Music Major Minute: Unexpected Repertoire, Part III – German Lieder

Music Major Minute: Unexpected Repertoire, Part III – German Lieder

Undergraduate and graduate students and teachers can find excellent German repertoire suggestions in the continuation of our “Unexpected Repertoire” series.



Wilkommen to part III of “Unexpected Repertoire,” where first I assure you that every young singer should learn Schubert’s An Die Musik and Schumann’s Widmung, etc. The classic Lieder choices are elegant and pedagogically important. When you are ready to expand your repertoire beyond the top ten Lieder lists, read on for my list of scrumptiously singable suggestions.


Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827)

If composers were featured in Marvel movies, Beethoven would be mightier than Thor. The world knows his heroic symphonies, but in his Lieder, Beethoven delivers melodies in miniature form that are delicate and endlessly appealing. “Der Kuss,” Beethoven’s last known song, is a jocular Lied that could invite any undergraduate wary of German into a world of fun. Donald G. Gíslason wrote for the Vancouver Recital Society, “Part of the joke here is the way the poem repeats the pursed-lip front-vowel ü sounds in the words Küss (kiss) and Müh (effort), forcing the singer into a visual gag by making him adopt the facial configuration of a kiss.” “Der Kuss” is published by Hal Leonard in The Lieder Anthology in high and low keys, available from Classical Vocal Reprints.


Franz Schubert (1797–1828)

Calling all sad baritones—Gesänge des Harfners comprises three tragic ballads from the king of art song: Schubert. The text comes from the blind harper outcast character of Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister Lehrjahre. Tormented by shameful memories, he sings of his incestuous love he harbored for his sister. Richard Wigmore described the three songs as “linked by their common tonality, shared motifs and figuration (in the first two songs, strummed chords and triplet arpeggios suggest the accompanying harp) and a similar measured, mournful tread. The final song has an austere, archaic air, its keyboard textures suggestive of a Baroque organ prelude.” (Schubert: The Complete Song Texts) The sheet music is available on and a version for voice and guitar is available to download on 


Louis Spohr (1784–1859)

After singing Schubert’s “The Shepherd on the Rock,” graduate students with a cool clarinetist in their midst will adore singing Spohr’s Sechs deutsche Lieder für eine Singstimme, Klarinette und Klavier (Six German Songs for Clarinet and Piano) Op. 103. This classical era chamber music is elegantly crafted with poetry that literally translates to, “Be still, my heart.” Bärenreiter published this work and it can be purchased from Classical Vocal Reprints.


Robert Franz (1815–1892)

Heinrich Heine’s poem “Die Lotosblume” has been masterfully set by many beloved Lieder composers, but Franz’s setting is rarely performed. In A History of Song, Denis Stevens cites Franz as the German composer most influenced by Robert Schumann. Undergraduate voice students will find “Die Lotosblume” a rewarding study because it delivers a transcendent melody with a moderate and approachable range. The allegory of a flower’s chaste love opening to the beholder will give young singers plenty of inspiration in their interpretation of the German text. Franz’s Lieder is published by Classical Vocal Reprints in high and medium keys.


Peter Cornelius (1824–1874)

Brautlieder is a gorgeous cycle of six soprano songs for a Master’s level recital or the ambitious senior. The poetry shares the point of view of a bride from her engagement through her wedding day and the music is tonal and thematically progressive. Brautlieder is a beautiful representation of German romantic Lieder—a glorious recording can be heard on by Georgine Resick, soprano and Warren Jones, piano. The sheet music is published by International Music Co. or it can be downloaded from


Robert Schumann (1810–1856)

Baritones, if you are “smuggling” the super power of vocal agility, “Der Kontrabandiste” is your next Lied. Sorry, treble voices, this song was composed in bass clef. Music historians thank Schumann for 1840, the year of art song—but after hearing this witty little ditty, we can thank our voice teachers for training us to sing lightning-level melismas. Peters Edition published “Der Kontrabandiste” in Schumann Lieder Vol. 2.


Clara Schumann (1819–1896)

“Mein Stern” is a stunning, short and strophic song for undergraduate and professional “stars” alike. Clara Schumann’s songs are among the finest in music history and deserve more programming. A novice singer will be able to manage “Mein Stern” and learn stylistic phrasing without feeling overburdened by memorizing a longer song. The sheet music is published by Hildegard Publishing Company in Seven Songs: Clara Schumann.


Alma Mahler (1879–1964)

If one isn’t familiar with Alma Mahler’s life, the documentary History’s Original Femme Fatale – Big Alma – Alma Mahler-Werfel Biography is available on and it is fascinating! Big Alma was sexy, selfish, and lavishly musical, so it follows that her music is intense and, to use a technical theory term, juicy. “Die Stille Stadt,” the first of 5 Lieder (orchestrated songs), is a haunting song describing a quiet town with orchestration that evokes the traveler’s “dread.” This song is published by Hal Leonard in Women Composers: A Heritage of Song in low and high keys, and the set would be a showstopper for a concerto competition.


Engelbert Humperdinck (1854–1921)

If you love Hansel & Gretel, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Humperdinck’s Lieder. His songs for voice and piano are in the romantic style of Schumann and Brahms, but his apprenticeship with Richard Wagner emboldened his harmonic structure. An das Christkind also known as Ausgewählte Lieder is a cycle of Christmas songs that would be a delightful offering for a December recital. The music is published by Classical Vocal Reprints.


Franz Liszt (1811–1886)

Liszt’s German Lieder remains somewhat obscure, perhaps because he was Hungarian (though his mother was German)—or maybe his symphonies and piano compositions were so spectacular that they dwarf his other genres? Whatever the reason, I hope to call attention to at least one monumental song by the composer Wagner referred to as “the greatest composer of all time!” Liszt gifts us with an enchanting, blissful song in “Ihr Glocken von Marling.” Elena Mateo wrote for, “There are pieces that at the time of singing stimulate more direct or primary stimuli such as passion, pain, sadness, joy, etc. This work does not seek to be direct, it simply gets trapped like a ray of serenity and joy; Interpreting it is easy, driving it too, she gives you all the tools and you just have to be happy. A work in which perhaps the composer sought to convey what might be the state of grace.” Sheet music for this masterful song is published by Kalmus in Franz Liszt Songs, Volume V


Erich Korngold (1897–1957)

“Mond, so gehst du wieder auf” offers a breathtakingly beautiful melody. If you are a fan of Korngold’s opera Die tote Stadt, you will probably swoon for his Lieder. “Mond” was conceived for mezzo soprano with rather dense chords that require a flexible voice with a strong core of sound. The sheet music is available on, and a higher transposition is available to download from


Kurt Weill (1900–1950)

Ofrah’s Lieder was among Weill’s first publications, composed when Weill was 16 and living in Germany, and this early works offer a harbinger of his musical legacy. Ofrah’s Lieder is a set of five songs influenced by the soundprints of Schumann and Strauss. The tessitura of this set is well suited for soprano voices—and with poems from the Jewish scholar Yehuda Halevi, they offer a rich academic study. This music is published in the original manuscript by EAM (European American Music) and is available from Schott Music Group.


Guten Tag and guter gesang! For more musical surprises, join me in the next issue for Unexpected Repertoire, Part IV: French Mélodie.

Christi Amonson

Christi Amonson is a soprano, a stage director, a curious reader/writer, a professor of voice and opera at The College of Idaho, and a curator of food, hugs, and good times for her family.