Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 3.djvu/421

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


without any special purpose, and not provided either with collective or individual titles until later, when he arranged them in their present order. The musical connection between the pieces is, that with few exceptions they all contain some reference to the succession of notes a, es, c, h (A, Eb, C, B) or as, c, h (Ab, C, B). Now Asch is the name of a small town in Bohemia, the home of a Fraulein Ernestine von Fricken, with whom Schumann was very intimate at the time of his writing this music. The same notes in another order, 8 (or es) c, h, a, are also the only letters in Schumann's own name which represent notes. This explains the title Sphinxes/ which is affixed to the pth number on p. 13 of the original edition. The pieces are named, some from characters in the masked ball Pierrot (Clown,) Arlequin, Pantalon, and Colom- bine, and some from real persons. In this last category we meet with the members of the Davidsbund Florestan, Eusebius, and Chia- rina; Ernestine von Fricken, under the name Estrella, Chopin, and Paganini ; there is also a ' Coquette,' but it is not known for whom this is intended. Besides these, some of the pieces are named from situations and occurrences at the ball ; a recognition, an avowal of love, a pro- menade, a pause in the dance (Reconnaissance, Aveu, Promenade, Pause) ; between these are heard the sounds of waltzes, and in one of the pieces the letters A S C . H, and S C - H A, 'Lettres dansantes/ themselves dance boister- ously and noisily, and then vanish like airy phantoms. A piece called 'Papillons' rushes by like a hasty reminiscence, and in the num- bers entitled 'Florestan' an actual passage from No. I of the Papillons (op. 2) is inserted. The finale is called ' March of the Davidsbiindler a.gainst the Philistines.' The symbol of the Philistines is the * Grossvatertanz/ here called by Schumann a tune of the I ;th century. The fact of the march being in 3-4 time, a riiythm to which it is of course impossible to march, has perhaps a humorous and symbolic meaning.

The ' Davidsbiindlertanze ' (op. 6), the 'Fan- tasiestiicke* (op. 12), ' Kindersceneii ' (op. 15), Kreisleriana ' (op. 16), * Novelletten ' (op. 21), Bunte Blatter' (op. 99), and ' Albumblatter ' (op. 124), the contents of which all belong to Schumann's early period, and, of the later works, such pieces as the 'Waldscenen' (op. 82) all bear the impress of having originated like the 'Papillons' and the 'Carnaval/ in the personal experiences of Schumann's life. They are poteies d'occasion (Gelegenheitsdichtungen), a term which, in Goethe's sense, designates the highest form that a work of art can take. As to the 'Davidsbiindlertanze' the 'Kreisleriana,' and the 'Novelletten/ Schumann himself tells us that they reflect the varying moods wrought in him by the contentions about Clara Wieck. In the ' Davidsbiindlertanze ' the general ar- rangement is that Florestan and Eusebius appear usually by turns, though sometimes also together. The expression ' dance ' does not however mean, as is sometimes supposed, the dances that the



��Davidsbiindler led the Philistines, but merely indicates the form of the pieces, which is, truth to say, used with scarcely less freedom than that of the march in the finale to the 'Carnaval.' The ' Kreisleriana ' have their origin in a fan- tastic poem with the same title by E. T. A. Hoffmann, contained in his ' Fantasiestiicke im Callots Manier' (Bamberg, 1814, p. 47). Hoff- mann was a follower of Jean Paul, who indeed wrote a preface to ' Fantasiestiicke/ Half mu- sician, half poet, Schumann must have looked on him as a kindred spirit ; and in the figure of the wild and eccentric yet gifted Kapellmeister Kreisler/ drawn by Hoffmann from incidents in his own life, there were many traits in which Schumann might easily see a reflection of him- self. Of the 'Novelletten' Schumann says that they are ' long and connected romantic stories.' There are no titles to explain them, although much may be conjectured from the indications of time and expression. But the rest of the works we have just mentioned nearly always have their separate component parts, headed by names which lead the imagination of the player or hearer, in a clear and often deeply poetic manner, in a particular and definite direc- tion. This form of piano piece was altogether a very favourite one with Schumann. He is careful to guard against the supposition that he imagined a definite object in his mind, such as a 'pleading child ' (in op. 15) or a 'haunted spot in a wood ' (in op. 82), and then tried to describe it in notes. His method was rather to invent the piece quite independently and afterwards to give it a particular meaning by a superscription. His chief object was always to give the piece a value of its own, and to make it intelligible of itself. This principle is undoubtedly the right one, and, by adopting it, Schumann proved him- self a genuine musician, with faith in the inde- pendent value of his art. Nevertheless, had he considered the poetical titles utterly unimportant, he would hardly have employed them as he has in so large a majority of his smaller pianoforte pieces. His doing so seems to evince a feeling that in the composition of the piece alone, he had not said everything that struggled within him for expression. Until a particular mood or feeling had been aroused in the hearer or the player by means of the title, Schumann could not be sure that the piece would have the effect which he desired it to have. Strictly speaking, poetry and music can only be really united by means of the human voice. But in these pianoforte pieces with poetical titles Schumann found a means of expression which hovered as it were between pure instrumental music on the one hand, and vocal music on the other, and thus received a certain indefinite and mysterious character of its own, which may most justly be called Romantic.

Among the compositions consisting of small forms we must count the Variations. Schu- mann treated the variation-form freely and fancifully, but with a profuse wealth of genius and depth of feeling. For the Impromptus on a

�� �