Monday, April 25, 2011

Happy 25th!!

In the years 1832-1839, Robert Schumann wrote almost exclusively for the piano, but in 1840 alone he wrote 168 songs. Indeed 1840 (referred to as "the year of song") is highly significant in Schumann's musical legacy despite his earlier deriding of works for piano and voice as inferior.

Prior to his marriage to the pianist Clara Wieck, the lovers, Robert and Clara, exchanged love letters and rendezvoused in secret.  Robert would often wait in a cafe for hours in a nearby city just to see Clara for a few minutes after one of her concerts. The strain of this long courtship, (they finally married in 1840) and its consummation led to this great outpouring of vocal songs with piano accompaniment. This is evident in "Widmung," opus 25, for example, where he uses the melody from Schubert's "Ave Maria" in the postlude – in homage to Clara. Schumann's biographers have attributed the sweetness, the doubt and the despair of these songs to the varying emotions aroused by his love for Clara and the uncertainties of their future together.

Incidentally, "Ave Maria" is the popular title of Schubert's song originally titled "Ellen's Song."   I heard "Ellen's Song" for the first time as a young boy when my mother, a Roman Catholic, took me to the church of Our Blessed Lady of Perpetual Jurisdiction.

 The following YouTube is Schumann's "Widmung," sung by Howard University graduate, Jessye Norman.

Lang Lang performs Franz Liszt's transcription of Schumann's Widmung (Dedication):


Gary Freedman said...

A coworker at Hogan and Hartson, Mary Jane Coolen, had Widmung sung at her wedding on Saturday September 19, 1987.

Craig Dye did't attend; he had a prior commitment. I didn't attend either, though I was invited.

I wonder if Craig remembers Schumann's Widmung sung at the wedding.

Gary Freedman said...

At the age of 16, Jessye Norman entered the Marian Anderson Vocal Competition in Philadelphia which, although she did not win, led to her being offered a full scholarship to Howard University, in Washington, D.C.

While at Howard, Norman sang in the university chorus and as a professional soloist at the Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ, while studying voice with Carolyn Grant. In 1965, along with 32 other female students and 4 female faculty, she became a founding member of the Delta Nu Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota. In 1966, she won the National Society of Arts and Letters singing competition. After graduating from Howard in 1967 with a degree in music, she began graduate-level studies at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and later at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, from which she earned a Masters Degree in 1968. During this time Norman studied voice with Elizabeth Mannion and Pierre Bernac.

Incidentally, Senior Akin Gump Counsel, Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., is a trustee of Howard University and a graduate of Howard University Law School. He is also a corporate fund board member at the Kennedy Center.

According to Mr. Jordan, all black people who went to college know each other!

Gary Freedman said...

Lyrics to the song Widmung:

You my soul, you my heart,
you my bliss, o you my pain,
you the world in which I live;
you my heaven, in which I float,
o you my grave, into which
I eternally cast my grief.
You are rest, you are peace,
you are bestowed upon me from heaven.
That you love me makes me worthy of you;
your gaze transfigures me;
you raise me lovingly above myself,
my good spirit, my better self!