Christian Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863)

Heliogravur von Christian Mayer nach einem Gemälde von Carl Rahl. Beilage zur Zeitschrift Faust, um 1850/60 (StadtMuseum Bonn, SMB 2006/056)
Christian Friedrich Hebbel (1813-1863) Photoengraving by Christian Mayer, after a painting by Carl Rahl.Supplement of journal Faust, around 1850/60 (StadtMuseum Bonn, SMB 2006/056)

Schumann nurtured the idea of composing a declamation piece in 1845 already, which he then realised a few years later in 1846 with Schön Hedwig [“Beautiful Hedwig”] Op. 106, based on a poem by Hebbel. In Ballade vom Haid knaben [“The Ballad of the Youth on the Heath”] Op. 122/1, Schumann again resorted to a poem by Hebbel. This piece appeared in 1853 together with Die Flüchtlinge [“The Fugitives”] Op. 122 and was dedicated to the Viennese music commentator Carl Debrois van Bruyck who had drawn Schumann’s attention to Hebbel. The concept of the opera Genoveva, premiered in Leipzig in 1850, was also related to the poet’s homonymous tragedy, published in 1843, in that Schumann had requested the poet in 1847 to peruse and assess the libretto. In 1848/1849, Schumann composed Op. 82, where headded a few lines from Hebbel’s Waldbilder [“Forest Pictures”] as the motto of the fourth part. Nachtlied [“Night Song”] Op. 108 which Schumann had composed in Dresden in 1849 after a poem by Hebbel, premiered and was printed in Düsseldorf in 1853. Schumann sent a copy to Hebbel and received in return, together with a letter of thanks from the poet, an issue of Hebbel’s tragedy Michel Angelo, published in 1851.

A face-to-face encounter between Schumann and Hebbel occurred in 1847. At that time, Hebbel had come to see Schumann in Dresden while passing through, but was alienated by Schumann’s persistent silence during the encounter. Schumann, instead, had felt deeply honoured, as he noted in his diary.

Sigrid Lange, translated by Thomas Henninger

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