Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/419

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SCHUMANN.

comprehensive historical knowledge, on all im- portant subjects they show a happy instinct for the right conclusion, and are always worthy of attention.

It may be said of Schumann's literary work in general that it was not calculated to attract attention merely for the moment, though it did in fact open up new paths, but that it took the form of writings which have a high and perma- nent value. They will always hold a foremost place in the literature of music, and may indeed take high rank in the literature of art. For analytical acumen they are less remarkable. Schumann cannot be called the Lessing of music, nor is it by the display of learning that he pro- duces his effects. It is the union of poetic talent with musical genius, wide intelligence, and high culture, that stamps Schumann's writings with originality, and gives them their indepen- dent value.

Schumann's literary work was connected with another phase of the musical world of Germany, as new in its way as the twofold development of his genius the rise of party feeling. No doubt Schumann gave the first impetus to this move- ment, both by his imaginary ' Davidsbundler- schaft,' and by that Radical instinct which was part of his nature. Schumann's principles as an artist were the same which have been pro- fessed and followed by all the greatest German masters ; what was new in him was the active attempt to propagate them as principles. So long as he conducted the Zeitschrift he could not of course lend himself to party feeling ; the standard he had assumed was so high that all who took a serious view of art were forced to gather round him. But the spirit of agitation was inflamed, and when he retired from the paper other principles of less general application were put forward. It was self-evident that Schumann was the only contemporary German composer who could stand side by side with Mendelssohn, and they were of course compared. It was as- serted that in Mendelssohn form took the prece- dence of meaning, while in Schumann meaning predominated, striving after a new form of utter- ance. Thus they were put forward as the repre- sentatives of two antagonistic principles of art, and a Mendelssohn party and a Schumann party were formed. In point of fact there was scarcely any trace of such an antagonism of principle between the two composers ; the difference was really one of idiosyncrasy ; and so, being grounded more or less on personal feeling the parties assumed something of the character of cliques. The literary Schumannites, having the command of an organ of their own, had an advantage over the partisans of Mendelssohn, who like Men- delssohn himself, would have nothing to do with the press. Leipzig was for a time the head quarters of the two parties. There, where Men- delssohn had worked for the delight and improvement of the musical world, it was the fate of his art to be first exposed to attack and detraction, which, to the discredit of the German nation, rapidly spread through wider and wider

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��iUCLU.'llj 1 A

��circles, and was fated too to proceed first from the blind admirers of the very master for whom Mendelssohn ever felt the deepest attachment and respect. * Oh, Clique ! ' exclaims Moscheles in his Diary for 1849, <as ^ ln a town where the genius of a Schumann is honoured it were neces- sary to cry down a Mendelssohn as pedantic and inferior to him. The public is losing all its judg- ment, and placing its intelligence and its feelings under an influence which misleads it as much as the revolutionists do the populace.' That Schu- mann himself must have been painfully affected by this spirit is as clear as that it could only result in hindering the unprejudiced reception of his works ; and the process thus begun with Schumann has been carried on, in a greater degree, in the case of Wagner.

As a composer Schumann started with the pianoforte, and until the year 1840 wrote scarcely anything but pianoforte music. For some time he used to compose sitting at the instru- ment, and continued to do so even until 1839, though he afterwards condemned the practice (in his ' Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln'). At all events it had the advantage of making him write from the first in true pianoforte style. If ever pianoforte works took their origin from the innermost nature of the pianoforte, Schumann's did so most thoroughly. His mode of treating the in- strument is entirely new. He develops upon it a kind of orchestral polyphony, and by means of the pedal, of extended intervals, of peculiar positions of chords, of contractions of the hands, and so forth, he succeeds in bringing out of it an undreamt-of wealth of effects of tone. How deeply and thoroughly Schumann had studied the character of the instrument may be seen from the detailed preface to his arrangement of Paganini's caprices (op. 3). Even in his earliest PF. works he nowhere shows any inclination to the method of any of the older masters, except in the variations, op. i, which betray the in- fluence of the school of Hummel and Moscheles. But it is evident that he knew all that others had done, and the time and attention devoted in his writings to works of technical pianoforte study were no doubt deliberately given. Not- withstanding this his compositions are scarcely ever written in the bravura style ; for he seldom, cared to clothe his ideas in mere outward bril- liancy. Sometimes one is constrained to wonder at his abstemiousness in using the higher and lower registers of the pianoforte.

As is the case with the technical treatment of the piano, so it is from the beginning with the substance and form of his compositions. Few among the great German masters show such striking originality from their very first com- positions. In the whole range of Schumann's works there is scarcely a trace of any other musician. At the outset of his course as a composer he preferred to use the concise dance or song-form, making up his longer pieces from a number of these smaller forms set together as in a mosaic, instead of at once casting his

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