About this Recording
8.572879 - SCHUMANN, R.: Arrangements for Piano Duet, Vol. 3 (Eckerle Piano Duo) - Manfred (excerpts) / Symphony No. 3 / Overtures
English  German 

Robert Schumann (1810–1856)
Arrangements for Piano Duet • 3

 

In an age before sound recording was possible, arrangements for, initially, solo piano offered the only way to get to know, play and hear works for larger music groups, for example for orchestra with or without voices and also for works not yet available for such instruments as the organ. From the early years of the 19th century, as keyboards became enlarged and produced more powerful sounds, there was an increasing need for arrangements for piano duets and, occasionally, in the second half of the century, for two pianos. In fact, where piano duets are concerned the number of published arrangements soon greatly exceeded that of original compositions. Sometimes the arrangements were done by the composer himself or by his friends or pupils, but in most cases they were the work of more or less accomplished professional arrangers in the direct employ of or outsourced by the publishing houses.

This is also the case for Robert Schumann, who was himself a keen duet player and wrote a series of significant works for that formation, most importantly the Bilder aus Osten, Op. 66 (1848). These works were intended, however, not for public concerts but for the home and for the cultivated salon. In only the rarest cases did Schumann write the duet arrangements himself (for example the overture to Hermann and Dorothea, Op. 136) or in collaboration with his wife Clara. Nevertheless, he almost always supervised the arrangements, which were made mostly by treasured musicians of his entourage, such as his brother-in-law Woldemar Bargiel or his faithful disciple Carl Reinecke (Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’, in E flat major, Op. 97), as the success and the diffusion of a piece were also dependent on the quality of the arrangement. In some cases he even recommended an arranger, dismissed another one and intervened directly with his own corrections.

This series of seven recordings conceived by the Schumann researcher and prizewinner (Zwickau 2003) Joachim Draheim presents all the orchestral works which were arranged for piano duet by Schumann himself or made under his supervision, as well as a representative choice of other orchestral works and important chamber music pieces for which musically significant and aurally convincing arrangements were published, sometimes after Schumann’s death.

Joachim Draheim
English translation: Michael Cook

Overture to Lord Byron’s Manfred, Op. 115 (1848)
Transcription for piano duet by Carl Reinecke, edited by Robert Schumann (publ. 1853)

Even as a young man Schumann knew and admired Lord Byron, the notorious and powerfully eloquent English poet who was worshipped by his contemporaries and whose works Schumann’s father had published in translation. In 1844, Schumann made plans to write an opera based on Byron’s The Corsair, but only an introductory Chorus of Corsairs was completed. By the summer of 1848, Schumann had turned his attention to Manfred, a dramatic poem in three acts first published in London in 1817, even though it was never intended for the stage; the author wanted it to be read. Goethe greatly admired Byron’s Manfred; he also claimed, quite rightfully, that it was inspired by his own Faust. Against the imposing backdrop of the Swiss Alps, the poem describes the protagonist’s restless search for redemption from a severe transgression that is never clearly stated, perhaps an incestuous relationship with his own sister. Manfred’s contact with the inhabitants of the spirit world, which he controls and fears at the same time, his struggles with the world, with human beings, god and religion, culminate in a death that represents neither salvation nor condemnation. Schumann came dangerously close to identifying with Byron’s hero; time and again, between July 1848 and December 1851, he read aloud from the poem while reducing himself and his audience to tears. He then hatched a plan to create a large-scale adaptation of Byron’s drama in the German translation by Karl Adolf Suckow. By 5 August 1848, Schumann had already sketched out the Overture; he returned to work on it in October and completed the orchestration by the end of the month. The rest of the incidental music, consisting of choruses, melodramas such as the marvellous Rufung der Alpenfee (Calling of the Witch of the Alps), and a charming entr’acte, was completed between 6 and 23 November 1848. Schumann told his future biographer Wilhelm Josef von Wasielewski: “Never have I devoted myself to a composition with such love and energy as to Manfred.”

Schumann wrote to Franz Liszt on 31 May 1849: “I have practically finished one rather large thing—the music to Byron’s Manfred. It is arranged for dramatic performance, with an overture, entr’actes and other incidental music for which the text gives ample scope.” On 5 November 1851, he wrote to Liszt again: “We rehearsed the Overture to Manfred yesterday, and my old love for this poetry has been awakened again. How wonderful it would be to present this powerful testimony of poetic imagination to the people!” On the 1 of December Liszt agreed to conduct the work’s first performance in Weimar, and on 25 December Schumann sent the score to Liszt with the following remark: “As to the music, my dear friend, I hope you will like the Overture. I really consider it one of the finest of my brain children, and I wish you may agree with me.”

Meanwhile, an opportunity arose to perform the Overture on its own, before the public premiere of the whole work, at a Gewandhaus concert during what was to be the Schumanns’ final visit to Leipzig on 14 March 1852. The premiere, conducted by the composer himself, was a great success with both audience and critics, and the work remains just as popular today. Much to his own regret, Schumann was unable to attend the first complete performance of the incidental music on 13th and 17 June 1852 in Weimar due to illness. Schumann’s principal publisher Breitkopf & Hartel issued the orchestral score and parts of the Overture to Manfred in November of that same year; a piano-vocal score and a piano reduction for four hands by Carl Reinecke (1824–1910), Schumann’s faithful disciple who later taught at the Leipzig conservatory and served as the Gewandhaus music director from 1860 until 1895, followed in 1853. The full score, together with various melodramas and a reduction of the entr’actes for piano four hands by an anonymous arranger, was not published until nearly a decade later in 1862. Four years later still, the anonymous piano reduction was replaced with a better treatment of the complete incidental music by the highly regarded arranger and composer August Horn (1825–1893). The Manfred Overture derives its particular charm from the strong tension between rhythm, harmony and form. Perhaps no one has said it better than the music critic of Signale für die Musikalische Welt, who wrote the following after the Overture’s Leipzig premiere: “… a work of sublime content, presented in beautiful form. The predominantly dark atmosphere of the music is alleviated, here and there, by the flames of a burning passion. The image of Manfred’s meandering and tortured soul, the pain caused by his scepticism and contempt for the world, and the fierce pride of a great but lonely soul—all this is sketched out with vivid colours.”

Symphony No. 3 ‘Rhenish’, in E-flat major, Op. 97 (1850)
Transcription for piano duet by Carl Reinecke, edited by Robert Schumann (publ. 1851)

On 2 September 1850, after a two-day journey from Dresden via Leipzig and Hanover, the Schumann family arrived in Dusseldorf, where Robert was to succeed his friend Ferdinand Hiller as the city’s musical director. The enthusiastic reception of the renowned artist couple in Dusseldorf, the stimulating social circles and, not least, Schumann’s relatively stable health and the growing recognition of his work put him into a state of creative euphoria. He probably began work on the Symphony in E flat major on 7 November 1850, as an entry in the Haushaltbuch on 9th November—“first movement of Symphony in E flat fully sketched”—confirms. Contrary to his usual practice, Schumann proceeded to orchestrate the individual movements even before the entire work was fully sketched out. Judging from his entries in the Haushaltbuch, he did so in ever shorter time spans. The finale (Lebhaft) was “pretty much finished” on 2 December, and the entire work was completed on the ninth of that month. The symphony premiered on 6 February 1851 in Dusseldorf, conducted by the composer himself. In the programme notes, the five movements still bore titles, which were largely changed or omitted in the printed version: Allegro vivace—Scherzo—Intermezzo—Im Character der Begleitung einer feierlichen Ceremonie—Finale. After the performance, Clara Schumann noted in her diary: “I am continually amazed at Robert’s creative powers. He always has something new in melody and harmony, as well as form … I cannot say which of the five movements I like best … the fourth, however, is the one I find least clear; it is extremely elaborate, that much I can hear, but I can’t seem to follow it properly, whereas in the other movements there is hardly a bar that I find unclear. On the whole, the symphony, and especially the second and third movements, is easily accessible to laypersons.”

On 1 March 1851 Schumann approached the music publisher Simrock in Bonn: “I believe … that a publisher would have no reason to fear the publication [of the new work]. Although the symphony is in five movements, it is not any longer than others of average length.” When Simrock hesitated, Schumann wrote back on 19 March: “I know that such an undertaking is no small matter, and I shall not be upset in the slightest should you want to consider the matter more carefully. On the other hand, I think that you will not risk anything even though the reward will only be years in coming. … but … it would make me particularly happy to have a larger work published here on the Rhine, especially this symphony, which perhaps reflects on a slice of life here and there.” This time Simrock agreed. Although there were several mishaps and delays in the printing process caused by hastiness, misunderstandings and ambiguous source material, the orchestral score and parts as well as a four-hand piano reduction were issued in fairly reliable editions in October and December 1851 respectively. Due to overwork, Schumann was unable to comply with the publisher’s urgent request to create the piano reduction himself. Instead he proposed Carl Reinecke, whom he held in high esteem, and after some discussion Reinecke quickly began to work on the arrangement in May 1851. It was a difficult task due to the complexity of the score, and Schumann made substantial corrections, also through letters, to the reduction. By 8 June 1851 however, Schumann already praised Reinecke’s work in a letter to Simrock as “a truly excellent arrangement, of the sort that few others can produce”.

The Third Symphony (in E flat major) for Full Orchestra, Op. 97, as it was called on the title page of the first edition, occupies a special place in Schumann’s oeuvre, not least because it is actually his fourth and last symphony. Two aspects in particular have always given rise to both meaningful reflection and meaningless speculation: the insertion of a fifth movement (in fourth position) whose evocation of a sacred and spiritual sphere remained obvious even after the heading ‘Im Character der Begleitung einer feierlichen Ceremonie’ (‘In the character of an accompaniment to a solemn ceremony’) was removed; and the distinctly folk-like character that had been noted early on by critics and that Schumann seems to allude to in his letter to Simrock of 19 March 1851. What some criticized as a breach of style was seen by others as a bold move towards programme music in the sense of the ‘New German School’, which at this point, in part owing to the composer’s many personal contacts, did not regard him as a reactionary, as it did later. Indeed, the ‘New German School’ was still trying to win him over as an ally, an endeavour that was doomed to failure.

The work’s designation as the ‘Rhenish Symphony,’ which is customary today, was most probably coined by Wasielewski. However it is both right and wrong to claim that Schumann was inspired by the view of Cologne Cathedral, or even by the solemn elevation of the Archbishop of Cologne, Johannes von Geissel, to the cardinalate on 12 November 1850. It is true that Schumann had been in Cologne with his wife Clara shortly before, on 6 November 1850, in order to attend a concert. This was the second time that he had seen Cologne Cathedral, on which construction had just begun, again with a view to completing it. He must have been profoundly impressed by the imposing but unfinished church—a symbol of Germany’s cultural unity, a unity that many dreamed of but that was not yet politically feasible. Schumann certainly did not witness the cardinal’s elevation on 12 November; it is known that he was in Dusseldorf on that day and, moreover, that he was “not well”. Besides, the composer had always refuted interpretations of his compositions that took pains to draw simplistic causal connections between his life experience and his work. Wasielewski witnessed this himself: “Upon publication of the work, Schumann discarded the words ‘Im Character der Begleitung einer feierlichen Ceremonie’ (‘In the character of an accompaniment to a solemn ceremony’), which had been added to the fourth movement to make it easier to understand. He said: ‘We must not show our heart to the world—a general impression of a work of art is better; at least no preposterous comparisons can then be made.’ In speaking of the other movements, he added: ‘I wished that popular elements would prevail here, and I think I have succeeded,’ a statement that undoubtedly refers to the two movements (namely the second and fifth) in a smooth, almost popular vein”.

Overture to Goethe’s Hermann and Dorothea, Op. 136 (1851/52)
Transcription for piano duet by Robert Schumann (publ. 1857)

Schumann, an admirer of Goethe since his youth and later also an expert on his work, remarked in a letter to the librettist Moritz Horn on 21 November 1851: “Hermann and Dorothea is an old favourite thought of mine. Get a firm hold on it!” On 8 December he wrote again: “I have not yet been able to collect my thoughts on Hermann and Dorothea. Still you might consider whether the material can be treated in such a way as to fill a whole evening in the theatre, which I almost doubt. There should be absolutely no speech in the Singspiel, a point with which I am sure you will agree. The entire work—both musically and poetically—should be kept in a simple German folk style.” Schumann began to sketch out an Overture to Hermann and Dorothea on 19 December, even before Horn was able to present him with a draft of the libretto. The sketch was finished by the following morning and, according to an entry in the Haushaltbuch, the orchestration was “completed” on 23 December as well. In another notebook, Schumann observed not without pride: “I wrote this Overture with great enthusiasm in only a few hours,” and on 24 December the completed autograph score lay on Clara’s Christmas table. She noted in her diary: “As far as I can see from the score, it is most original; at once martial and graceful.”

On 20 December 1852, Schumann wrote to Moritz Horn: “I am toying with the idea of making a concert oratorio out of Hermann and Dorothea.” But like so many other projects dating from the final years of his creative life, his plans for a large-scale dramatic composition or oratorio were never realized. All that remains is the Overture, which premiered at a Gewandhaus concert in Leipzig on 26 February 1857, half a year after Schumann’s death. The orchestral score and parts, and a piano reduction for four hands (prepared by the composer himself) were published at the beginning of the following month, with a dedication ‘to his dear Clara,’ by Rieter-Biedermann in Winterthur; a piano reduction for two hands, again by the composer, followed in May. The first edition also contained the following annotation by the composer: “As an explanation of the Marseillaise woven into the overture, might I observe that it was intended for the opening of a Singspiel modelled on the Goethe poem, whose first scene depicted the retreat of the soldiers of the French Republic.” Schumann had already quoted the Marseillaise in the Faschingsschwank aus Wien Op. 26 and in his well-known setting of Heine’s ballad Die beiden Grenadiere, Op. 49, No. 1; Schumann’s brilliant play with the Marseillaise, which appears muted and as if from a distance at first and which enters and exits in surprising fashion throughout the work, gives the Overture its special character.

Overture to Scenes from Goethe’s Faust (1853)
Transcription for piano duet by Woldemar Bargiel (publ. 1860)

From the early nineteenth century onwards, the legend of Faust—primarily in Goethe’s masterful adaptation—has inspired a great number of composers to write operas, oratorios, incidental music, overtures and songs, of which only Louis Spohr, Franz Schubert, Hector Berlioz, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Charles Gounod, Arrigo Boito, Ferruccio Busoni and Wolfgang Rihm shall be named. Among these compositions, Schumann’s monumental Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, as they were called in the first edition of 1858, stand out due to their convincing formal concept (in which the idea of the hero’s salvation is placed before a complete retelling of the dramatic plot), their seriousness, and a keen sensibility for the practically unaltered poetic text. Schumann began work on the third section (The Transfiguration of Faust) in June 1844 and finished the entire composition with the completion of the Overture in August 1853. After the first performance of Part III at a concert of the Gesangsverein (a choral society he founded) in Dresden on 25 June 1848, Schumann was clearly proud to be able to report to Franz Brendel: “What pleased me the most was to hear from many that the music made the poem intelligible to them for the first time.” The three performances of this section as part of the centennial celebrations of Goethe’s birth (in Weimar under the direction of Franz Liszt, in Dresden with Schumann himself as conductor, and at Leipzig’s Gewandhaus under Julius Rietz) on 29 August 1849, were also well received. Schumann continued to work on Faust during the summer of 1849 with renewed vigour. Although the Scenes from Faust were originally conceived to form the basis of an opera, they soon took on the appearance of a secular oratorio. By 1851 at the latest, Schumann thought about rounding out the composition with a purely instrumental piece. He wrote to Wasielewski: “I have often played with the thought of writing an Overture to the Faust Scenes, but I am convinced that this task, which I consider the hardest of them all, can scarcely satisfactorily be achieved; the elements that have to be mastered are too many and too gigantic. Nonetheless, it will be necessary for me to preface the music to Faust with an instrumental introduction; otherwise the whole will not be rounded out and also, the various moods must be prepared for. Yet it cannot be undertaken on the spot; I must await the moment of inspiration, then it will happen quickly.”

Schumann eventually sketched out the Overture within a few short days, between the 13 and 15 of August 1853. The orchestration was completed on 16 and 17 August, and a piano reduction for two and four hands followed on 21 August. In a letter to August Strackerjan dated 28 October, Schumann described the Overture as “the copestone to a larger series of scenes from Faust”. It belongs to a group of ‘late works’ that for a long time suffered from the misguided view that they are weak and overshadowed by the onset of mental illness. In the first edition of his Schumann biography published in 1858, Wasielewski reported that he had heard the Overture “performed by Schumann and his wife in a reduction for four hands, which made a deep and indelible impression on me”. In the biography’s third edition dating from 1880, however, Wasielewski noticed “traces of mental exhaustion” in the work. In his illuminating analysis of the Overture dating from 1984, Michael Struck calls attention to the work’s original formal concept, consisting of a short, slow introduction followed by a sonata movement and a coda “in the character of an apotheosis”. As so often with Schumann, there are “close thematic and motivic connections” between the individual parts of the composition. The Overture also contains a number of clandestine motivic links to the Scenes; however it places more emphasis on Faust’s exploits as a warrior on Earth than on his characteristic attitude as a doubter and contemplator or on his transfiguration at the end. The key of D minor appears not by accident in the Overture—it makes reference to the Scenes’ principal key as well as to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which was considered the musical counterpart to Goethe’s Faust by Schumann’s contemporaries, including Richard Wagner; Wagner’s own Faust Overture is also in the same key. Clara Schumann’s half-brother Woldemar Bargiel (1828–1897), who worked as a composer, conductor and teacher in Berlin, Cologne, and Rotterdam among other places and who was well liked and supported by his brother-in-law, most probably referred to Schumann’s own transcription for piano duet—which may have existed only in sketches—for his own arrangement published in Berlin in 1860.

Joachim Draheim
English translation: Hannes Rox


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