Robert Schumann

Biem Abschied zu singen

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Biem Abschied zu singen, op. 84, by Robert Schumann, modern edition for voices and wind ensemble by David Whitwell: a warm and passionate composition which swelled from the composer’s heart.

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Product Description

Biem Abschied zu sin­gen, Op. 84
Robert Schu­mann (1810–1856)
Mod­ern edi­tion by David Whitwell (1937–)

Date: 1847
Instru­men­ta­tion: Cho­rus and Wind Ensem­ble (Fl 1.2, Ob 1.2, Cl 1.2, Hn 1.2, Bsn 1.2, SATB solo, SATB cho­rus)
Dura­tion: 4:30
Lev­el: 4

Recording

Notes on Schumann’s Biem Abschied zu singen

This won­der­ful work for cho­rus and winds was com­posed after Schu­mann and his fam­i­ly moved to Dres­den in Decem­ber, 1844. It was soon after this move that the health of Schu­mann began to sink. His doc­tor, Dr. Hel­big, record­ed that Schu­mann suf­fered from exhaus­tion, insom­nia, audi­to­ry delu­sions, depres­sion, tremors and var­i­ous pho­bias. All this the doc­tor attrib­uted to Schumann’s con­cen­tra­tion on com­po­si­tion which the doc­tor urged Schu­mann to aban­don. For­tu­nate­ly Schu­mann did not fol­low this advice for this became a very pro­duc­tive peri­od of six years in which more than one third of his com­po­si­tions were cre­at­ed.

Fol­low­ing some sub­scrip­tion con­certs in Dres­den which were not suc­cess­ful, Robert and Clara made a tour to Vien­na and Berlin where again their per­for­mances were not suc­cess­ful, due to lack of local prepa­ra­tion. It must, there­fore, have been encour­ag­ing when Karl Emanuel Klitzsch (1812–1889), a friend of the Schu­manns and one of the co-founders of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and the music direc­tor in Schumann’s home­town of Zwick­au, orga­nized a music fes­ti­val in hon­or of Schu­mann on July 10, 1847. Schu­mann on this occa­sion con­duct­ed the pre­miere per­for­mance of this work, which he called a “Lied für Chor mit Blasin­stru­menten.

The somber and nos­tal­gic char­ac­ter of this com­po­si­tion may well have been influ­enced by the unex­pect­ed ear­ly death a month before, on May 14, 1847 of their close friend Fan­ny Mendelssohn, sis­ter to Felix Mendelssohn. Schu­mann men­tioned the char­ac­ter of this work in a let­ter of 29 June, 1847 to Klitzsch, when the fes­ti­val was being planned,

Here is my farewell song. I find it a lit­tle melan­choly, but we should at least give it a try! If we feel it is too sad as a final piece, then we can omit it.

The com­po­si­tion was per­formed, with Schu­mann con­duct­ing, on a pro­gram which includ­ed his sec­ond Sym­pho­ny and Piano Con­cer­to, with Clara as the soloist.

Lat­er Klitzsch wrote a glow­ing review of the com­po­si­tion in the Neue Zeitschrit für Musik of August, 1850.

A rather warm and pas­sion­ate com­po­si­tion which swelled from the composer’s heart. This song radi­ates this pas­sion and is so close to Schumann’s char­ac­ter that we can­not expect a dif­fer­ent inter­pre­ta­tion than the one pre­sent­ed. The entire piece is very sim­ple, the cho­rus alter­nates with the soloists, where­by there are many shad­ings to enhance the attrac­tion of the sonori­ties, fur­ther enhanced by the dis­creet sup­port of the wind instru­ments. While it is a sim­ple song and easy to per­form, it still requires great del­i­ca­cy in inter­pre­ta­tion.

For the text for this song Schu­mann chose a poem by Ernst Frei­herr von Feuchter­sleben (1806–1849), which in trans­la­tion reads,

It is cer­tain in God’s wis­dom
that from our dear­est loved one
we must part,
even if there is noth­ing in the world
that falls, oh! so bit­ter­ly on the heart
as such part­ing, yes part­ing.

As to you is giv­en a small bud,
thus put it into a tum­bler,
but know this, yes know it!,
a lit­tle rose that blooms tomor­row,
the fol­low­ing night will see it with­er,
know that, yes know it.

And as God has giv­en you a devo­tion
and you hold that love quite dear­ly,
as your own!
It will be about eight boards, then,
you soon will put her in!,
weep then, yes weep!

Now, you must also under­stand me prop­er­ly,
yes, under­stand!
If peo­ple do thus part, then,
they say: we’ll see each oth­er again,
yes, again.

In the Ger­man text the song ends with a phrase which, thanks to the movie, The Sound of Music, is known to all Eng­lish speak­ers – auf Wiederseh’n.

Per­haps Wag­n­er, who was in Dres­den while Schu­mann lived there, heard this work, for he used the same text for one of his com­po­si­tions in 1858, “Es ist bes­timmt in Gottes Rat,WWV 92. Still lat­er, Fer­ruc­cio Busoni (1866–1924) also used this text in his Zwei Lieder, Nr. 2 of 1879. Curi­ous­ly, Beethoven wrote a tav­ern song, Woo109, with the same title, but entire­ly dif­fer­ent text.

David Whitwell
Austin, 2014