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Der Wanderer in der Sägemühle (1832)

Der Wanderer in der Sägemühle

Dort unten in der Mühle
Saß ich in guter Ruh
Und sah dem Räderspiele
Und sah dem Wasser zu.
Sah zu der blanken Säge,
Es war mir wie ein Traum,
Die bahnte lange Wege
In einen Tannenbaum.
Die Tanne war mir lebend,
In Trauermelodie,
Durch alle Fasern bebend
Sang diese Worte sie:
Du trittst zur rechten Stunde,
O Wanderer, hier ein,
Du bist’s, für den die Wunde
Mir dringt ins Herz hinein.
Du bist’s, für den wird werden,
Wenn kurz gewandert du,
Dies Holz im Schoß der Erden,
Ein Schrein zur langen Ruh.
Vier Bretter sah ich fallen,
Mir ward um’s Herze schwer,
Ein Wörtlein wollt’ ich lallen,
Da ging das Rad nicht mehr.

The wayfarer in the sawmill

Down there in the mill
I was sitting at my ease
Looking at the wheels go round,
Looking at the water.
I looked at the gleaming saw –
I thought it was a dream –
Which was cutting deep
Into a fir tree.
The fir seemed almost alive,
Singing its sad lament;
Quivering in every fibre,
It sang these words:
You have come, O wayfarer,
At the right moment,
You are the one for whom
I bear this wound in my heart!
You are the one for whom,
When your short journey is over,
This wood will serve as a shrine
For your long rest in the earth’s womb.
I saw four planks falling,
My heart grew heavy,
I was about to speak a word –
But the wheel had stopped turning.
Translations by Richard Stokes © author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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Composer

Clara Schumann (1819-96) née Wieck is one of the most significant women in musical history. Apart from being a tremendously successful pianist and pedagogue, she wrote numerous songs alongside other works in various genres. She also transformed the reputation of her initially unsuccessful husband Robert Schumann through her determined championing.

As a girl, Clara Wieck was taught by her father Friedrich. Her mother Mariane Tromlitz was a professional-standard pianist. The marriage collapsed when Clara was a child, and only as an adult could she re-establish a relationship with her mother. Friedrich Wieck gave his daughter an exceptional musical education, including taking her to every important concert, opera, and drama in her native Leipzig, and training her in the complex business arrangements of a musical career. She gave her first performance at the Gewandhaus when she was nine years old.

Clara Schumann typically incorporated her own compositions into her concerts throughout the 1830s. In the use of bold harmonies, adventurous modulations, and rhythmic freedom, her compositions share qualities with her contemporaries from the new Romantic school such as Robert Schumann, Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, and Frederic Chopin.

Her relationship with Robert Schumann signalled a turning point. After strong opposition from her father, they married in 1840 and embarked on a period of musical and literary study which transformed her style. However, she struggled with the pressure to be a perfect housewife and mother. During sixteen years of marriage, she bore eight children while also being pressed into Robert’s service, preparing keyboard arrangements of orchestral works, playing for rehearsals and much else. After Robert’s death in 1856, she threw herself back into her performing career for several reasons: firstly, her own playing was largely stifled during her marriage; secondly, she could reliably generate much-needed income; and finally, she could most effectively establish her husband’s legacy. She eventually settled in Frankfurt. 

Clara Schumann gave three songs (‘Am Strande’, ‘Volkslied’, and ‘Ich stand in dunkeln Träumen’) to her husband on their first Christmas together. These were followed by four songs, three of which were incorporated in a joint collection (published as Robert Schumann’s op.37 and her op.12) and several independent opuses. Although not numerous, her Lieder are expressive and powerful contributions to the genre, ranging from lyric to dramatic in style. Her accompaniment textures are varied and can be virtuosic, such as in ‘Walzer’ and the magnificent ‘Loreley’. Her melodies often display great elegance alongside an innate understanding of the voice. Formally, she was innovative, experimenting with phrase lengths and layers of texture. Her ‘Geheimes Flüstern’ from op.23 is one of the finest 19th-century Lieder ever composed.

Clara Schumann’s taste in song poetry heavily overlapped with that of her husband and many other contemporaries. For instance, her favoured song poets, Heinrich Heine, Emanuel Geibel, and Friedrich Rückert, were all important contemporaries whose verses were frequently set. Perhaps more than any other woman composer, Clara Schumann is established in the song repertoire. A complete edition of her songs appeared in 1990 and there are numerous recordings.

© Natasha Loges, 2022


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Poet

Justinus Andreas Christian Kerner was a German poet, practicing physician, and medical writer.

He was born at Ludwigsburg in Württemberg. After attending the classical schools of Ludwigsburg and Maulbronn, he was apprenticed in a cloth factory, but, in 1804, owing to the good services of Professor Karl Philipp Conz, was able to enter the University of Tübingen. He studied medicine but also had time for literary pursuits in the company of Ludwig Uhland, Gustav Schwab and others. He took his doctor's degree in 1808, spent some time travelling, and then settled as a practising physician in Wildbad.

Here he completed his Reiseschatten von dem Schattenspieler Luchs (1811), in which his own experiences are described with caustic humour. He next collaborated with Uhland and Schwab in the Poetischer Almanach for 1812, which was followed by the Deutscher Dichterwald (1813), and in these some of Kerner's best poems were published. In 1815 he obtained the official appointment of district medical officer (Oberamtsarzt) in Gaildorf, and in 1818 was transferred to Weinsberg, where he spent the rest of his life.

Taken from Wikipedia. To view the full article, please click here.


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