Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/414

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.



��from the deepest sources of his soul. In the family circle he was a different man ; there he could be gay and talkative to a degree that would have surprised a stranger. He loved his children tenderly and was fond of occupying him- self with them. The three piano sonatas (op. 1 1 8) composed for his daughters Julie, Elise and Marie, the Album for beginners (op. 68) ; the Children's Ball (op. 130), and other pieces, are touching evidence of the way in which he ex- pressed this feeling in music.

The first great work of the Dusseldorf period was the Eb Symphony (op. 97), marked by the composer as no. 3, although it is really the fourth of the published ones, the D minor Symphony preceding it in order of composition. If we call the Overture, Scherzo and Finale (op. 52) a sym- phony too, then the Eb Symphony must rank as the fifth. It would seem that Schumann had begun to work at it before his change of resi- dence. As soon as he conceived the project of leaving Saxony for the Rhine, he bethought himself of the great musical festival which ever eince 1818 had been held in the lower Rhine 1 districts, and was inspired by the idea of assist- ing at one of these in the capacity of a com- poser. He wrote down this great work with its five movements between Nov. 2 and Dec. 9, 1850. He has told us that it was intended to convey the impressions which he received during a visit to Cologne ; so that its ordinary name of the 'Rhenish Symphony' may be accepted as correct. It was first performed at Diissefdorf on Feb. 6, 1851, and then at Cologne on Feb. 25, both times under the direction of the composer, but was coldly received on both occasions. 2

Although Schumann had had no pleasant experiences in connection with the opera ' Geno- veva,' he was not to be deterred from making another essay in dramatic composition. In Oct.

1850 he received from Richard Pohl, at that time a student in the Leipzig university, Schiller's 'Bride of Messina' arranged as an opera libretto. Schumann could not make up his mind to set it to music ; but in Dec. 1850 and Jan. 1851 he wrote an Overture to the 'Braut von Messina' {op. 100), which showed how much the material of the play had interested him, in spite of his refusal to set it. He inclined to a more cheerful, or even a comic subject, and Goethe's ' Hermann und Dorothea ' seemed to him appropriate for an operetta. He consulted several poets concerning the arrangement, and having made out a scheme of treatment, wrote the Overture at Christmas

1851 (op. 136). The work however progressed no farther. He subsequently turned his attention to Auerbach's 'Dorfgeschichten,' but without finding any good material, and no second opera from his pen ever saw the light.

He completed however a number of vocal compositions for the concert-room, in which his taste for dramatic music had free play. A young poet from Chemnitz, Moritz Horn, had sent him

1 See this Dictionary, vol. H. p. 457.

2 its first performance in England was at a Concert of Signer


a faery poem, which greatly interested him. After many abbreviations and alterations made by Horn himself at Schumann's suggestion, ' The Pilgrimage of the Rose ' (Der Rose Pilgerfahrt, op. 112) was really set to music between April and July 1851. The work, which both in form and substance resembles Paradise and the Peri,' except that it is treated in a manner at once more detailed and more idyllic, had at first a simple pianoforte accompaniment, but in No- vember Schumann arranged it for orchestra. June 1 851 is also the date of the composition of Uhland's ballad 'Der Konigssohn' (op. 116) in a semi-dra- matic form, to which indeed he was almost driven by the poem itself. Schumann was much pleased with his treatment of this ballad, which he has set for soli, chorus, and orchestra. In the course of the next two years he wrote three more works of the same kind : ' Des Sangers Fluch' (op. 139), a ballad of Uhland's; 'Vom Pagen und der Konigstochter' (op. 140) a ballad by Geibel ; and 'Das Gliick von EdenhalT (op. 143), a ballad by Uhland.

In the last two poems he made alterations of more or less importance, to bring them into shape for musical setting, but the ' Sangers Fluch ' had to be entirely remodelled a difficult and un- grateful task, which Richard Pohl carried out after Schumann's own suggestions.

At that time this young man, a thorough art- enthusiast, kept up a lively intercourse with Schumann both personally and by letter. They devised together the plan of a grand oratorio. Schumann wavered between a biblical and an historical subject, thinking at one time of the Virgin Mary, at another of Ziska or Luther. His final choice fell upon Luther. He pondered deeply upon the treatment of his materials. It was to be an oratorio suitable both for the church and the concert room, and in its poetical form as dramatic as possible. In point of musical treat- ment he intended the chorus to predominate, as in Handel's 'Israel in Egypt,' of which he had given a performance in the winter of 1 850. More- over it was not to be complicated and contra- puntal in style, but simple and popular, so that

  • peasant and citizen alike should understand it.'

The more he pondered it the more was he in- spired with the grandeur of the subject, although by no means blind to its difficulties. ' It inspires courage' he says, 'and also humility.' He could not however coincide with his poet's opinion as to the extent of the work, the latter having formed the idea of a sort of trilogy, in oratorio form, while Schumann wished the work to be within the limit of one evening's performance, lasting about two hours and a half. In this way the few years of creative activity that were still granted to him slipped away, and the oratorio remained unwritten. The impossi- bility of satisfying, by the oratorio on Luther, the inclination for grave and religious music which became ever stronger with increasing years, is partly the reason of his writing in 1852 a Mass (op. 147) and a Requiem (op. 148). But to these he was also incited by outward circum-

�� �