkner with John Hunt (unissued), acetates, Cornell University.