Schubert had a close friendship with the poet Mayrhofer and two of Schubert’s operas and 47 of his songs are based on Mayrhofer’s lyric poems. He paid tribute to numerous other writers, focusing intensely on one poet at a time, for example 15 of his songs from 1814 are dedicated to Friedrich von Matthisson and he was focused on Goethe towards the end of the following year. One remarkable song from this time was the Erlkönig, inspired by the Goethe tale of a father and son trying to escape the figure of death in which he vividly captures the frantic terror in a large ballad structure, tied together with urgent virtuosic triplet rhythms, ending in a poignant recitative.
In the Romantic Period, Schumann, who composed a great deal of important vocal repertoire, actually claimed never to have considered song composition as ‘great art’- he pragmatically saw vocal music as the most marketable of genres, which led to him almost exclusively writing for voice in a particular year of financial instability.
Mahler’s song style mixes modernism, ideals of Romanticism and ethnic influences. Mahler grew up in a prosperous Moravian market town where Czech folksongs and barrel organs were part of the fabric of his surroundings. Although most commonly remembered as one of the greatest symphonists who ever lived, he wrote a large amount of Lieder for voice and piano. In his twenties, he composed a song cycle for solo voice and orchestra, dedicated to a soprano with whom he had a love –affair, Johanna Richter: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Travelling Apprentice – sometimes translated as Songs of a Wayfarer). Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth) is written for two voices and orchestra, which was described as a symphony when it was published.