Woman's love and Life

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Women love and life , Op. 42 is a 1,840-composed song cycle by Robert Schumann for medium voice and piano on texts from the 1830 published the same cycle of poems by Adelbert von Chamisso in which the life of a woman is reconstructed from the first love to the death of husband . The female life depicted corresponds to the moral norms of the 19th century of the faithful and devoted wife.

Chamisso wrote nine poems, all but the last of which Schumann set to music. The work was published in print in 1843 by Friedrich Whistling's publishing house with a dedication to his unmarried friend Oswald Lorenz , the deputy editor-in-chief of Schumann's Neue Zeitschrift für Musik .


  • I. Since I saw him ("Larghetto"; original key: B flat major)
  • II. He, the most glorious of all ("Intimately lively"; E flat major)
  • III. I can't believe it, I can't believe it ("With Passion"; C minor)
  • IV. You ring on my finger ("Innig"; E flat major)
  • V. Help me, sisters ("Pretty Fast"; B flat major)
  • VI. Sweet friend, you look ("slowly, with an intimate expression"; G major)
  • VII. On my heart, on my chest ("Happy, intimate"; D major)
  • VIII. Now you have done me the first pain ("Adagio"; D minor)
  • [IX. Dream of my own days ] (not set to music by Robert Schumann)


For the interpreter, the task in the cycle is to depict a whole life from the first feeling of love to the death of the husband in less than half an hour. The poems are intended as reflections for themselves and are not aimed directly at the audience, although in exceptional cases she also addresses her husband directly. In the cosmos of this song cycle there is only the I and the you, all life outside has no further meaning.

Criticism of the text

The song cycle offers many starting points for a feminist interpretation, especially in terms of text. The concentration of the female figure, who is not further named, is completely on happiness as a lover, wife and mother. The life of the unnamed lyrical self does not begin with her birth or her life as a girl, but only takes place as a reaction to her lover and future husband. She tears the first feeling of love out of her games with girls, which suddenly no longer have any meaning for her (“Since I've seen him, I think I'm blind”). She feels completely unworthy of the love of the man she adores and transfigures and even wishes a possible rival luck ("He, the most glorious of all"). The realization that she could be his chosen one and that her feelings are based on reciprocity, overturns her entire worldview (“I can't believe it, I can't believe it”). She says goodbye to her friends in order to be only a wife in the future (“Help me, you sisters”). Marriage with her lover is the high point of her life ("You ring on my finger"), pregnancy her fulfillment ("Sweet friend", "On my heart, on my breast"). The sudden loss of her husband means for her a life of solitude and memories (“Now you have done me the first pain”).

Individual traits of a personality that moves outside the female-docile stereotype do not come into play. At no moment in her life does she doubt her love for him or his love for her. Devotion to her husband is easy for her, and life with a child doesn't seem to be a challenge for her either. Attempts to break free from her socially determined life and the complete dependence on her husband do not appear at any point in the text. Since a professional activity with her own income was still a sensational exception for a woman in the 19th century, thoughts about professional self-realization are completely absent. With the entry into married life, your girlfriends are textually excluded from further contact and no longer mentioned. Other possible caregivers such as father and mother or other men do not appear in her life report. The life after the death of her husband does not seem to interest the author; her life is over as soon as the presence of a man is no longer given.


The cycle of poems by Chamisso was widely used thanks to the setting by Schumann. It supports the message of the lyric with simple, text-based melodies and differentiated, sensitive, lyrical piano accompaniment. The melody is well suited for the voice of a lyrical mezzo-soprano .

In 2005 a version for orchestra by Conrad Artmüller was published, both in the original keys and in the transposed version for alto .


While song cycles such as Die Schöne Müllerin and Die Winterreise by Franz Schubert or the Dichterliebe von Schumann are among the great works of at least half an hour by the most famous German song composers of the Romantic era , women's love and life are limited to less than half the time. Dedicated female singers like Christa Ludwig and Jessye Norman have already dared to interpret Winterreise , while no valid interpretation of a male interpreter for women's love and life has appeared on a phonogram, although male alto and sopranos now also have the technical requirements to manage this cycle.


  • Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau : Robert Schumann. The vocal work. dtv, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-421-06068-1 , pp. 136-139.
  • Herbert Hopfgartner: Adelbert Chamisso: Revolutionary or Biedermann? The song circle 'Frauenliebe und -leben' in socio-cultural discourse. University of Warsaw, Studies in German Studies (Volume XXXVII, edited by Lech Kolago) Warsaw 2008, ISSN  0208-4597

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Conrad Artmüller: Frauenliebe und Leben op. 42 for alto and orchestra, transposed version , information on works from Universal Edition