Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) Steel engraving by Carl August Schwerdgeburth, 1832 (StadtMuseum Bonn, SMB 2003/044)

Schumann owned himself the complete Cotta edition of Goethe’s works, published in 1830, with which Schumann had been dealing for his ScenenausGoethesFaust [“Scenes from Goethe’s Faust”]WoO3 [works without opus number] over a period of nine years since 1844. This also included reading works of literary criticism, letters, and other Goethe-related literature. On the occasion of the celebrations of Goethe’s centenary in 1849, Schumann wasinvolved with the work of the festival committee.

Schumann’s Scenen are deemed the most extensive and demanding setting of Goethe’s Faust. This work was published only posthumously in 1858 and premiered at the Gürzenich Hall in Cologne in 1862 under the direction of Ferdinand Hiller. Goethe’s epic poem Hermann und Dorothea [“Hermann and Dorothea”] which Schumann had read for the tenth time in 1845 according to his own  admission,provided the stimulation for a homonymous opera the same year, although he only composed its overture, Opus 136, in 1851. It premiered only after Schumann’s death in 1857. In his Lieder und Gesänge [“Songs and Chants”] Op. 98, Requiem für Mignon [“Requiem for Mignon”] and Manfred Op. 115, Schumann again resorted to works by Goethe.


Sigrid Lange, translated by Thomas Henninger

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