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TREVOR HOLD has dragged
from oblivion some music
you will not know.

27. Schumann's Blumenkinderstücke




This, Schumann's final piano composition, was never published owing to the incoherent state of the manuscript score. We must therefore be grateful to Mr E. Sams for his valiant work in producing this performing edition. One of the editor's problems was a very basic one - how many movements had Schumann intended? Previous commentators had disagreed, varying in their estimates from one (long) to eleven (short) ones. The present editor has settled for three, which seems acceptable enough:

  1. '* * * *'. The strangely angular melody makes no sense at all until it is realised that Schumann was using cipher code. Roughly translated, the opening Allegro says: 'Could you buy some fish on your way home?'; the central Adagio: 'I will if I have time, dear'; and the reprise of the Allegro: 'You jolly well make time!' What the asterisks signify is still uncertain.

  2. 'Sphinxes'. This consists simply of four notes written out on a single stave in breves. In German nomenclature they spell the letters D.S.C.H., but what this means it is difficult to say. In themselves the notes have no musical potential whatsoever.

  3. 'F. and E. are having a Quarrel [Auseinandersetzung]'. Here Schumann superimposes the Florestan and Eusebius themes from Carnaval, with no attempt to combine them either rhythmically or melodically. Again, perhaps, like 'Sphinxes', it is a work 'to be seen and not heard'.

As they stand, these final piano musings present Robert Schumann at his most baffling, and Brendel's recent recording does little to help. Perhaps future scholarship will enlighten us.


Copyright © 16 November 2000, Trevor Hold, Peterborough, UK



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