Schumann: Dichterliebe by Arthur Komar



This is a Norton Critical Score. But think of it as a book. Its main contributor is its editor, whose ten-page introduction is tolerable and whose brief textual note is admirable (though over-sharp about earlier commentators. e.g. Fuller-Maitland). But he seems to be uniquely disqualified from discussing op.48. The poems, he explains, impede its enjoyment of the music. So he offers a 30-page dissertation on harmonic unity and key-structure, which will leave singers wordless and some readers speechless. In the wondrously beautiful month of May, the poet’s love was notable chiefly for linear connections, whether in the foreground or background. This won't satisfy everyone, not even the “comparatively advanced student who wishes to consider this matter in depth”. For on Mr Komar's own showing this approach is subjective rather than factual (e.g. op.48 no.1 is in A major for him, but not for me); and it reads more like description at length than analysis in depth.

     The remaining material is made up of reprints, not all equally fitting, There are 15 pages of Schenkeriana, which really is deep analysis sometimes passing into hypnosis. Six pages are wasted in trivial excerpts about Heine, from Meno Spann and Edward T. Cone. This Score-readers Digest style takes in some more sustaining extracts, from Schumann's own reviews and letters and from serious critical studies by Grieg and Leon Plantinga: but none of this has overmuch relevance to Dichterliebe as such.

     In that work the only change of note is a crotchet for a quaver on “wach-“ in bar 18 of no.13 (as in bar 7): a perceptive and necessary emendation. But one point doesn’t make a new edition; and several points tend to mar it. If we are to have Schumann’s com­ments on song, then why not all of them, properly dated and translated? Again, a scholarly work should have offered some insights into Heine’s poetry, and related them to the art-work of which that poetry audibly forms a vital part. It should not have omitted Boetticher from its bibliography, nor informed its readers that a new excitement was kindled in Schumann by his first sight of Hirschbach's quarters. Least of all should a study-score lay itself open to the reproach of being both too big for the pocket and too small for the optic.


The Musical Times, Sept. 1972 (p. 869) © the estate of eric sams, 1972