Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Steel engraved portrait from: Robert Burns, The Poetical Works, Leipzig (Tauchnitz), 1845 (StadtMuseum Bonn)
Steel engraved portrait from: Robert Burns, The Poetical Works, Leipzig (Tauchnitz), 1845 (StadtMuseum Bonn)

The Scottish poet Robert Burns is one of the pioneers of Romanticism in his country. Schumann knew his work through a translation by Wilhelm Gerhard, published in Leipzig in 1840. Myrthen [Myrtles], Op. 25, of 1840, dedicated to Clara Schumann, include eight settings of poems by Burns. In 1846, Schumann composed Fünf Lieder [Five Part Songs], Op. 55, for mixed choir, after poems by Burns. In his Dichtergarten [Poet’s Garden], he had listed Bänkelsänger Willie [O Rattlin, Roarin Willie], which he set to music in 1849. The ballad appeared as Op. 146/2 inRomanzen und Balladen [Romances and Ballads] Vol. IV.

Clara Schumann also set to music a poem by Burns In 1840 –Am Strande [By the Beach] – in Drei Lieder [Three Songs], at the suggestion of Robert Schumann who had given it to her at their wedding, and dedicated the songs to her husband on their first joint Christmas as a couple. In the relevant diary entry, she hoped for her husband’s indulgence: “Be gracious, my friend, and spare this weak gift, bestowed with full love.” Schumann liked this composition and published the Burns song in a music supplement to his Neue Zeitschrift für Musik[New Journal for Music] in July 1841.

Sigrid Lange, translated by Thomas Henninger

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