Nikolaus Lenau, in fact Niembsch Edler zu Strehlenau (1802-1850)
In 1838, during his stay in Vienna, Schumann saw the famous poet in a coffeehouse but he then did not dare approach him. He started with copying his poems and studying his works. Only a little later, on 17th December 1838, Schumann was introduced to Lenau at a reception held at the flat of the pianist Dessauer von Joseph Fischhof.
He noted in his diary the melancholy, gentle and engaging nature of the poet whom he met again a few days later only. In 1850, Schumann set to music six poems by Lenaufor the first timeand, believing Lenau had already deceased, actually added a requiem for Nikolaus Lenau, the lyrics of which are the lament of the nun Heloise for her lover, Abaelard. Lenau only deceased a few weeks later in an asylum. Schumann’s settings were published as Sechs Gedichte und ein Requiem [“Six Poems and A Requiem”] Op. 90 with publisher Kistner in Leipzig in 1851.
Further poem settings after Lenau were created in 1851 with Husarenlieder [“Hussar Songs”] Op. 117, and another Lenau poem was included in Vier unveröffentlichte Kompositionen [“Four Unpublished Compositions”] WoO 26/2. In his Dichtergarten für Musik [“Poets’Garden for Music”], Schumann copied Lenau’s poems An meine Guitarre [“To My Guitar”] and König und Dichter [“King and Poet”].
(Sigrid Lange/I.B., translated by Thomas Henninger)
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