A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Carneval

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CARNEVAL,[1] Scènes mignonnes sur 4 notes (the translation, on the printed copy, of the autograph heading, 'Fasching. Schwänke auf vier Noten f. Pfte von Eusebius'). A set of 21 piano pieces written by Schumann in 1834, and dedicated to Carl Lipinski. Each piece has its title. The allusions to the Carnival are obvious—'Pierrot,' 'Arlequin,' 'Pantalon et Colombine'; but the other subjects of which Schumann's mind was then full are brought in, such as 'Chiarina' (Clara Wieck), 'Estrelle' (Ernestine von Fricken), 'Chopin,' 'Paganini,' 'Papillons'; he himself is depicted under the two aspects of his mind as 'Florestan' and 'Eusebius,' and the events of a ball are fully delineated in the 'Valse noble' and 'Valse allemande,' 'Coquette' and 'Réplique,' 'Reconnaissance,' 'Aveu' and 'Promenade.' The whole winds up with a 'March of the Davidsbündler against the Philistines,' who are represented by the commonplace and domestic 'Grossvatertanz.' [See vol. i. p. 634.] The arrangement of the pieces, however, was made, and the title added, afterwards. Between numbers 8 and 9 are inserted the 'Sphinxes,' or 'Lettres dansantes,' that is, the 4 notes which in Schumann's mind formed the mystical basis of the whole.[2]

Sphinxes

{ \override Score.TimeSignature #'stencil = ##f \cadenzaOn \clef bass \override NoteHead #'style = #'baroque ees\breve^"No. 1." c b, a, \bar "||" aes,^"No. 2." c b, \bar "||" a,^"No. 3." ees c b, \bar "||" }

A.S.C.H.S.C.H.A.
Lettres dansantes.

No. 1 is to be read as S (Es), C, H, A, the musical letters in the composer's name; Nos. 2 and 3 as As, C, H, and A, S, C, H, the letters forming the name of a town in Bohemia, the residence of a Baron von Fricken, to whose daughter Ernestine he was actually engaged at this time.[3]

The Carneval was published in 1837. It was probably first played in England on June 17, 1856, when Mme. Schumann performed 16 of the 21 numbers.

Schumann returned to the Carnival as the subject of a composition in his 'Faschings-schwank aus Wien' (op. 26).

[ G. ]

  1. This is the spelling of the original edition; in his letters Schumann generally, but not always, write Carnaval.
  2. These are never played by Mme. Schumann.
  3. Schumann's Jugendbriefe, Sept. 5, 1834, note.