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Songs

Der Spielmann (1840) Op. 40 no.4


Part of a series or song cycle:

Fünf Lieder (Op. 40)


Der Spielmann

Im Städtchen gibt es des Jubels viel,
Da halten sie Hochzeit mit Tanz und mit Spiel,
Dem Fröhlichen blinket der Wein so rot,
Die Braut nur gleicht dem getünchten Tod.
Ja tot für den, den nicht sie vergißt,
Der doch beim Fest nicht Bräutigam ist;
Da steht er inmitten der Gäste im Krug,
Und streichet die Geige lustig genug!
Er streichet die Geige, sein Haar ergraut,
Es schwingen die Saiten gellend und laut,
Er drückt sie ans Herz und achtet es nicht,
Ob auch sie in tausend Stücke zerbricht.
Es ist gar grausig, wenn einer so stirbt,
Wenn jung sein Herz um Freude noch wirbt;
Ich mag und will nicht länger es sehn!
Das möchte den Kopf mir schwindelnd verdrehn.—
Wer heißt euch mit Fingern zeigen auf mich?
O Gott—bewahr uns gnädiglich,
Daß Keinen der Wahnsinn übermannt;
Bin selber ein armer Musikant.

The Fiddler

In the little town there’s much rejoicing,
They’re holding a wedding with music and dance,
The happy man quaffs the glinting red wine,
But the bride is as pale as death.
She is dead for the one she cannot forget,
Who’s at the feast but not as the groom;
He stands among the guests at the inn,
And plays his fiddle gaily enough!
He plays his fiddle, his hair turns grey,
The strings resound shrill and loud,
He presses the fiddle to his heart, heedless
If it shatters in a thousand pieces.
It’s hideous for a man to die in this way,
When his heart’s still young and striving for joy;
I cannot and will not watch any more!
My head might reel in a fatal whirl.—
Who said to point a finger at me?
O God—have mercy,
Let none of us go mad;
I too am just a poor musician.
Translations by Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

Composer

Robert Schumann was a German composer and influential music critic. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest composers of the Romantic era. Schumann left the study of law, intending to pursue a career as a virtuoso pianist. He had been assured by his teacher Friedrich Wieck that he could become the finest pianist in Europe, but a hand injury ended this dream. Schumann then focused his musical energies on composing.

Schumann's published compositions were written exclusively for the piano until 1840; he later composed works for piano and orchestra; many Lieder (songs for voice and piano); four symphonies; an opera; and other orchestral, choral, and chamber works. Works such as KinderszenenAlbum für die JugendBlumenstück, the Sonatas and Albumblätter are among his most famous. His writings about music appeared mostly in the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal for Music), a Leipzig-based publication which he jointly founded.

In 1840, Schumann married Friedrich Wieck's daughter Clara, against the wishes of her father, following a long and acrimonious legal battle, which found in favor of Clara and Robert. Clara also composed music and had a considerable concert career as a pianist, the earnings from which formed a substantial part of her father's fortune.

Schumann suffered from a lifelong mental disorder, first manifesting itself in 1833 as a severe melancholic depressive episode, which recurred several times alternating with phases of ‘exaltation’ and increasingly also delusional ideas of being poisoned or threatened with metallic items. After a suicide attempt in 1854, Schumann was admitted to amental asylum, at his own request, in Endenich near Bonn. Diagnosed with "psychotic melancholia", Schumann died two years later in 1856 without having recovered from his mental illness.

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Poet

Adelbert von Chamisso was a German poet and botanist, author of Peter Schlemihl, a famous story about a man who sold his shadow. He was commonly known in French as Adelbert de Chamisso(t) de Boncourt, a name referring to the family estate at Boncourt.

The son of Louis Marie, Count of Chamisso, by his marriage to Anne Marie Gargam, Chamisso began life as Louis Charles Adélaïde de Chamissot at the château of Boncourt at Ante, in Champagne, France, the ancestral seat of his family. His name appears in several forms, one of the most common being Ludolf Karl Adelbert von Chamisso.

In 1790, the French Revolution drove his parents out of France with their seven children, and they went successively to Liège, the Hague, Wurzburg, and Bayreuth, before settling in Berlin. There, in 1796 the young Chamisso was fortunate in obtaining the post of page-in-waiting to the queen of Prussia, and in 1798 he entered a Prussian infantry regiment as an ensign to train for a career as an army officer.

Shortly thereafter, thanks to the Peace of Tilsit, his family was able to return to France, but Chamisso remained in Prussia and continued his military career. He had little formal education, but while in the Prussian military service in Berlin he assiduously studied natural science for three years. In collaboration with Varnhagen von Ense, in 1803 he founded the Berliner Musenalmanach, the publication in which his first verses appeared. The enterprise was a failure, and, interrupted by the Napoleonic wars, it came to an end in 1806. It brought him, however, to the notice of many of the literary celebrities of the day and established his reputation as a rising poet.

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Hans Christian Andersen was a Danish author. Although a prolific writer of plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, Andersen is best remembered for his fairy tales. Andersen's popularity is not limited to children; his stories, called eventyr in Danish, express themes that transcend age and nationality.

Andersen's fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 125 languages, have become culturally embedded in the West's collective consciousness, readily accessible to children, but presenting lessons of virtue and resilience in the face of adversity for mature readers as well. Some of his most famous fairy tales include "The Emperor's New Clothes", "The Little Mermaid", "The Nightingale", "The Snow Queen", "The Ugly Duckling", "Thumbelina", and many more.

His stories have inspired ballets, both animated and live-action films, and plays.


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