Robert Schumann

Doppelchörige Gesänge (4), Op.141

    Description by Anne Feeney

    During his Dresden years, Schumann was much more involved with choral works than he had been before, both as a composer and as a conductor. During their financially troubled period in 1848, when Clara was unable to perform due to an unexpectedly difficult pregnancy, his choral ballads helped to make up for that loss of income. He even instituted a mixed-voice choir there, the Verein für Choregesang, and probably wrote these four double choruses for that group. They were published posthumously, and it is possible that Schumann intended the last one in this group, "Talismane," to be published in another collection or separately. While it has the same rich harmonies as the others, it is the only one that is overtly religious (while the first song, "An die Sterne," mentions the hope of peace in the heavens, the focus is more on communion with nature than that with God). The song uses imitative passages much more extensively than the others, coming close to fugues at times and suggesting (as do sections of his Requiem) the influence of Bach.

    While this is his only work for mixed double chorus, Schumann shows his assurance with the genre. There are relatively few signs of Schumann the Lieder or symphonic composer in these four pieces, contrary to what one might have expected. The focus is strongly on the harmonies among the vocal parts rather than upon melody or any single part's lines. He does use some devices common to both solo and choral writing, such as a texture in which the upper voices hover above the others in the third song, "Zuversicht" ("Assurance"), whose text describes looking heavenward to find hope and love. Schumann uses the wide variety of potential voice combinations very effectively in the last part of the second song, "Ungewisses Licht" ("Uncertain Light"), as he approaches the concluding question "Ist es die Liebe," while maintaining a consistent dark line underneath in the lower voices.

    Parts/Movements

    1. An die Sterne
    2. Ungewisses Licht
    3. Zuversicht
    4. Talismane

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2015
    Various Artists
    Brilliant Classics
    95020BR
    2014
    Naxos
    8573314
    2013
    Delphian
    DCD 34124
    2013
    Carus
    Carus 83327
    2012
    Aparte
    AP 044
    2012
    EtCetera Records
    KTC 4033
    2012
    Brilliant Classics
    94383
    2007
    Carus
    83173
    2006
    Capriccio Records
    67196
    2006
    Globe Records
    5147
    2003
    Collegium Records
    509
    1993
    Collegium Records
    119
    Pan
    5103