Welcome to the Dichterliebe Project

An exploratory performance project for amateur pianists and singers aged 30+

Robert Schumann

What is Dichterliebe?

Learn about Schumann’s song cycle and the complicated performance history of this beautiful work

What is the Project

Masterclasses, lessons, lectures, coachings, and a joint performance of a single work? Learn how it all works here.

Hear our concerts

Click here to meet our faculty and learn about their love of teaching and of song!

Meet our partners

It takes a village to make music happen. Follow this link to learn more about our many generous supporters.

Revitalizing classical song through authentic amateur performance

Dichterliebe - Poet's Love

What is Dichterliebe?

Robert Schumann’s beautiful song cycle for voice and piano, Dichterliebe (Poet’s Love), tells the story of a young man rejected in love, who comes to terms with his loss through reconciliation and forgiveness.

Set to poems from a the Lyric Intermezzo by Heinrich Heine and later published as a set of 16 songs, Dichterliebe was originally a longer cycle than is commonly heard today. Schumann first composed Dichterliebe as a group of 20 songs during his famous ‘year of song’ – 1840 – a time when he poured out his feelings of fierce and youthful love for his new bride Clara into hundreds of romantic songs for voice and piano.

As the cycle was prepared for publication, four songs were removed (we number them 4a, 4b, 12a, and 12b, since they are placed after songs 4 and 12 in the standard cycle). We do not know whether Schumann himself took the decision to remove these songs, or whether it was the decision of the editor.

To learn more about the history of the cycle, please see the interesting essay on the original version of Dichterliebe by Thomas Hampson and his colleagues, which can be found by following the link on the right of this page.

Students on the Dichterliebe Project worked on Schumann’s original 20-song version of the song cycle, studying this in group performance classes, private solo and duo coachings, seminars, and workshops.


Download score for low voice
Score of Dichterliebe for low voice and medium voice, kindly provided by MusOpen.org
Download a translation
Download an essay on the original version of Dichterliebe
An essay on the Genesis of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, by Thomas Hampson, Renate Stark-Voit, and Clara Maria Verdino‐Süllwold, kindly provided by the Hampsong Foundation.
Score containing all 20 songs
Henle Verlag has published a version of Dichterliebe that contains the ‘extra four songs’ in an appendix. Link leads to Amazon.

Course content

What is the Dichterliebe Project?

The Dichterliebe Project is a song performance course for adult amateur singers and pianists aged 30 or older who would like to improve their interpretive, collaborative, and performance skills as part of an intensive course on Schumann’s beautiful song cycle, Dichterliebe or Poet’s Love.

Led by instructors Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, and taught over a series of weekends in February and March 2016, the Dichterliebe Project offers singers, pianists, and non-performing auditors the chance to take part in a unique joint performance project exploring the music, poetry, and performance tradition of Schumann’s monumental song cycle.

Collaborative Performance

Collaborative work is a key component of the Dichterliebe Project. The course will teach students about Dichterliebe as a work of poetry and music, but it is also designed to go deeper into the cycle as a reflection of the intimate and convivial performing tradition that supports it. The Dichterliebe Project is thus more than simply a course leading to a performance of an important piece; it also affords participants unprecedented insight into the intimate and intriguing collaborative relationship between pianist and singer that lies at the core of Dichterliebe, and of the song repertoire for voice and piano.

Collaborative performance

The Dichterliebe Project achieves this balance between instruction and exploration by placing collaborative performance at the heart of the course.

Our students include performing singers and pianists, understudy singers and pianists, and auditors.Each type of student plays an important role in the project, whether as part of a performing pair, as a member of an understudy partnership, or as an engaged audience member and classmate who provides receptive listening and commentary to both the students and instructors throughout the course.

Singer-pianist Duos

Singer-pianist duos are the cornerstone of the Dichterliebe Project. All performers and understudies will be paired with a number of partners to form singer-pianist duos that will work together to explore Schumann’s songs within collaborating partnerships, as would have been common among amateur musicians during Schumann’s lifetime.

Final Performances

The course finishes with three Final Concerts – two Final Student Concerts and one Final Faculty Concert. The Final Student Concerts will feature a full performance of the 20-song original version of Schumann’s Dichterliebe in which each student will perform between two and four songs as part of joint performance of the piece. The Final Student Concerts will also feature a pre-performance presentation On Dichterliebe, which will be given by those students who are performing on the alternate evening.

The Final Faculty Concert will feature a performance of Dichterliebe in the second half, with the rest of the program curated to include pieces that explore themes relating to the poetry and music of Dichterliebe.

For further information, please see the ‘Course Elements’ and ‘Sample Timetable’, right.

Course Elements

Click below for further details
Performance Classes
Performance Classes are group coaching sessions in which students perform for their fellow students, and the instructors coach them on their interpretation, presentation, pianism, diction, vocal production, and musicianship. Performance Classes give students the opportunity to explore their pieces through live performance, finding their way into and through the songs and poetry guided by their own creative instincts and musical abilities. Each Performance Class is jointly coached by Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal to give students equal attention and feedback. The Performance Classes are organized to accommodate three full presentations of the 20-song Dichterliebe cycle across the course.
Interpretation Classes
The Interpretation Classes are student-led sessions in which singer-pianist duos offer their own interpretation of their songs for the class and instructors, with time set aside for both performance, commentary, and discussion. Interpretation Classes follow the conclusion on the full Dichterliebe cycles outlined in the Performance Classes, providing students with an opportunity to respond to the instructors’ coaching, and further to explore their songs as independent collaborative singer-pianist duos.
Seminars on the Dichterliebe Project are interactive classes (sometimes featuring performance by the instructors) in which the instructors provide further information on the background to the Dichterliebe cycle, including its music, poetry, performance history and contemporary performance tradition. Three Seminars feature in the course: (1) On Dichterliebe – an introduction to the cycle, its composer and poet (2) On Collaborative Performance – a session on how to play together as chamber musicians and how to establish good singer-pianist partnerships (3) German Diction for Dichterliebe – a session on how to pronounce the German text and how to interpret German poetry for non-speakers
Three interactive exploratory Workshops are incorporated into the Dichterliebe Project: (1) Performing Dichterliebe – Reflections on Historical vs. Experiential Models.  Workshop 1 explores the tension modern performers feel when they try to balance tradition (what the ‘great’ performers have done with the cycle in the past) with innovation (how they may be moved to interpret songs differently now that they know them as performers). (2) Embodiment in Song Performance for Duos. Workshop 2 explores an important area of contemporary performance studies research, namely how our use of our bodies to make music impacts our performance and interpretation (whether positively or negatively). (3) Performance Technique. Workshop 3, which falls in the week before the final performances, offers students the opportunity to explore established techniques for maximizing musical potential in performance, combining practical advice from the instructors with guidance based on recent results from contemporary performance research groups internationally.      
Solo & Duo Coachings
Performers and Understudies take private Solo Coachings with either Kathryn Whitney (singers) or Anna Cal (pianists) in their respective studios at times to be arranged to suit mutual timetables. Performers and Understudies also take private Duo Coachings with both Kathryn Whitney and Anna Cal, working in these sessions as part of a collaborative singer-pianist duo. These sessions complement the group sessions, offering students the chance to work with the instructors one-on-one on any aspect of their music, whether technical, interpretive, or musical.
Faculty Open Rehearsals
The Dichterliebe Project is a course, but it is also a ‘reflective performance project’ – that is, a course during which the instructors are learning while they are teaching, and one in which they are themselves rehearsing for a performance of the Dichterliebe cycle, which will feature as part of a larger public concert at the end of the course. Faculty Open Rehearsals are a key part of the ‘reflective performance’ aspect of the Dichterliebe Project. These sessions offer students unprecedented access to their instructors in rehearsal, providing them with the opportunity to watch professionals at work (and to comment on the process) in an area of their music-making that students normally never see. The reflective performance aspect of the project is being overseen by the London-based SongArt group, of which Kathryn Whitney is a co-director.
Dichterliebe Omnibus
The Dichterliebe Omnibus is an informal evening for students and staff during which each student performs all the pieces he or she has been working on during the course. The Omnibus falls after the completion of the formal instruction, but before the dress rehearsals and Final Student Concert. It is a convivial evening when we all get the opportunity to be together and to hear each other again, but it also serves as a chance for students to run through their pieces in an informal performance atmosphere in advance of  the final concert week.
Final Student Concerts
The Dichterliebe Project features two Final Student Concerts: Friday, March 11 & Saturday, March 12, 2016, both starting at 7.30pm.

Each concert will feature two parts: (1) a full performance of the 20-song version of Schumann’s Dichterliebe, performed jointly by a group of singer-pianist duos, each performing two or more songs; and (2) a pre-performance presentation on Dichterliebe given by the students who are not performing that evening.

The presentation will take place first and will last about 30 minutes. There will then be a short intermission (10-15 minutes), followed by a full performance of the 20-song cycle. The running order of student performers and presenters will be announced two weeks before the end of the course.

The student concerts are open to the public. Admission is by donation on the door.

Faculty Concert
The Dichterliebe Project will finish with a Faculty Concert by the instructors Kathryn Whitney & Anna Cal. The concert will be a recital featuring Dichterliebe in the second half, and curated to include other groups of songs that are connected to Dichterliebe. The Faculty concert will take place on Saturday, 17 SEPTEMBER 2016, beginning at 7.00pm. This is a public concert. Admission will be by donation on the door. (Please note change of date for the Faculty concert to September.)

Sample Timetable

Click on this link to download a DP – MAIN TIMETABLE – Final Final Final

Which Dichterliebe?

Throughout the course, the students will be working on Schumann’s original 20-song version of Dichterliebe, and it is this version of the piece that they will perform in their final concerts. (Follow this link to learn more about the different versions of Schumann’s Dichterliebe.)

Concert Videos

Our final concerts

The collaborators on the Dichterliebe Project gave two final concerts at the end of our 6-week course. These took place in the Robin & Winifred Wood Hall at the Victoria Conservatory of Music in Canada in March 2016.

Our performance aimed first and foremost to communicate the interest and beauty of Heine’s poems and Schumann’s music.

We also aimed to recreate a performance atmosphere that would be representative of what might happen a mid-19th-century salon in a number of respects: our performers were all amateurs; most of our performers used their scores; we divided the songs up between different pairs of pianists and singers; and students performed in the key best suited the singer. Key relationships between songs were preserved where possible.

Our performers worked together in a number of fixed singer-pianist duos throughout the course. Each pairing brought a unique perspective on the shape, pace, and sonority of Schumann’s interesting songs.  As you will hear and see below, our students turned out thoughtful and heartfelt performances that offer quite different insights into Schumann’s songs than those we gain from professional performances.

We hope you will enjoy getting to know the song cycle Dichterliebe through the lens of the Dichterliebe Project, and that you may be encouraged in your own amateur music-making, wherever you may be.

Download a translation

Hear more on our YouTube Channel

Our partners

Contributing Partners – The Dichterliebe Project

We are very grateful to the following people, who are contributing donor partners on the Dichterliebe Project:

The SongArt Performance Research Group

The Institute of Musical Research, University of London

The Victoria Conservatory of Music

The NRS Foundation

Frances Rosenberg

Veda Medhurst

Bruce Dutton

Margaret McLynn

Rebecca McClure

Andrea Ashton

Jean Essen

Norma Selwood

Margo Foster

Sharon Krebs

Harald Krebs

Ulrike Hahn

Ursula & Erwin Hahn