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Chopin and Other Musical Essays By Henry Theophilus Finck Characters: 37463

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04



Clara Schumann, the most gifted woman that has ever chosen music as a profession, and who, at the age of sixty-nine, still continues to be among the most fascinating of pianists, placed the musical world under additional obligations when she issued three years ago the collection of private letters, written by Schumann between the ages of eighteen and thirty (1827-40), partly to her, partly to his mother, and other relatives, friends, and business associates. She was prompted to this act not only by the consciousness that there are many literary gems in the correspondence which should not be lost to the world, but by the thought that more is generally known of Schumann's eccentricities than of his real traits of character. Inasmuch as a wretched script was one of the most conspicuous of these eccentricities, it is fortunate that his wife lived to edit his letters; but even she, though familiar with his handwriting during many years of courtship and marriage, was not infrequently obliged to interpolate a conjectural word. Schumann had a genuine vein of humor, which he reveals in his correspondence as in his compositions and criticisms. He was aware that his manuscript was not a model of caligraphy, but, on being remonstrated with, he passionately declared he could not do any better, promising, however, sarcastically that, as a predestined diplomat, he would keep an amanuensis in future. And on page 245 begins a long letter to Clara which presents a curious appearance. Every twentieth word or so is placed between two vertical lines, regarding which the reader is kept in the dark until he comes to this postscript: "In great haste, owing to business affairs, I add a sort of lexicon of indistinctly written words, which I have placed within brackets. This will probably make the letter appear very picturesque and piquant. The idea is not so bad. Adio, clarissima Cara, cara Clarissima." Then follows the "lexicon" of twenty words, including his own signature.

Although, in a semi-humorous vein, Schumann repeatedly alludes in these letters to the "foregone conclusion" that they will some day be printed, there is hardly any indication that such a thought was ever in his mind while writing them. They are, in fact, full of confidences and confessions, some of which he could not have been very ambitious to see in print; such as his frequent appeals for "more ducats," during his student days, and his sophistically ingenious excuses for needing so much money, placed side by side with his frank admission that he had no talent for economy, and was very fond of cigars, wine, and especially travelling. In one of the most amusing of the letters, he advances twelve reasons why his mother should send him about $200 to enable him to see Switzerland and Italy. As a last, convincing argument, he gently hints that it is very easy for a student in Heidelberg to borrow money at 10 per cent. interest. He got the money and enjoyed his Swiss tour, mostly on foot and alone; but in Italy various misfortunes overtook him-he fell ill, his money ran out, and he was only too glad to return to Heidelberg in the same condition as when he had first arrived there, on which occasion the state of his purse compelled him to make the last part of the journey from Leipsic on foot.

On this trip he enjoyed that unique emotional thrill of the German, the first sight of the Rhine, with which he was so enchanted that he went to the extreme forward end of the deck, smoking a good cigar given him by an Englishman: "Thus I sat alone all the afternoon, revelling in the wild storm which ploughed through my hair, and composing a poem of praise to the Northeast wind"-for Schumann often indulged in poetic efforts, especially when inspired to flights of fancy by his favorite author, Jean Paul.

At Heidelberg, which he called "ein ganzes Paradies von Natur," he spent one of the happiest years of his life. Student life at this town he thus compares with Leipsic:

"In and near Heidelberg the student is the most prominent and respected individual, since it is he who supports the town, so that the citizens and Philistines are naturally excessively courteous. I consider it a disadvantage for a young man, especially for a student, to live in a town where the student only and solely rules and flourishes. Repression alone favors the free development of a youth, and the everlasting loafing with students greatly limits many-sidedness of thought, and consequently exerts a bad influence on practical life. This is one great advantage Leipsic has over Heidelberg-which, in fact, a large city always has over a small one.... On the other hand, Heidelberg has this advantage, that the grandeur and beauty of the natural scenery prevent the students from spending so much of their time in drinking; for which reason the students here are ten times more sober than in Leipsic."

Schumann himself, as we have said, was fond of a glass of good wine. On his first journey, at Prague, he tells us, the Tokay made him happy. And in another place he exclaims, "Every day I should like to drink champagne to excite myself." But, though of a solitary disposition, he did not care to drink alone, for "only in the intimate circle of sympathetic hearts does the vine's blood become transfused into our own and warm it to enthusiasm." Schumann's special vice was the constant smoking of very strong cigars; nor does he appear to have devoted to gastronomic matters the attention necessary to nourish such an abnormally active brain as his. At one time he lived on potatoes alone for several weeks; at another he saved on his meals to get money for French lessons; and although he took enough interest in a good menu to copy it in a letter, he repeatedly laments the time which is uselessly wasted in eating. Such tenets, combined with his smoking habit, doubtless helped to shatter his powers, leading finally to the lunatic asylum and a comparatively early death.

His frequent fits of melancholy may also perhaps be traced in part to these early habits. Though probably unacquainted with Burton, he held that "there is in melancholy sentiments something extremely attractive and even invigorating to the imagination." Attempts were frequently made by his friends to teach him more sociable habits. Thus, at Leipsic, "Dr. Carus's family are anxious to introduce me to innumerable families-'it would be good for my prospects,' they think, and so do I, and yet I don't get there, and in fact seldom go out at all. Indeed, I am often very leathery, dry, disagreeable, and laugh much inwardly." That his apparent coldness and indifference to his neighbors and friends were due chiefly to his absorption in his world of ideas, and his consequent want of sympathy with the artificial usages of society, becomes apparent from this confession, written to Clara in 1838:

"I should like to confide to you many other things regarding my character-how people often wonder that I meet the warmest expressions of love with coldness and reserve, and often offend and humiliate precisely those who are most sincerely devoted to me. Often have I queried and reproached myself for this, for inwardly I acknowledge even the most trifling favor, understand every wink, every subtle trait in the heart of another, and yet I so often blunder in what I say and do."

In these melancholy moods nature was his refuge and consolation. He objected to Leipsic because there were no delights of nature-"everything artificially transformed; no valley, no mountain, where I might revel in my thoughts; no place where I can be alone, except in the bolted room, with the eternal noise and turmoil below." Although he had but a few intimate friends, he was liked by all the students, and even enjoyed the name of "a favorite of the Heidelberg public." One of his intimate friends was Flechsig, but even of him he paradoxically complains that he is too sympathetic: "He never cheers me up; if I am occasionally in a melancholy mood, he ought not to be the same, and he ought to have sufficient humanity to stir me up. That I often need cheering up, I know very well." Yet he was as often in a state of extreme happiness and enjoyment of life and his talents. He even, on occasion, indulged in students' pranks. On his journey to Heidelberg he induced the postilion to let him take the reins: "Thunder! how the horses ran, and how extravagantly happy I was, and how we stopped at every tavern to get fodder, and how I entertained the whole company, and how sorry they all were when I parted from them at Wiesbaden!!" At Frankfort, one morning, he writes: "I felt an extraordinary longing to play on a piano. So I calmly went to the nearest dealer, told him I was the tutor of a young English lord who wished to buy a grand piano, and then I played, to the wonder and delight of the bystanders, for three hours. I promised to return in two days and inform them if the lord wanted the instrument; but on that date I was at Rüdesheim, drinking Rüdesheimer." In another place he gives an account of "a scene worthy of Van Dyck, and a most genial evening" he spent with some students at a tavern filled with peasants. They had some grog, and at the request of the peasants one of the students declaimed, and Schumann played. Then a dance was arranged. "The peasants beat time with their feet. We were in high spirits, and danced dizzily among the peasant feet, and finally took a touching farewell of the company by giving all the peasant girls, Minchen, etc., smacking kisses on the lips."

Were women, like men, afflicted with retrospective jealousy, Schumann's widow, in editing these letters, would have received a pang from many other passages revealing Schumann's fondness for the fair sex. He allowed no good-looking woman to pass him on the street without taking the opportunity to cultivate his sense of beauty. After his engagement to Clara he gives her fair warning that he has the "very mischievous habit" of being a great admirer of beautiful women and girls. "They make me positively smirk, and I swim in panegyrics on your sex. Consequently, if at some future time we walk along the streets of Vienna and meet a beauty, and I exclaim, 'Oh, Clara! see this heavenly vision,' or something of the sort, you must not be alarmed nor scold me." He had a number of transient passions before he discovered that Clara was his only true love. There was Nanni, his "guardian angel," who saved him from the perils of the world and hovered before his vision like a saint. "I feel like kneeling before her and adoring her like a Madonna." But Nanni had a dangerous rival in Liddy. Not long, however, for he found Liddy silly, cold as marble, and-fatal defect-she could not sympathize with him regarding Jean Paul. "The exalted image of my ideal disappears when I think of the remarks she made about Jean Paul. Let the dead rest in peace."

Several of his flames are not alluded to in this correspondence. On his travels he appears to have had the habit of noting down in his diary the prevalence and peculiarities of feminine beauty. He complains that from Mainz to Heidelberg he "did not see a single pretty face." Yet, as a whole, the Rhine maidens seem to have won his admiration:

"What characteristic faces among the lowest classes! On the west shore of the Rhine the girls have very delicate features, indicating amiability rather than intelligence; the noses are mostly Greek, the face very oval and artistically symmetrical, the hair brown; I did not see a single blonde. The complexion is soft, delicate, with more white than red; melancholy rather than sanguine. The Frankfort girls, on the other hand, have in common a sisterly trait-the character of German, manly, sad earnestness which we often find in our quondam free cities, and which toward the east gradually merges into a gentle softness. Characteristic are the faces of all the Frankfort girls: intellectual or beautiful few of them; the noses mostly Greek, often snub-noses; the dialect I did not like."

The English type of beauty appears to have especially won his approval. "When she spoke it sounded like the whispering of angels," he says of an Englishwoman, "as pretty as a picture," whom he met. Elsewhere he says, laconically: "On the 24th I arrived at Mainz with the steamer, in company with twenty to thirty English men and women. Next day the number of English increased to fifty. If I ever marry, it must be an English woman." Some years later, however, with the fickleness of genius, he writes about Ernestine, the daughter of a rich Bohemian Baron, "a delightfully innocent, childish soul, tender and pensive, attached to me and to everything artistic by the most sincere love, extremely musical-in short, just the kind of a girl I could wish to marry." He did become engaged to her, but the following year the engagement was dissolved; and soon after this he discovered that his artistic admiration for Clara Wieck had assumed the form of love. Although her father opposed their union several years, on account of Schumann's poverty, the young couple often met, and not only in the music-room. In 1833 he writes to his mother regarding Clara: "The other day, when we went to Connewitz (we take a two or three hours' walk almost daily), I heard her say to herself, 'How happy I am! how happy!' Who would not like to hear that! On this road there are a number of very useless stones in the midst of the footpath. Now, as it happens in conversation that I more frequently look up than down, she always walks behind me and gently pulls my coat at every stone, lest I may fall."

It was most fortunate for Schumann that his bride and wife was one of the greatest living pianists. For, owing to the accident to his hand, though he could still improvise, he could not appear in public to interpret his own compositions, which depended so much for their success on a sympathetic performance, since they differed so greatly from the prevalent style of Hummel and the classical masters, that even so gifted a musician as Mendelssohn failed to understand them. But Clara made it the task of her life to secure him recognition, and this was an additional bond that united their souls. "When you are mine," he writes, "you will occasionally hear something new from me; I believe you will often inspire me, and the mere fact that I shall then frequently hear my own compositions will cheer me up;" and: "Your Romance showed me once more that we must become man and wife. Every one of your thoughts comes from my soul, even as I owe all my music to you." To Dorn he writes that many of his compositions, including the Noveletten, the Kreisleriana, and the Kinderscenen, were inspired by Clara; and it is well known that his love became the incentive to the composition, in one year, of over a hundred wonderful songs-his previous compositions, up to 1840, having all been for the piano alone. In the last letter of this collection he says: "Sometimes it appears to me as if I were treading entirely new paths in music;" and there are many other passages showing that he realized well that the very things which his contemporaries criticised and decried as eccentric and obscure (Hummel, e.g., objects to his frequent changes of harmony and his originality!), were really his most inspired efforts. Though he never allowed the desire for popularity to influence his work, yet he occasionally craves appreciation. "I am willing to confess that I should be greatly pleased if I could succeed in composing something which would impel the public, after hearing you play it, to run against the walls in their delight; for vain we composers are, even though we have no reason to be so." It must have given him a strange shock when an amateur asked him, at one of his wife's concerts in Vienna, if he also was musical!

In her efforts to win appreciation for her husband, Clara was nobly assisted by Liszt. Just like Wagner, Schumann was not at first very favorably impressed with Liszt, owing to the sensational flavor of his early performances. But he soon changed his mind, especially when Liszt played some of his (Schumann's) compositions. "Many things were different from my conception of them, but always 'genial,' and marked by a tenderness and boldness of expression which even he presumably has not at his command every day. Becker was the only other person present, and he had tears in his eyes." And two days later: "But I must tell you that Liszt appears to me grander every day. This morning he again played at Raimund H?rtel's, in a way to make us all tremble and rejoice, some études of Chopin, a number of the Rossini soirées, and other things." Of other contemporary pianists Hummel, "ten years behind the time," and Thalberg, whom he liked better as pianist than as composer, are alluded to. Yet he writes in 1830 that he intends going to Weimar, "for the sly reason of being able to call myself a pupil of Hummel." Wieck, his father-in-law, he esteemed greatly as teacher and adviser, but it offended him deeply that Wieck should have followed the common error of estimating genius with a yard-stick, and asked where were his "Don Juan" and his "Freischütz?" His enthusiasm for Schubert, Chopin, and especially for Bach, finds frequent expression. Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavichord" he declares is his "grammar, and the best of all grammars. The fugues I have analyzed successively to the minutest details; the advantage resulting from this is great, and has a morally bracing effect on the whole system, for Bach was a man through and through; in him there is nothing done by halves, nothing morbid, but all is written for time eternal." Six years later: "Bach is my daily bread; from him I derive gratification and get new ideas-'compared with him we are all children,' Beethoven has said, I believe." One day a caller remarked that Bach was old and wrote in old-fashioned manner: "But I told him he was neither old nor new, but much more than that, namely, eternal. I came near losing my temper." Concerning the unappreciative Mendelssohn, he writes to Clara:

"I am told that he is not well disposed toward me. I should feel sorry if that were true, since I am conscious of having preserved noble sentiments toward him. If you know anything let me hear it on occasion; that will at least make me cautious, and I do not wish to squander anything where I am ill-spoken of. Concerning my relations toward him as a musician [1838], I am quite aware that I could learn of him for years; but he, too, some things of me. Brought up under similar circumstances, destined for music from childhood, I would surpass you all-t

hat I feel from the energy of my inventive powers."

Concerning this energy he says, some time after this, when he had just finished a dozen songs: "Again I have composed so much that I am sometimes visited by a mysterious feeling. Alas! I cannot help it. I could wish to sing myself to death, like a nightingale."

One of the most interesting bits of information contained in this correspondence is that, when quite a young man, Schumann commenced a treatise on musical ?sthetics. In view of the many epoch-making thoughts contained in his two volumes of collected criticisms, it is very much to be regretted that this plan was not carried out. On one question of musical psychology light is thrown by several of these letters. Like many other composers, it seems that Schumann often, if not generally, had some pictorial image or event in his mind in composing. "When I composed my first songs," he writes to Clara, "I was entirely within you. Without such a bride one cannot write such music." "I am affected by everything that goes on in the world-politics, literature, mankind. In my own manner I meditate on everything, which then seeks utterance in music. That is why many of my compositions are so difficult to understand, because they relate to remote affairs; and often significant, because all that's remarkable in our time affects me, and I have to give it expression in musical language." One of the letters to Clara begins: "Tell me what the first part of the Fantasia suggests to you. Does it not bring many pictures before your mind?" Concerning the "Phantasiestücke" he writes: "When they were finished I was delighted to find the story of Hero and Leander in them.... Tell me if you, too, find this picture fitting the music." "The Papillons," he says once more, are intended to be a musical translation of the final scene in Jean Paul's "Flegeljahre."

Believers in telepathy will be interested in the following additional instance of composing with a visual object in mind: "I wrote to you concerning a presentiment; it occurred to me on the days from March 24th to 27th, when I was at work on my new composition. There is a place in it to which I constantly recurred; it is as if some one sighed, 'Ach, Gott!' from the bottom of his heart. While composing, I constantly saw funeral processions, coffins, unhappy people in despair; and when I had finished, and long searched for a title, the word 'corpse-fantasia' continually obtruded itself. Is not that remarkable? During the composition, moreover, I was often so deeply affected that tears came to my eyes, and yet I knew not why and had no reason-till Theresa's letter arrived, which made everything clear." His brother was on his death-bed.

* * *

The collection of Schumann's letters so far under consideration met with such a favorable reception that a second edition was soon called for, and this circumstance no doubt promoted the publication of a second series, extending to 1854, two years before Schumann's sad death in the lunatic asylum near Bonn. This second volume includes a considerable number of business letters to his several publishers. In one of these he confides to Dr. H?rtel his plan of collecting and revising his musical criticisms, and publishing them in two volumes. But as this letter was, a few months later, followed by a similar one addressed to the publisher Wigand, who subsequently printed the essays, it is to be inferred that Breitkopf & H?rtel, though assured of the future of Schumann's compositions, doubted the financial value of his musical essays-an attitude pardonable at a time when there was still a ludicrous popular prejudice against literary utterances by a musician. In 1883, however, after Wigand had issued a third edition of the "Collected Writings on Music and Musicians" (which have also been translated into English by Mrs. Ritter), Breitkopf & H?rtel atoned for their error by purchasing the copyright.

Schumann's letters to his publishers show that he used to suggest his own terms, which were commonly acceded to without protest. For his famous quintet he asked twenty louis d'or, or about $100; for "Paradise and the Peri," $500; the piano concerto, $125; Liederalbum, op. 79, $200; "Manfred," $250. He frequently emphasizes his desire to have his compositions printed in an attractive style, and in 1839 writes to H?rtel that he cannot describe his pleasure on receiving the "Scenes of Childhood." "It is the most charming specimen of musical typography I have ever seen." The few misprints he discovers in it he frankly attributes to his MS. In a letter to his friend Rosen he writes that "it must be a deucedly comic pleasure to read my Sanskrit." But his musical handwriting appears to have been nearer to Sanskrit than his epistolary, if we may judge by the specimen fac-similes printed in Naumann's "History of Music."

The promptness with which all the leading music publishers of Germany issued complete editions of Schumann's vocal and pianoforte compositions, as soon as the copyright had expired, shows how profitable they must be. But during his lifetime it was quite otherwise, and in a letter to Kossmaly he adduces the following four reasons for this state of affairs: "(1) inherent difficulties of form and contents; (2) because, not being a virtuoso, I cannot perform them in public; (3) because I am the editor of my musical paper, in which I could not allude to them; (4) because Fink is editor of the other paper, and would not allude to them." Elsewhere he remarks, concerning this rival editor: "It is really most contemptible on Fink's part not to have mentioned a single one of my pianoforte compositions in nine [seven] years, although they are always of such a character that it is impossible to overlook them. It is not for my name's sake that I am annoyed, but because I know what the future course of music is to be." It was in behalf of this tendency that he toiled on his paper, which at first barely paid its expenses, having only 500 subscribers several years after its foundation. And he not only avoided puffing his own compositions, but even inserted a contribution by his friend Kossmaly in which he was placed in the second rank of vocal composers! Yet, though he printed the article, he complains about it in a private letter: "In your article on the Lied, I was a little grieved that you placed me in the second class. I do not lay claim to the first, but I think I have a claim to a place of my own, and least of all do I wish to see myself associated with Reissiger, Curschmann, etc. I know that my aims, my resources, are far beyond theirs, and I hope you will concede this and not accuse me of vanity, which is far from me."

Many of the letters in the present collection are concerned with the affairs of Schumann's paper, the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, detailing his plans for removing it to a larger city than Leipsic, and the atrocious red-tape difficulties and delays he was subjected to when he finally did transfer it to Vienna. Although the paper was exclusively devoted to music, the Censur apparently took three or four months to make up its mind whether the state was in danger or not from the immigration of a new musical periodical. The editor confesses that he did not find as much sympathy as he had expected in Vienna; yet the city-as he writes some years later at Düsseldorf-"continues to attract one, as if the spirits of the departed great masters were still visible, and as if it were the real musical home of Germany." "Eating and drinking here are incomparable. You would be delighted with the Opera. Such singers and such an ensemble we do not have." "The admirable Opera is a great treat for me, especially the chorus and orchestra. Of such things we have no conception in Leipsic. The ballet would also amuse you." "A more encouraging public it would be difficult to find anywhere; it is really too encouraging-in the theatre one hears more applause than music. It is very merry, but it annoys me occasionally." "But I assure you confidentially that long and alone I should not care to live here; serious men and affairs are here in little demand and little appreciated. A compensation for this is found in the beautiful surroundings. Yesterday I was in the cemetery where Beethoven and Schubert are buried. Just think what I found on Beethoven's grave: a pen, and, what is more, a steel pen. It was a happy omen for me and I shall preserve it religiously." On Schubert's grave he found nothing, but in the city he found Schubert's brother, a poor man with eight children and no possessions but a number of his brother's manuscripts, including "a few operas, four great masses, four or five symphonies, and many other things." He immediately wrote to Breitkopf & H?rtel to make arrangements for their publication.

It is anything but complimentary to the discernment of Viennese publishers and musicians of that period that, eleven years after Schubert's death, another composer had to come from Leipsic and give to the world the works of a colleague who not only had genius of the purest water, but the gift of giving utterance to his musical ideas in a clear style, intelligible to the public. Schubert died in 1828, and in 1842 Schumann could still write to one of his contributors: "It is time, it seems to me, that some one should write something weighty in behalf of Schubert; doesn't this tempt you? True, his larger works are not yet in print. But his vocal and pianoforte compositions suffice for an approximate portrait. Consider the matter. Do you know his symphony in C? A delightful composition, somewhat long, but extraordinarily animated, in character entirely new." To a Belgian friend who intended to write an article on the new tendencies in pianoforte music, he wrote: "Of older composers who have influenced modern music I must name above all Franz Schubert.... Schubert's songs are well known, but his pianoforte compositions (especially those for four hands) I rate at least equally high."

Of the numerous criticisms of well-known composers contained in this correspondence, a few more may be cited. They are mostly favorable in tone, but concerning the "Prophète" he writes: "The music appears to me very poor; I cannot find words to express my aversion to it." "Lortzing's operas meet with success-to me almost incomprehensible." To Carl Reinecke he writes that he is "no friend of song-transcriptions (for piano), and of Liszt's some are a real abomination to me." He commends Reinecke's efforts in this direction because they are free from pepper and sauce à la Liszt. Nevertheless, those of Liszt's song-transcriptions in which he did not indulge in too much bravura ornamentation are models of musical translation, and the collection of forty-two songs published by Breitkopf & H?rtel should be in every pianist's library. "Of Chopin," he writes in 1836, "I have a new ballad [G minor]. It seems to me to be his most enchanting (though not most genial) work; I told him, too, that I liked it best of all his compositions. After a long pause and reflection he said: 'I am glad you think so, it is also my favorite.' He also played for me a number of new études, nocturnes, mazurkas-everything in an incomparable style. It is touching to see him at the piano. You would be very fond of him. Yet Clara is more of a virtuoso, and gives almost more significance to his compositions than he does himself."

Brendel having sent him some of Palestrina's music, he writes that "it really sounds sometimes like music of the spheres-and what art at the same time! I am convinced he is the greatest musical genius Italy has produced." Nineteen years previous to this he had written from Brescia: "Were not the Italian language itself a kind of eternal music (the Count aptly called it a long-drawn-out A-minor chord), I should not hear anything rational. Of the ardor with which they play, you can form no more conception than of their slovenliness and lack of elegance and precision." Handel appears to be mentioned only once in all of Schumann's correspondence ("I consider 'Israel in Egypt' the ideal of a choral work"), but Bach is always on his tongue. The following is one of the profoundest criticisms ever written: "Mozart and Haydn knew of Bach only a few pages and passages, and the effect which Bach, if they had known him in all his greatness, would have had on them, is incalculable. The harmonic depth, the poetic and humorous qualities of modern music have their source chiefly in Bach: Mendelssohn, Bennett, Chopin, Hiller, all the so-called Romanticists (I mean those of the German school) approximate in their music much closer to Bach than to Mozart."

To Wagner there are several references, betraying a most remarkable struggle between critical honesty and professional jealousy. Thus, in 1845, Schumann writes to Mendelssohn of "Tannh?user:"

"Wagner has just finished a new opera-no doubt a clever fellow, full of eccentric notions, and bold beyond measure. The aristocracy is still in raptures over him on account of his 'Rienzi,' but in reality he cannot conceive or write four consecutive bars of good or even correct music. What all these composers lack is the art of writing pure harmonies and four-part choruses. The music is not a straw better than that of 'Rienzi,' rather weaker, more artificial! But if I should write this I should be accused of envy, hence I say it only to you, as I am aware that you have known all this a long time."

But in another letter to Mendelssohn, written three weeks later, he recants: "I must take back much of what I wrote regarding 'Tannh?user,' after reading the score; on the stage the effect is quite different. I was deeply moved by many parts." And to Heinrich Dorn he writes, a few weeks after this: "I wish you could see Wagner's 'Tannh?user.' It contains profound and original ideas, and is a hundred times better than his previous operas, though some of the music is trivial. In a word, he may become of great importance to the stage, and, so far as I know him, he has the requisite courage. The technical part, the instrumentation, I find excellent, incomparably more masterly than formerly."

Nevertheless, seven years later still, he once more returns to the attack, and declares that Wagner's music, "apart from the performance, is simply amateurish, void of contents, and disagreeable; and it is a sad proof of corrupt taste that, in the face of the many dramatic master-works which Germany has produced, some persons have the presumption to belittle these in favor of Wagner's. Yet enough of this. The future will pronounce judgment in this matter, too." Poor Schumann! His own opera, "Genoveva," was a failure, while "Tannh?user" and "Lohengrin" were everywhere received with enthusiasm. This was a quarter of a century ago; and the future has judged, "Tannh?user" and "Lohengrin" being now the most popular of all works in the operatic repertory.

What caused the failure of Schumann's only opera was not a lack of dramatic genius, but of theatrical instinct. He believed that in "Genoveva" "every bar is thoroughly dramatic;" and so it is, as might have been expected of the composer of such an intensely emotional and passionate song as "Ich grolle nicht" and many others. But Schubert, too, could write such thrilling five-minute dramas as the "Erlking" and the "Doppelg?nger," without being able to compose a successful opera. Like Schumann, he could not paint al fresco, could not command that bolder and broader sweep which is required of an operatic composer. It is characteristic of Schumann that he did not write an opera till late in life, whereas born operatic composers have commonly begun their career with their specialty. Indeed, it was only ten years before he composed his opera that Schumann wrote to a friend: "You ought to write more for the voice. Or are you, perhaps, like myself, who have all my life placed vocal music below instrumental, and never considered it a great art? But don't speak to anyone about this." Oddly enough, less than a year after this he writes to another friend: "At present I write only vocal pieces.... I can hardly tell you what a delight it is to write for the voice as compared with instruments, and how it throbs and rages within me when I am at work. Entirely new things have been revealed to me, and I am thinking of writing an opera, which, however, will not be possible until I have entirely freed myself from editorial work."

Like other vocal composers, Schumann suffered much from the lack of suitable texts. In one letter he suggests that Lenau might perhaps be induced to write a few poems for composers, to be printed in "The Zeitschrift:" "the composers are thirsting for texts." In several other letters we become familiar with some of his plans which were never executed, owing, apparently, to the shortcomings of the librettists. One of these was R. Pohl, who in all earnestness sent Schumann a serious text in which the moon was introduced as one of the vocalists! Schumann mildly remonstrated that "to conceive of the moon as a person, especially as singing, would be too risky." So the project of "Ritter Mond" was abandoned, and it is to be regretted that Schumann did not reject his "Genoveva" libretto, which was largely responsible for the failure of the opera.

One project of Schumann's is mentioned which it is to be very much regretted he never carried out. "I am at present [1840] preparing an essay on Shakspere's relations to music, his utterances and views, the manner in which he introduces music in his dramas, etc., etc.-an exceedingly fertile and attractive theme, the execution of which would, it is true, require some time, as I should have to read the whole of Shakspere's works for this purpose." His object was to send this to Jena as a dissertation for a Doctor's degree, with which he hoped to soften the heart of the obdurate Wieck, who opposed his marriage with Clara, and at the same time to make an impression on the public. Schumann had had painful experience of the fact that for genius itself there is little recognition in Germany unless it has a handle to its name-a "von" or a "Herr Doctor." Clara, however, loved him for his genius, and for the impassioned pieces and songs he wrote to express his admiration of her and of woman in general; and, like other German men of genius, he had his reward-after death. "No tone poet," says Naumann, "has been more enthusiastic in the praise of woman than Robert Schumann; he was a second Frauenlob. This was acknowledged by the maidens of Bonn, who, at his interment, filled the cemetery, and crowned his tomb with innumerable garlands."

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