Gesänge der Frühe op.133 
composed in 1853 - dedicated to the great poet Bettina 

Im ruhigen Tempo, D-major
Belebt, nicht zu rasch, D-major
Lebhaft, A-major
Bewegt, F sharp minor
Im Anfange ruhiges, im Verlauf bewegtes Tempo, D-major

The Gesänge der Frühe (Songs of the Dawn), op. 133, was the last piano work published during Schumann’s lifetime. The pieces contained therein possess a wholly unique coloring. The composer wrote his publisher: “I offer you another, recently-completed work, ‘Gesänge der Frühe,’ five characteristic pieces that depict the sensations of the nearing and growing of the dawn, that are more emotional expression than tone painting.” 

His last published work remains true to Schumann’s motto that a touch of spring should be present in all music. The awakening call of a fifth at the beginning is reminiscent of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and the chorale-like sections point towards the Brucknerian chorales of the future. The last piece displays in its trill figures a kinship to Beethoven’s last Sonata, op. 111. It is remarkable that specifically Schumann’s last published piano work should show such similarities with Beethoven’s late work. The harmony, which often postpones the feeling of conclusion, underscores the longing mood, the yearning for light, “of the nearing and growing of the dawn,” as Schumann himself phrased it. Gesänge der Frühe was first inscribed “To Diotima,” a figure from Friedrich Hölderlin’s “Hyperion,” but in the end Schumann dedicated the work to the poet Bettina von Arnim. Striving towards this higher ideal and the yearning for light are thus the themes of Schumann’s last finished piano work. His life’s work was completed. A liberating peace makes the Gesänge der Frühe an extraordinary tribute to the composer’s prowess in the face of his approaching fate.

Translation: William Melton
© Franz Vorraber