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Development of German Lieder, part ii


October 19, 1814

is considered the birth of romantic lied, when 16 year old Franz Schubert composed Gretchen am Spinnrade. Also at this time, developments in the piano lead to a more diverse palate of sounds. (Ooo la la!)


Beethoven (1770 - 1827)

Considered the first song cycle: An die ferne gliebte (1816) Op. 98

Poet: Aloys Jeitteles

6 songs

This was a set of six songs strung together with a strategic key scheme. The composition has tidy musical bookends with the reprise of song one music in the closing of the final song six. This composition paved the way for future song cycles. Merit is found in the musical setting. The poetry... not so much.


Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828)

Schubert elevated the piano to equal stature as the voice.

He was the first composer to use the piano as an active participant in the story telling. He used it to create inanimate objects. A perfect example of this is Gretchen am Spinnrade (Poet: Goethe) where the spinning wheel spinning and foot pedal motion are animated in the piano part.

Schuberts friends wanted to dispense his music far and wide, so they set up "Schubertiads", AKA Concerts of his music in private homes.

Just do you don't forget: October 19, 1814 is considered the birth of romantic lied, when 16 year old Franz Schubert composed Gretchen am Spinnrade. Also at this time, developments in the piano lead to a more diverse palate of sounds. (Ooo la la!)

Die schöne Müllerin (1823) D. 795

Poet: Wilhelm Müller

20 songs

A tragic love story, yet simple and rustic. Considered the first great song cycle of the 19th century. Each song can stand on its own, but are also essential to the whole.

Winterreise (1827) D.911

Poet: Wilhelm Müller

24 songs

Feelings of intense grief explored in song form, a Melodrama. As the songs unfold, a tragic wander wanderer speaks to no one; he is alone and his narrative is introspective, addressed to himself. We never discover his name or where he is going but are eavesdropping on his soliloquies. The cycle ends with the listener left to supply their own ending.


Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)

When looking below at the dates of each song cycle/collection we see 1840, 1840, 1840. 1840 was to be Schumann's best year where he wrote 140 songs in 12 months! These compositions are unmatched in quality and quantity of output. Schumann contributed to the development of Lieder by elevating the piano to its own full participant with the voice. Accompaniments are solo like in preludes and postludes. His favorite poets were Heine and Eichendorff.

Dichteliebe (1840) Op. 48

Poet: Heinrich Heine (my fav!)

16 songs

Sketches a story of unhappy love, the betrayal of the poet by his lover. Unrequited love, often bitter (Bitter irony.... in the true Heine way.) Has been called an "extraordinary synthesis of music and poetry".

Frauenliebe und Leben (1840) Op. 42

Poet: Adalbert von Chamisso

8 songs

This cycle narrates a woman's stages of life and emotional experiences with her husband, from their first meeting to seeing him on his death bed. This song cycle as well as the 26 song collection Myrthen was a wedding present to his wife, Clara.

Liederkreis (1840) Op. 39

Poet: Joseph von Eichendorff

12 songs

This is a COLLECTION not a song cycle. The songs are connected through their commonality in references to nature, seasons, and times of day. Each song is self contained.

Liederkreis (1840) Op. 24

Poet: My Man, Heinrich Heine

9 songs

Yes, there are two Liederkreis'. Better memorize those Opus Numbers. No other comments ....


Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883)

Wagner lacked interest in composing song. His composition style did not easily adapt to smaller forms like the song. But he found inspiration from german lieder, especially Carl Loewe. He only wrote a small number of songs and usually had special concrete reasons for doing so. He coined the term GESAMTKUNSTWERK (total art work) and had a profound influence on composers like Wolf and Mahler, as well as many generations after.

Wesendonck Lieder (1857 -1858)

Poet: Matilde Wesendonck

5 songs

a product of the LOVE AFFAIR between Wesendonck and Wagner... This composition is the antecedent to the opera Tristan und Isolde. Contains themes of pain and suffering being necessary for happiness (hmm... well, beauty hurts?...?) All poems share the theme of the pleasure and pain of passionate love.


Johannes Brahms (1883 - 1897)

Brahms neglected major poets and liked to use minor ones. He had a great interest in folk songs and folk music. His favorite poetic themes were about night, lament, and loneliness. He was the lover of Clara Schumann and composed on CLARA as a musical theme symbol. His lieder reflect his emotional involvement and lifelong devotion to Clara.

Zigeunerlieder (1887) Op. 103

Poet: Hungarian folk songs

8 songs

Hungarian folk music in rhythm and word accent with an array of emotions from melancholy to exuberant!


Hugo Wolf (1860 - 1903)

Wolfs lied continued the Schubertian tradition of creating a complete theatre in the mind with the piano accompaniment. Wolfs full use of the piano, poetry, and voice was compared to Wagners work: a GESAMTKUNSTWERK for voice and piano! Like Schubert, Wolf had his own little fan club, called Wolf-Verrin, who would set up house concerts just to promote his music. He died going mentally crazy.

Mörike Lieder (1888)

Poet: Eduard Mörike

53 songs

A kaleidescope of moods and styles! Mood swings found in Mörikes verses that are similar to Wolf. The poetry is characterized by religious devotion, humor, realism, and imagination.

Goethe Lieder (1888-1889)

Poet: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

51 songs


Gustav Mahler (1860 - 1903)

With the exception of some early songs with piano, Mahler's songs are found in his major orchestral cycles. Lieder Eines fahrenden Gesellen (1884-1885) is considered one of the first authentic orchestral song cycle. Most of Mahlers songs are lengthy and written for heavy voices that have an extensive range and dynamic facility. In his compositions, he is careful to include declamations and word stresses to the vocal line, weaving in and out with the orchestral accompaniment.

Rückert-Lieder (1901 -1904)

Poet: Friedrich Rückert

5 Songs

Originally composed for Orchestra and Voice. Songs are a collection, rather than a cycle. The set is connected by the poet and common themes.


Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949)

Operas were Strauss's greatest contribution to vocal music, with Hofmannsthal as his librettist. However, Strauss also composed over 100 lieder for voice. Inspiration for his songs was his wife: Soprano, Pauline Ahna. They were written for her voice.

Most of his songs were composed by 1900 - which is considered the END OF GERMAN ROMANTIC LIED POPULARITY. He orchestrated 27 of his lieder, and wrote 15 others for voice and orchestra.

Opus 10 (1885)

Poet: Hermann von Gilm

8 Songs

Strauss's first collection of songs which he composed at age 18, are settings of Gilm poems from the same volume entitled Acht Lieder aus Letzte Blätter (Eight Songs from Last Pages), the first collection of songs Strauss ever published.


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