Shumann’s completion of hundreds of lieder is comparable to that of Schubert's explosive composition of the same in 1815 and 1816. Without a doubt, Dichterliebe is Schumann's masterpiece representing this period, and a reflection of the German lied taking the central position in the world of Austrian-German music, from Schubert to Brahms and Wolf.
Though Schumann originally set 20 songs to Heine's poems, only 16 of the 20 compositions were included for publication in 1844 and were named with the current title. Heine's sensitive and extremely lyrical poetic diction must have garnered great empathy from Schumann. Exquisite expressions and beautiful melodies pass through the lieder, and the role of the piano is beyond mere accompaniment. Several new musical patterns, such as chromaticism and suspended chord, are actively used. The first half of each lied, includes singing whereas the second half includes a a long piano performance. (...)
Unlike Dichterlibe and Frauen-Liebe und Leben (A Woman's Love and Life], which have elevated Schumann`s status as a German lied composer, the lieder in 12 Gedichte were put together from independent poems without any overarching narrative. It is composed of songs covering themes such as tragic loss and wandering, and is one of Schuman`s romantic masterpieces.
from: Liner Notes