Robert Schumann (1810-1856) 

Zigeunerleben (Gypsy Life) Op. 29 No. 3


Zigeunerleben (Gypsy Life) dates from 1840, a momentous year in Robert Schumann's life. He and Clara were married in that year, and it was then that his creativity turned from piano music to the voice. The result was about 150 songs, including most of his finest. A talented writer as well as composer, Schumann chose his texts from among the best poets of his time.
Zigeunerleben is no. 3 of op. 29, a set for multiple voices titled Drei Gedichte (Three Poems). The texts are by Emanuel Geibel. Schumann, with his unique understanding of poetry, believed in making the music a "resonant echo" of the text. As a pianist, he gave the instrument an equal role with the voices. These qualities combine in Zigeunerleben. The music portrays Gypsy exoticism with the use of triangle and tambourine ad lib., the two upper vocal parts moving in parallel, imitating of the Gypsy band's two violins. The piano emphasizes the exotic with sharp accents and chords in the "Gypsy scale," a minor scale with a raised 4th degree.
The form of the piece follows the text. The opening and closing sections, where the Gypsies mysteriously enter and disappear, are set in E minor; while the middle section, in major keys, describes their activities around the campfire: eating, drinking, singing, telling tales, dancing, sleeping.

Notes by Bonlyn Hall