Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 November 2021
In June 1853, Clara Schumann set to music six inset-poems from the novella Jucunde, hot off the press earlier that year, by the minor poet Hermann Rollett. Schumann and Rollett actually met in Vienna in July 1856, shortly after her husband’s death, and she gave him a presentation copy of her Op. 23 songs. The young Rollett was a political firebrand; he wrote differently after the revolution ended in failure, but he included some of his earlier poems in Jucunde, and covert hints of continued adherence to former doomed ideals are still apparent. So too with Robert and Clara Schumann: both harboured republican sympathies, and both would signal their disillusionment and unchanged political views in several of their songs from the 1850s. If these works seem harmless at first hearing, semi-hidden hints of underlying politics emerge on closer examination. From Robert Schumann’s ‘Des Sennen Abschied’, Op. 79 No. 22; ‘Heimliches Verschwinden’, Op. 89 No. 2; and ‘Warnung’, Op. 119 No. 2, we arrive at Clara Schumann’s ‘Geheimes Flüstern’, Op. 23 No. 3, whose harmonic, tonal and motivic elements hint to the cognoscenti of sadness over political failure and of unconquerable hope for the future.