Schumann’s Myrthen cycle (Op. 25, 1840) was created as a musical diary to express love between a woman and a man with all of its struggles and joys. This cycle was a collection of songs written for Clara his bride, as a wedding gift. The title itself explains the message of music found within it. Traditionally, German brides wore wreaths of orange blossoms on their heads, however Schumann felt Clara deserved a more symbolic wreath. A myrthen is a wreath made out of myrtle (evergreen) leaves and white flowers, which together were traditionally associated with Venus. In this musical wreath, Schumann combined both feelings of love towards a wife and devotion associated with a god.
Myrthen represents Schumann’s passions in life: Clara, mystery and order. It is clear to see the collection was written for Clara when reading the poetry, and Schumann interpolates “Clara themes” throughout this work. The mystery lies in the musical and literary puzzles Schumann expressed in this cycle, some obvious and others hidden – only to be revealed in their personal memiors. With respect to order, there has been some question as to whether or not Myrthen is an actual cycle. Scholars have difficulty finding cyclical elements within the work. In fact, Schumann himself said this should not be considered a cycle as much as a “diary” of the love between a man and a woman and their struggles with the trials of life. Whether scrutinized analytically or left to its own merits, Schumann’s Myrthen is a work that reveals the ardent love and devotion of a couple who overcame life’s adversity.
Kerry Lewis, ’00 Wright City, MO
Majors: Music and Biology
Sponsor: Jonathon Thull