Program Notes

ROBERT SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)

   I.  Eintritt (Entry)
  II.  Jäger auf der Lauer (Hunters on the Lookout)
 III.  Einsame Blumen (Lonely Flowers)
 IV.  Verrufene Stelle (Haunted Place)
  V.  Freundliche Landschaft (Friendly Landscape)
 VI.  Herberge (Wayside Inn)
VII.  Vogel als Prophet (Bird as Prophet)
VIII. Jagdlied (Hunting Song)
 IX.  Abschied (Farewell)

Most of Robert Schumann’s output was closely connected to the significance of his personal relationships and literary connections. For example, the exuberant output of keyboard pieces (opp. 1-23) of the 1830s, were all born from his intense drive to win over Clara Wieck and her father, his piano teacher, and of his gaining ground as a pianist, composer, and music critic.

The Waldszenen (Forest Scenes), however, date from a couple of weeks before his most prolific year, 1849, a year when he ventured into opera, incidental music, cycles of Lieder, concerti, salon chamber pieces, and other genres. Here, in Waldszenen, Schumann again returns to the form of character pieces inspired by poets. For example, the fourth piece, Verrufene Stelle (Haunted Place), cites two verses from Friedrich Hebbel’s Waldbilder (Forest Pictures):

The flowers which grow so tall
are here pale as death;
only one in the middle
stands there dark red.
It draws its colour not from the sun:
it has never met its glow;
it draws it from the earth,
which drank human blood.

The rest of the cycle, however, is much lighter in atmosphere! Schumann takes us on a wondrous journey in the woods with horn calls, hunters hiding in ambush, cool and warm shades of the forest, prophetic birds flitting from branch to branch, and the comfort of an inn within which the weary wanderer can rest.

Schumann often uses the most intensely personal language in the last movement of a cycle, as is the case with Kinderszenen (Der Dichter Spricht), Op. 15, Fantasie, Op. 17, Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6, Frauenliebe und Leben, Op. 42, and Dichterliebe, Op. 48. It is precisely because of the Lieder-like and poetic writing of the last movement, Abschied, that I fell in love with Waldszenen. Within Schumann’s deeply poetic language, one travels to a magical inner world of landscapes, sounds, and feelings.

Program notes by Amy Yang