Schumann's Dichterliebe: A Study in Continuity


Kelly Hermann

Date of Graduation

Summer 2007


Master of Music



Committee Chair

Michael Murray


Robert Schumann's song cycle Dichterliebe has been the subject of much praise and criticism. As texts for this work, Schumann selected lyric poetry from Heinrich Heine's Lyrisches Intermezzo. The poems selected for use in Dichterliebe suggest a journey from the flowering of new love, to rejection, and ultimately, despair. Among the debated topics of past and present study is the question of whether Schumann intended for Dichterliebe to be performed solely as a set, or as individual pieces. The intent of this study was to review literature on the topic, focusing primarily on tonal unity, methods of unification, and various interpretations of the divisions of the cycle. Support for each argument was presented, using a selection of songs and an examination of works on the subject. Among the authors studied were Arthur Komar, Rufus Hallmark, Barbara Turchin, David Ferris, Eric Sams, and Beate Julia Perrey; however, the work of Komar, Hallmark, and Turchin was the major focus. The goal of this study was not to choose one correct approach to performing Dichterliebe; instead, the intent was to suggest that it is possible to hear the cycle as a unit for analytical study, in order to point out examples of the techniques Schumann used to unify the cycle. Among the characteristics considered were tonal, motivic, and poetic unity. Depending on which aspect of tonality is examined in the attempt to split the songs into segments, the groupings form divisions between different pairs of songs. It is plausible that Schumann intended to avoid obvious structural divisions in order to unify the narrative. The cycle suggests fragments of an open train of thought in which each song creates a new persona for the narrator, giving the composer freedom to fully express the myriad emotions involved in love: requited or unrequited.


Schumann, Dichterliebe, organicism, Heine, song cycle

Subject Categories



© Kelly Hermann