Geert Woltjer, Analysis of Schumann's Dichterliebe

Analysis of song 1

The text has two strophes with the same structure. The first two lines of each strophe sketch spring, while the second two lines  tell that love broke forth (first strophe) and this love has been confessed (second strophe). So, the central theme of the poem is longing and desire.

The central theme of longing and desire can be found clearly in the piano introduction of the song:

When the singer starts, there is a fundamental change. The text is dreaming about the month may, a blissful state, not immediately related with longing. The music becomes more direct:

When the love comes in, harmony changes again (m. 9), but it is again a tonic harmony:

In the piano interlude the high Gis is the start of the transfer to the longing introduction: b-Cis7-b-Cis7

The second strophe is the same as the first one. Only the piano postlude differs a little bit from the introduction. It could almost go continuously, but the bass tones at the end of each measure are added (adding extra appoggiaturas, reinforcing the longing).

The last B of the piano is interesting; it is the seventh, in contrast to the Gis in the other version with the B only as an unimportant tone. The end implies longing. Harmonically, part of the solution is found in song 2.