Aus alten Märchen winkt es, a setting by Heinrich Heine, was composed by Robert Schumann in 1840. It is the fifteenth song of his song cycle, Dichterliebe.
1840 is also known as Schumann’s year of song, the year where he wrote no less than three major song cycles, Frauenliebe und Leben but also Liederkreis and Dichterliebe. It is also known to be the year where he was finally able to marry Clara, the love of his life, after an endless legal battle to overcome the opposition of her father to their marriage.
He chose to set 16 poems by Heinrich Heine, a poet Clara and Robert had both briefly met. They were all selected from Heine’s Lyrisches Intermezzo book. Schumann wrote this song cycle while still apart from Clara, her father doing everything in his power to separate them. The song cycle dedicated to Clara, expresses the joy for lovers of being together but also the pain of separation and grief.
Aus alten Märchen winkt es is the fifteenth song of Dichterliebe. It follows, the tender melancholic Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, N.1, where the poet expresses his yearning for his beloved and Aus meinem Tränen spriessen, N.2, where he dreams of reciprocated love. Die Rose, die Lilie, die Taube, die Sonne, N. 3, is an exalted declaration of love while Wenn ich in deine Augen seh’, N. 4 expresses serene joy. In ich will meine Seele tauschen, N. 5, he remembers the wonders of one of her kisses and then compares her to the Rhein embracing the cathedral of Köln in Im Rhein, im heiligen Trome, N.6. Ich grolle nicht, N.7, is a turning point in the cycle where the poet discovers he is not loved anymore, therefore goes seeking for confort (Und wüssten’s die Blumen, die kleinen, N.8). In Das ist die Flöten und Geigen, N. 10, his beloved marries someone else and he expresses his immense sadness in Hör ich das Liedchen klingen, N.10, then more incidently in Das Jüngling liebt ein Mädchen, N.11. Flowers advise the poet to let go of any kind of resentment (Am leuchtenden Morgen, N.12), but even in his dreams, he is tormented by betrayal for his beloved (Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet, N.13 and Allnächtlich im Traume, N.14).
Aus alten Märchen winkt es is quite a contrast to the previous songs with its uplifted tempo and triumphant tune. The rhythm motif (minim-crotchet), repeated at the piano and in the vocal line throughout the song, could suggest the pace of a horse galloping with its cavalier. As the text develops, the tonalities change transposition after transposition. This choice is quite audacious (a modulation would sound less brutal). As we head towards the end of the song where the poet regrets the painful reality, the tempo slows down and the melody progressively dissolves.