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Songs

Songs

Frage (1840) Op.35 no.9


Part of a series or song cycle:

Zwölf Gedichte von Justinus Kerner (Op.35)


Frage

Wärst du nicht, heil’ger Abendschein!
Wärst du nicht, sternerhellte Nacht!
Du Blütenschmuck! Du üpp’ger Hain!
Und du, Gebirg’ voll ernster Pracht!
Du Vogelsang aus Himmeln hoch!
Du Lied aus voller Menschenbrust,
Wärst du nicht, ach, was füllte noch
In arger Zeit ein Herz mit Lust?

Question

If you, holy evening star, were not,
And you, star-illumined night,
Adorning blossoms, luxuriant wood,
You, mountains, filled with solemn glory,
You, song of birds from heaven on high,
You, song from a full human heart,
If you were not, ah, what still would fill
A heart with joy in adversity?
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

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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