Roman Trekel, baritone · Oliver Pohl, piano
Roman Trekel, member of the ensemble of the State Opera Berlin, and constant
participant in the Bayreuth Festival since 1996, contributes an important
element to the Schumann anniversary in 2006 with his publication of the Heine songs. Heine’s poetry became the epitome for modern weltschmerz in the arrangement by Robert Schumann. For Roman Trekel, it is a matter very dear to his heart.A Kind of Spiritual Magnifying Glass:
Robert Schumann’s Heine Lieder
Rarely can an artist have drawn so articulate
a characterisation of himself as the young Robert Schumann: “Without defining the limits of human greatness, I would nevertheless
not incline to count Sch. among the completely ordinary humans. Talent for many things and unusual qualities distinguish him from the crowd … – His temperament (melancholicus)
expresses itself more in an ability to experience than in an ability to observe, and is thus more subjectivist than objectivist in his opinions and products – stronger in feeling than in acting. His intellect less one of reflection than of intuition of feeling, more of theoretical reasoning than of practical? Powerful imagination, not very active (contradicts
himself), needing an external impulse. Lively memory and power of recall. Acuity, profundity, wit not deep … – excels at music and poetry – not a musical genius – his talent as musician and poet at equal levels …” As is apparent from this extract from one of the numerous youthful diaries with the grotesque satirical title Hottentottiana, Schumann was at first vacillating between literature and music in his choice of career. We know how his final decision turned out … At the same time, the poetic did not let go of him, even becoming – in being increased by music – the very mainspring of his artistic existence.
The mistaken conception that Schumann began his career as a pure composer for the piano and then adopted his other areas of activity in a sort of “scheduled” development
is still occasionally to be met with even today. The impressive series of the “League of David” works, all written in the period 1830–1840, admittedly give the appearance
of bearing this out. However, this omits from consideration all earlier compositions in which almost without exception the vocal element plays a role. Rather, the long silence of the lieder writer expresses a basic underlying
aesthetic problem: Schumann was initially convinced that he could, without the medium of the poetic word, say in his (instrumental) language all of that of which music alone is capable.
When his purely pianistic work then nevertheless
became restricting, there began one of the most astounding eruptions of compositional
activity in the whole history of music: in what has now become the proverbial
“year of song” 1840 almost 140 poem settings were written (thus more than half of the total number of 250 lieder). It may be that it was the love of Clara Wieck and the prospect of an imminent marriage more than anything else that dissipated Schumann’s “disdain for all vocal music”. He had already in his first cycle, the Liederkreis Op. 24 allowed himself to be inspired by Heine’s Book of Songs. The two artists were soul mates in their manner of putting sensations such as the feeling of alienation, disappointment over political developments, or the joy and suffering of love under a psychological magnifying glass. Best known is probably Schumann’s Dichterliebe Op. 48, composed within the space of one week at the end of May 1840, which contains settings from the Lyrisches Intermezzo of the Book of Songs. In 16 poetic “snapshots”, the story of a love affair is told which begins hopefully – in the beautiful month of May – but then begins to display cracks, and finally, after unspeakable torments of love, ends in denial and forgetfulness. A psychological poetic creation of this sort, such a penetration into the dark side of the human soul, had not previously
existed other than with Schubert.
Through Schumann, Heine’s poetry becomes a cipher par excellence for the modern world-weariness. Did the composer sacrifice for this the special irony of the poet? No, he only realised it through his own means. Heine’s irony lies in the unexpected course which the text takes. Schumann’s irony on the other hand refrains from musical points, but feeds rather on the general relationship of tension between the vocal line and the piano accompaniment throughout a whole song. The irony of the text is thus preserved, but is often provided with an additional ironic commentary
through the accompaniment. The symbiosis is perfect.
Translation: ar-pege translations