Die Erstdrucke der Werke von Robert Schumann by Kurt Hofmann
H. Schneider (Tutzing, 1980)
For once in a way the steep price is justified by the uphill task and its emergence at or near the summit of professional expertise. Here are 189 title-pages of Schumann first editions, in reduced black-and-white facsimile, together with closely specified publication details of date, format, plate number and so on, plus valuable identificatory criteria and relevant annotations. An annex adds another 45 title or dedicatory pages, e.g. of parts or arrangements. All this is prefaced with excellent short essays on Schumann's relations with his publishers and his influence on their visual and presentational praxis, as well as notes on the designers and lithographers concerned. Other annexes cover such further topics as prior publication by Schumann in occasional albums or magazine supplements, usually for his own Neue Zeitschrift für Musik.
Much of the interest is of course highly specialized. Thus the history of title-page design is a topic as yet hardly touched upon. But this modern equivalent of the illumination of MSS could be an enlightening musical study. Almost as a by-product, the illustrations here show music history unfolding from successive pages. As the French and Italian influences of style and language gradually fade, the German publishing outlets and agencies spread to London, New York and St Petersburg as well as Paris and Milan, while the abstract arabesque designs of early Romanticism evolve into overt pictorial representation. More specifically, serious Schumannians of every stamp will need this volume as an elbow-book for ready reference. In particular, work-list compilers and their critics will be able to trace the sources and courses of earlier data and errata. To cite only one example among very many: MGG and La Musica, followed (if not copied) by later authorities, affirm that Frauenliebe und -leben op.42 was first published by Heinze, which leaves everyone in the dark about Whistling. But the primacy of the latter's 1843 edition was always inferable from Schumann's letters; and the details given here entirely support that attribution.
So finally this book is entirely essential for all dealers and collectors as well as musicologists. All concerned can now see at a glance how valuable or otherwise their holdings or their theories really are. Perhaps though these authoritative pages still fall arguably short of perfection in one or two minor respects. The dates of composition could have been added without difficulty and with advantage. And weren't the 1853 piano accompaniments to the Bach cello suites ever published anywhere, even though their companion-pieces for the violin sonatas had been so briskly brought out by Breitkopf? But nothing can seriously detract from the excellence of this achievement, which like Kurt Hofmann's work on Brahms offers a rare combination of scholarly devotion and precision strengthened by practical experience and organizing power.
The Musical Times, Sept. 1980 (p. 563) © the estate of eric sams