iPlayer Radio What's New?
Image for Song

Sorry, this episode is not currently available on BBC iPlayer Radio


1 hour
First broadcast:
Tuesday 30 July 2013

When Robert Schumann abandoned his legal studies, the world may have lost a lawyer, but it gained one of the freshest, most distinctive musical voices of the 19th - or any other - century. In this 70th anniversary week of the programme, Donald Macleod explores the work and life of this prototypically Romantic composer, who drew his inspiration as much from literature and the dramas of his own life as from the music of the composers he revered - above all, Bach, Beethoven and Schubert.

Largely self-taught, Schumann immersed himself in one musical medium until he felt ready to move on and tackle another. So this week's programmes look in turn at his five major fields of compositional activity: solo piano; song; chamber music; music drama; and music for orchestra.

Today's programme is set largely in 1840, Schumann's 'year of song'. It was an extraordinary period of creative fertility that followed in the wake of his reunion with Clara Wieck, the sweetheart from whom he had been separated for many months. The year of song was far from idyllic; for much of it, Schumann had to contend with the litigation initiated by Clara's father, Friedrich, who was implacably opposed to their relationship. Implacable or not, he lost the battle, and on the 12th of September 1840, Clara Wieck became Clara Schumann. More than half of Schumann's output of lieder, much of it infused with his feelings for Clara, dates from this single year, including one of his finest song-cycles, Dichterliebe - The Poet's Love. Right at the other end of the spectrum are the 5 Hunting Songs of 1849, for male chorus and a quartet of horns.

Music Played

4 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Robert Schumann

    Robert Schumann Du bist wie eine Blume from Myrthen (Myrtles) op.25

    Singer: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Performer: Christoph Eschenbach.

    DG 445 660-2

  • Image for Robert Schumann

    Robert Schumann Fünf Gesänge aus Heinrich Laubes Jagdbrevier, op.137

    Singer: Markus Geitner. Singer: Daniel Schreiber. Singer: Henning Jensen. Singer: Berno Scharpf. Singer: Michael Mantaj. Singer: Christian Schmidt.

    CPO 777 521-2

  • Image for Robert Schumann

    Robert Schumann Süßer Freund from Frauenliebe und leben, op.42

    Singer: Anne Sofie von Otter. Performer: Bengt Forsberg

    DG 445 881-2

  • Image for Robert Schumann

    Robert Schumann Dichterliebe, op.48

    Singer: Fritz Wunderlich. Performer: Hubert Giesen.

    DG 449 747 2


Composers A to Z


Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.


  1. Image for Composer Of The Week

    Composer Of The Week

    Donald Macleod explores the life and work of composers. Composer Of The Week is one of BBC Radio 3's…

  2. Image for Composer of the Week A – G

    Composer of the Week A – G

    Discover the life and works of the world's greatest composers with these free downloads from the…

  3. Image for Composer of the Week H – Q

    Composer of the Week H – Q

    Discover the life and works of the world's greatest composers with these free downloads from the…

  4. Image for Composer of the Week R - Z

    Composer of the Week R - Z

    Discover the life and works of the world's greatest composers with these free downloads from the…

  5. Image for Music and Culture of WW1

    Music and Culture of WW1

    Highlights of BBC Radio 3’s special programmes to mark the WW1 centenary. Classical music, art,…

  6. Image for Spirit of Schubert

    Spirit of Schubert

    BBC Radio 3 tells you everything you need to know about Franz Schubert. These free downloads will…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss