Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/422

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410

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��theme by Clara Wieck (op. 5), Beethoven's so- called 'Eroica Variations' (op. 35) apparently served as a model; they remind us of them both in general arrangement and in the em- ployment of a ground-bass, without being in any way wanting in originality. In the An- dante and Variations for two pianofortes (op. 46), one of the most charming and popular of Schumann's pianoforte works, he treated the form with such freedom that they are not so much variations as fantasias in the style of variations. His most splendid work in this form is his op. 13, a work of the grandest calibre, which alone would be sufficient to secure him a place in the first rank of composers for the pianoforte, so overpowering is the display of his own individual treatment of the pianoforte frequently rising to the highest limits of the bravura style of execution of his over- flowing profusion of ideas, and his boldness in turning the variation form to his own account. In the finale the first two bars only of the theme are employed, and these only occasionally in the ' working-out section.' In other respects the proud edifice of this elaborately worked number has nothing in common with a vari- ation. It contains however a delicate reference to the person to whom the whole work is dedi- cated, William Sterndale Bennett. The begin- ning of the chief subject is a fragment of the celebrated romance in Marschner's Templer und Jlidin,' in which Ivanhoe calls on proud England to rejoice over her noble knights (' Du stolzes England, freue dich,' etc.). It is an in- genious way of paying homage to his beloved English composer.

Schumann had made early attempts at works of larger structure, but it cannot be denied that they were not at first successful. The Ffl minor Sonata (op. n) teems with beautiful ideas, but is wanting in unity to a remarkable degree, at least in the Allegro movements. The F minor Sonata (op. 14) shows a decided improvement in this respect, and the Sonata in G minor (op. 22) is still better, although not entirely free from a certain clumsiness. Schumann afterwards showed himself quite aware of the faults of these sonatas in regard to form. They offer the most striking example of his irregular and rhapsodical method of working at that period. The second move- ment of the G minor Sonata was written in June 1830, the first and third in June 1833, the fourth in its original form in October 1835, and in its ultimate form in 1838, the whole sonata being published in 1839. TheFjJ minor Sonata was begun in 1833, and not completed till 1835. The F minor Sonata, finished on June 5, 1836, consisted at first of five movements, an Allegro, two Scherzos, one after the other, an Andantino with variations, and a Prestissimo. When the work was first published, under the title of ' Concerto sans Orchestra,' Schumann cut out the two scherzos, apparently intending to use them for a second sonata in F minor. This however was not carried out, and in the second edition of the work he restored the second of the scherzos

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to its place. 1 When we observe how he took up one sonata after another, we see how impossible it is that any close connection can subsist between the several parts, or that there should be any real unity in them as a whole.

The Allegro for pianoforte (op. 8) is some- what disjointed in form, while the Toccata (op. 7), a bravura piece of the greatest bril- liancy and difficulty in perfect sonata -form, exhibits a great degree of connection and con- sequence. In the great Fantasia (op. 17) we are led by the title to expect no conciseness of form. The classical masters generally gave to their fantasias a very clearly defined outline, but Schumann in this case breaks through every restriction that limits the form, especially in the first movement, where he almost seems to lose himself in limitless freedom. In order to give unity to the fantastic and somewhat loosely con- nected movements of this work of genius, he again had recourse to poetry, and prefaced the piece with some lines of F. Schlegel's, as a motto :

Durcb alle TOne tonct Through all the tones that vibrato

Im bunten Erdentraum, About earth's mingled dream,

Ein leiser Ton gezogen One whispered note is sounding

Far deu der heimlich lauschet. For ears attent to hear.

The ' mingled earthly dream ' is in a manner portrayed in the substance of the composition. Schumann means that ' the ear attent to hear ' will perceive the uniting tones that run through all the pictures which the imagination of the composer unrolls to his view. Schlegel's motto seems almost like an excuse offered by Schu- mann. The original purpose of this Fantasia was not however to illustrate these lines. About Dec. 17, 1835, an appeal having been made from Bonn for contributions to a Beethoven memorial, Schumann proposed to contribute a composition; and this was the origin of the work now called 'Fantasia,' the three move- ments of which were originally intended to bear the respective inscriptions of ' Kuins,' ' Triumphal Arch' and 'The Starry Crown.' By these names the character both of the separate parts and of the whole becomes more intelligible. In order to get into the right disposition for the work Schumann's four articles on Beethoven's monument should be read (Gesammelte Schrif- ten, i. p. a 1 5).

Although few of Schumann's pianoforte works of the first period are without defects of form, yet their beauties are so many that we easily forget those defects. In certain ways the com- positions of the first ten years present the most characteristic picture of Schumann's genius. In after life he proposed and attained loftier ideals in works worthy of the perfect master. But the freshness and charm of his earlier piano- forte works was never surpassed, and in his later years was but rarely reached. A dreamy imaginative nature was united in Schumann's character with a native solidity that never

1 The first appeared in 1866 as No. 12 of the Posthumous Works, published by Bieter-Biedermann, together with the discarded Finale oi the Sonata in G minor as No. 13.

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