Immortal, alone, and looking for love – Watch my selections from Robert Schumann’s Liederkreis

Watch the premiere of my Liederkreis selections on Monday, April 19 at 12 noon EST.

Liederkreis is a song cycle by the famous German composer Robert Schumann, setting the poetry of Joseph von Eichendorff’s Intermezzo collection. Composed in 1840—Schumann’s prolific “year of song”—Liederkreis is one of the most enduring song cycles of the 19th century. Artists of the Romantic period were captivated by dark themes such as death and its implications, as well as the ominous power of the natural world. These ideas run through the entire song cycle, made up of 12 short art songs. In this video, I interpret the first two pieces: “In der Fremde” and “Intermezzo.”

“In der Fremde” tells the story of a person who, either by way of immortality or mortal resurrection, finds herself a stranger in her own home town. She stands in her homeland in a time well beyond the lifetime of her peers, and apart from the stormy weather, nothing here feels familiar. Her parents are dead, and so is everyone else she knows. But where else can she go? Alone and without any sense of home on earth, she longs for death in the foliate cover of the nearby forest, where she can decay and be forgotten just like everyone else. The poem is ultimately a cautionary tale about the wish for eternal life. While humans fear and try to avoid or cheat death, the absence of an end to our life cycle would ultimately render our existence meaningless and incredibly lonely. 

“Intermezzo” is a sweet, romantic interlude in the Liederkreis song cycle. Following the doom and gloom of “In der Fremde,” this piece is a doting love song referencing another “old, beautiful song” that inspires affection in a nostalgic way. The themes of time shift and idealization of the past seem to permeate this song cycle. “Intermezzo” represents a shift in energy toward lightness before Schumann takes us into the cold disappointment and heartbreak of the next song, “Waldesgespräch.”

For me, these were among the most challenging pieces of my exam to sing. The climax of “In der Fremde” requires the right mix of vocal strength and freedom, while the more serene “Intermezzo” has a dastardly rhythmic syncopation pattern between singer and piano. The pieces themselves are very fun to get into, and I would love the opportunity to sing the rest of the Liederkreis someday. 

Is there a song that you are excited about digging into, but don’t know where to start? Contact me for a free consultation. 

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