In 1883, a singer named Johanna Richter made a guest appearance in the court theater at Cassel, Germany, where Gustav Mahler was the conductor. As a result of this engagement she entered into a regular contract at the theater, and Mahler soon fell deeply in love with her. The affair was not successful, though, and by the end of the year it was all over. The young musician eased his disappointment by composing a cycle of four songs on unrequited love. The songs are uniformly dark in tone, reflecting Mahler's own rejected and depressed mood. Only the second song has a slightly positive tone. The voice-part in this songcycle can be sung by a mezzo-soprano or by a baritone.