One of the projects I always do toward the end of freshman theory is to spend the day with Schumann’s “Ich grolle nicht”. The freshies usually have enough tools at that point in the year to start talking in some more depth about structure and meaning.

I have a fabulous group of freshies this year, and all of them have wonderful potential to make contributions to the field. One of them has the fabulous last name “Liberator”. I’m hoping that she either pursues an advanced degree or becomes a professional wrestler with a character because “Dr. Liberator” is too important a moniker to pass up.

In any case, Ms. Liberator burst out in the middle of our analysis, “This is so accurate!” I immediately thought of Jacques Barzun’s arguments about what the early Romantic movement really meant. It was not a flight away from reality into a world of fantasy. It was not an assertion of emotion over reason. It was the attempt to combine heart and brain – to use Schoenberg’s words – in music. It was the attempt to say that fantasy is sometimes the best descriptor of reality.

What Ms. Liberator was saying was that Schumann was describing a volatile emotional state with incredible accuracy and precision. I’m so excited that a class grabbed hold of that and understood it.

Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht,
Ewig verlor'nes Lieb ! Ich grolle nicht.
Wie du auch strahlst in Diamantenpracht,
Es fällt kein Strahl in deines Herzens Nacht.
Das weiß ich längst.

Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht,
Ich sah dich ja im Traum,
Und sah die Nacht in deines Herzens Raum,
Und sah die Schlang', die dir am Herzen frißt,
Ich sah, mein Lieb, wie sehr du elend bist.