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The Ascent of Mt Goethe

Donald Macleod explores Schumann's creative engagement with one of Germany's greatest writers, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Donald Macleod investigates the literary catalysts that fired Schumann's musical imagination. Today, the high priest of German literature - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

"Get your head out of that book!" is probably not a reprimand the young Robert Schumann was used to receiving. He grew up in a household that lived and breathed literature. His father was a novelist, bookseller and publisher who made a small fortune from his pocket editions of foreign-language classics in translation. As a teenager Schumann wrote copiously, trying his hand at fiction, poetry and plays, and it took him several years to satisfy himself that he was a composer rather than a writer. But his literary passion persisted, informing not only the texts he set but his whole conception of musical narrative and structure.

In today's programme he explores Schumann's creative engagement with the high priest of German literature - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Schumann admired Goethe immensely; he owned the 40-volume edition of his works that was issued in the late 1820s, as well as the 20-volume set of his unpublished works. "Above all he is a poet", he told his wife Clara. Adapting Goethe's words was inconceivable, so Schumann decided to set them straight in his Scenes from Goethe's Faust - a kind of secular oratorio on the theme of redemption.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Robert Schumann

    Scenes from Goethe's Faust for soloists, chorus and orchestra

    Singer: Alfreda Hodgson. Singer: Felicity Palmer. Singer: Meriel Dickinson. Choir: Aldeburgh Festival Singers. Orchestra: English Chamber Orchestra. Singer: Pauline Stevens. Conductor: Benjamin Britten. Singer: Elizabeth Harwood. Singer: Dietrich Fischer‐Dieskau. Choir: Wandsworth School Boys’ Choir.
    • DECCA : 425 707-2-.
    • DECCA.
    • 5.
  • Robert Schumann

    Hermann und Dorothea - overture Op.136

    Conductor: Kurt Masur. Orchestra: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.
    • RCA : 74172-2-34172-2.
    • RCA.
    • 9.
  • Robert Schumann

    9 Songs from Wilhelm Meister Op.98a - Kennst du das Land

    Singer: Christine Schäfer. Performer: Graham Johnson.
    • Schumann - Warnung Op.119''2.
    • HYPERION.
  • Robert Schumann

    5 Gesange der Fruhe Op.133 for piano

    Performer: Mitsuko Uchida.
    • DECCA : 478-5393.
    • DECCA.
    • 14.

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