A Review of Gerald Moore’s Poet’s Love: The Songs and Cycles of Schumann

This book shall be invaluable to me and any male or female singer who is planning on doing an entire Dichterliebe or any Schumann song cycle to complete one of their life-long goals. I also loved reading through The Schubert Song Cycles with thoughts on performance by the same author. The author gives the reader a sense of what the book is about right in the preface. He says that he mainly attempts to talk about questions of ensemble between the singer and pianist; mood, tempi, rhythm, color, and feeling. I’m a lover of Schumann’s entire output and I especially love Gerald Moore’s artistry. I am anxious to see just how valuable this book will be to me over the course of my life. I plan on buying this book. I have sung Liederkreis Op. 39 and I enjoyed skimming through the pages of the songs I particularly delighted in singing. This book is easy to read because there are only a few pages dedicated to each song, and the format is pretty much the same for every song. The translation of the poem under the song title is especially elegant. In the analysis of the song Mondnacht: Moore immediately launches into the symbolism of the music. It was very informative and could indeed enhance the performance for a singer. This book is good because it gives the performer something to think about while they are not singing and the piano is playing.  This is important because what the singer is thinking is represented on the face and the audience sees the face.  Moore talks in language that a pianist might understand better than a singer. Moore emphasizes key signature agreeing with poetry and demonstrates Schumann’s attention to words and their importance. Moore is a supporter of rubato and any pianist who loves to play lieder would be wise to read this book. Singers would benefit from pianists who admire or adhere to Moore’s style of playing. He says rubato is “subject to good taste and form,” with which I particularly agreed. In terms of teaching, I am especially anxious to use this book when I give selections of Frauenliebe und Leben to female singers to study and live with. This book is mainly for performers and it should be used liberally in that regard.


The Wanderer and the Linden Tree from Schubert’s Winterreise

The Wanderer character is associated with  images and themes of German Romantic poets. They sought to go beyond what is known. The new German culture at the eighteenth-century sought to eliminate boundaries. Poets sought to explore the infinite and escape mundane existence.

The journey of the Wanderer, as in Die Schöne Müllerin, is ideally suited to the form of the song cycle because the Wanderer seeks true love. The Romantic ideal of true love is found only in death, or peaceful repose. Schubert’s musical setting of Müller’s poetry takes us on a journey of musical themes, keys, and relationships. A song cycle is just as perfectly suited to telling the story of a character as an opera is suited. Many ideas and emotions, even ambiguous, are explored. The listener, as well, goes on an emotional journey and sympathizes, even empathizes with the Wanderer. Nature, even, is a character in this song cycle. (DSM) The brook, represented by the piano, talks to the Wanderer. The performance is ideally suited for the stage.

Der Lindenbaum, no. 5 from Winterreise by Schubert is in itself a masterpiece. It too represents nature as a character in a story, which goes through a range of emotions within the major and minor tonalities. The tree is home for the weary traveler. It represents good memories. The tree is his resting place. The pianistic triplets are the rustling of the leaves. The voice is stentorian and folk-like. The traveler pledges gratitude to the tree as to an old friend. The tonality is major when he thinks of good memories, and vice versa. There is also an actual rhythmic tree-motive, and it appears through out: the dotted eighth followed by two thirty-seconds and a dotted eighth is the sequence. The poem is strophic and the music follows the structure of the poem. The melody ascends on words associated with joy, which represents heightened emotion. When the traveler passes the tree at night, he closes his eyes in darkness. Here, Schubert is in minor and the triplets are perhaps a grotesque dance. The poetic meter is in itself musical: important words are melismatic and have longer note duration. If the mood of the poem changes, so does the music. The horn call-motive represents the wandering minstrel or musician; as made popular in German culture with Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister. On the words “hier findst du deine Ruh,” (here you find your peace) the melodic line descends into the Romantic ideal of death.