Annette von Droste zu Hülshoff (1797-1848)
In his reading booklet (Lektürebüchlein), in his diary, and also in a letter to Hans Christian Andersen, Schumann judged very positively the Gedichte [Poems] by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, released through publisher Cotta in 1844. In 1845, he borrowed the volume from the Leipzig bookseller and publisher Robert Friese. Furthermore, Schumann knew her texts from the literary journal Cottasches Morgenblatt in which the poetess, still relatively unknown at that moment, published her works, such as Die Judenbuche [The Jew’s Beech], on a regular basis. In May, Schumann enquired from the post office in Münster about the address of the Westphalian poetess. Wishing to engage her as an opera librettist, Clara Schumann finally composed a letter in June of that year and asked for a libretto. The request was met with little enthusiasm by Annette von Droste-Hülshoff – she did know the famous pianist but not the composer Schumann – and mentioned her rejection of this suggestion in a letter to her brother Werner.
In 1846, Hirtenkaben-Gesang [Song of the Shepherd Boy] for two sopranos and two tenors, WoO 18, was finally created by Schumann after the poem Hirtenfeuer [Shepherds’ Fire] from Annette von Droste-Hülshoff’s Haidebilder [Pictures of the Heath]. This piece, originally meant to be integrated into a choral work, was assigned posthumously to Vier Gesänge[Four Part Songs], Op. 59, composed in the same year.
Sigrid Lange (translated by Thomas Henninger)
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