Frauenliebe und -leben (A Woman's Love and Life) is a cycle of poems by Adelbert von Chamisso, written in 1830. They describe the course of a woman's love for her man, from her point of view, from first meeting through marriage to his death, and after. Selections were set to music as a song-cycle by masters of German Lied, namely Carl Loewe, Franz Paul Lachner and Robert Schumann. The setting by Schumann (his opus 42) is now the most widely known.
Schumann wrote his setting in 1840, a year in which he wrote so many lieder (including three other song cycles: Liederkreis Op. 24 and Op. 39, Dichterliebe), that it is known as his "year of song". There are eight poems in his cycle, together telling a story from the protagonist first meeting her love, through their marriage, to his death. They are:
- "Seit ich ihn gesehen" ("Since I Saw Him")
- "Er, der Herrlichste von allen" ("He, the Noblest of All")
- "Ich kann's nicht fassen, nicht glauben" ("I Cannot Grasp or Believe It")
- "Du Ring an meinem Finger" ("You Ring Upon My Finger")
- "Helft mir, ihr Schwestern" ("Help Me, Sisters")
- "Süßer Freund, du blickest mich verwundert an" ("Sweet Friend, You Gaze")
- "An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust" ("At My Heart, At My Breast")
- "Nun hast du mir den ersten Schmerz getan" ("Now You Have Caused Me Pain for the First Time")
Schumann's choice of text was very probably inspired in part by events in his personal life. He had been courting Clara Wieck, but had failed to get her father's permission to marry her. In 1840, after a legal battle to make such permission unnecessary, he finally married her.
The songs in this cycle are notable for the fact that the piano has a remarkable independence from the voice. Breaking away from the Schubertian ideal, Schumann has the piano contain the mood of the song in its totality. Another notable characteristic is the cycle's cyclic structure, in which the last movement repeats the theme of the first.
There have been many outstanding recordings of Schumann's setting.
Possibly the first was that of
- Julia Culp, with Otto Bake at the piano, for Odeon Records in Berlin in 1909: she later recorded it a second time.
During the 1930s the principal versions were those of
- Lotte Lehmann (with salon orchestra accompaniment) (Parlophone-Odeon),
- Germaine Martinelli accompanied by Jean Doyen in French, (Columbia Records), and
- Emmy Bettendorf made a Parlophone Records set omitting two titles.
- Lotte Lehmann made a later (wartime) recording with Bruno Walter at the piano (issued on LP by Philips Records as Minigroove ABL 3166).
- Elena Gerhardt made a recording with Gerald Moore in 1947-1948, which was privately published on White Label HMV, six sides, 12", 78rpm.
- Astra Desmond (Decca 78rpm AK 1566-68) (with Phyllis Spurr, piano) and by
- Elisabeth Schumann with Gerald Moore. (HMV)
are noticed in 1951.
- Kathleen Ferrier's version with John Newmark was issued on Decca Medium Play LW 5089.
- Christa Ludwig, accompanied by Gerald Moore, recorded in 1959 on EMI.
- Lillian 'Windsor' Winzig, recorded performance at Carnegie Hall, February 19, 1954.
- Kirsten Flagstad, accompanied by Edwin McArthur appeared on HMV ALP 1191 by 1955.
- Erna Berger, accompanied by - Scherzer (HMV ALP 1587) Issued 1958.
- Irmgard Seefried, accompanied by Erik Werba (Deutsche-Grammophon LPEM 19112) rec. 1957.
- Edith Mathis, accompanied by Christoph Eschenbach, issued 1981, on DGG LP 2562 400 in set 2740 266.
These recordings are listed on CD in 1996:
- Janet Baker with Martin Isepp (Saga CD EC 3361-2), 1960s.
- Janet Baker with Daniel Barenboim (HMV LP ASD 3217), issued 1976.
- Brigitte Fassbaender accompanied by Irwin Gage. (DG 439 417-2).
- Anne Sofie von Otter with Bengt Forsberg. (DG DIG 445 881-2).
- Sarah Connolly with Eugene Asti. (Chandos B001FENY80). "She achieved profound ends through the simplest of means, showing the instincts and communicative power of a born performer during a masterly recital on Thursday at Alice Tully Hall" (New York Times, 2011)
In the 1949 Edinburgh Festival, Kathleen Ferrier gave a recital with Bruno Walter at the piano. In the second half, "Frauenliebe und -leben" (A Woman's Love and Life) was exquisitely performed. It was broadcast by the BBC. Later, the tapes were made available to Decca and released in 1986 on cassette 414-611-4.
Loewe's Liederkranz Frauenliebe is his opus 60. He set all 9 poems, namely the eight used by Schumann (in the same order), but with the additional final song, 9. Traum der eignen Tage. However he originally published the cycle as only the first 7 songs.
- Brigitte Fassbaender, mezzo-soprano; Cord Gaben, piano (DGG DG 423 680-2)
- Callista Huffman, mezzo-soprano; Giorgi Latsabidze, piano (USC NCH 511-10)