The Song Cycle was developed in Germany during the early 19th century. Song Cycles are groups of songs with musical accompaniment. The lyrics are often taken from poems or the works of a single poet and based on a theme such as life, music, nature, or even love. Song Cycles can pertain to most any topic. The songs of the cycle will usually be founded harmoniously in the same key or closely related keys (refer to, Chords & Keys / Enharmonic)
Composers known for the use of song cycles are Hugo Wolf, Schubert, Schumann, and others. Schubert's gift for matching music to lyrics can be heard in masterpieces such as 'Wintereise.' His true successor is Schubert with his work on '1840,' written and inspired entirely for his wife Clara Wieck, also a competent musician.
More recent occurrences of the Song Cycle can be heard in works by English composers like Britten, Tippett, or in Janacek's 'Diary of One Who Disappeared' along with Vaughan Williams giving song cycles new international exposure.
Song Cycle: 'Vier Letze Lieder' (Last Four Songs)
Composed by Richard Strauss