Frauenliebe und Leben- Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann (1810- 56)

  • Born in Zwickau in east Germany- son of a bookseller/ translator.
  • Had access to Romantic authors from a young age.
  • Studied law at Leipzig- took piano and composition lessons with Friedrich Wieck and Heinrich Dorn.
  • Broke his finger- couldn't become a performer so pursued composition- especially after seeing Paganini in concert and meeting Clara Wieck (virtuoso pianist 9 years younger than him).
  • Wrote Davidsbundler (league of David)- collection based on people he admired, emphasising fight against philistines.
  • Explored the idea of the alter ego with Florestan and Eusebius.
  • Founded Neue Zeitschrift fur Musik which emphasised a new approach to art, taking it very seriously. He edited the publication for 10 years.
  • Began to write larger scale works in an attempt to make more money. These were original but difficult to perform.
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Robert Schumann (cont.)

  • Wanted to marry Clara Wieck- taken to court by her father (he thought Schumann was financially unstable).
  • Married just before her 21st birthday.
  • Had 8 children, despite both Robert and Clara having unstable careers.
  • Schumann tended to focus on one genre at a time, often composing very quickly.
    • 1830s- difficult piano piece
    • 1840- 1- song
    • 1841- orchestral
    • 1842- chamber
    • 1843- choral
  • Nationalism is evident in his lieder of 1840-1. He composed 125 solo songs in this time (!).
  • Clara Schumann was important as an artist and composer in her own right.
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Frauenliebe und Leben

  • Composed over 2 days (11th-12th July 1840), just before his wedding to Clara. May be seen as an idealisation regarding how long and strong their love will be.
  • Musical coherence- starts and ends in Bb.
  • Only set 8 poems- does not include the epilogue from the original poetry where the persona reveals she is telling the story to her daughter.
  • Poetic use of the piano- ambiguous yet expressive.
  • Theme of vision throughout.
  • Feminist scholars raise issue with whether the view implied is acceptable- controlling of women's thoughts.
  • Problems due to assumed close relationship between poet, persona and performa.
  • The piece was interestingly first performed in public by baritone Stockhausen.
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Song no. 1, Song no. 4


She has seen him for the first time, and now he is the only thing she can see.

  • Quite diatonic (representing stability?) with occasional responsive chromaticism
  • Pretty much strophic- idea of a life cycle.


She sings to his ring, which she now wears.

  • Sense of regularity in the phrasing- again representing stability.
  • Interesting harmony- sounds almost magical.
  • Moves in steps until the climax, where leaps become more common.
  • More movement towards the end.
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Song no.6, Song no. 8

6. She tells him why she's happy, and shows him where she'll put the cradle.

  • Declamatory style- quite operatic.
  • Piano interlude between stanzas. Before this, the piano has sustained chords only.
  • Music gives extra information, commenting on the words (suggests she is pregnant, we are not told explicitly).Develops on the opening motif of ascending minor 4th followed by descending min 2nd.

8. His death is the first wrong he has ever done her.

  • Bold, striking sforzandi.
  • Second stanza softer- links with the text "silently I withdraw myself".
  • Piano postlude- music from the beginning returns, perhaps suggesting that the life cycle is complete.
  • Tonal closure signifies emotional closure- back to beginning with daughter.
  • Maybe represents a memory- repetition in postlude is inaccurate (Muxfeldt).
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