vol. iv, ed. Wolfgang Boetticher. Henle/Novello
The Henle Schumann series represents academic musicology aiming at a market among practical musicians, with rather unsatisfactory results. The misleading title of the present volume refers to a 60% selection of the piano works, made and ordered according to no discernible principle; thus the contents of vol.iv (opp.7, 11, 14, 17, 22) were mostly composed earlier than those of vol.i. The short preface and detailed commentary are grittily technical in German and often impenetrably obscure in English (“deleted with ruddle” is a real riddle, while “emanating from the vicinity of the works” sounds more like a gas leak than an inspiration). The performer is not helped enough; for example op. I 7 no.1 needs an “a tempo” annotation at bar 28, while the enigmatic equals sign at bars 79 and 271 cannot merely mean that “the third crotchet should continue to sound”, which could readily have been indicated in other less wilful ways. Again, most pianists could well manage without the dozens of dots scrupulously added as arguable analogues, whereas the dot actually needed in the metronome marking of op.17 no. 3 is missing.
On the other hand, the musicological merits are manifest. The best example is the first complete publication, from the 1836 manuscript, of two extra variations from op.14 no.3. And the hours of grueling toil among primary sources are occasionally rewarded with a prima facie improved reading, such as the autographs expressly stipulated sharp instead of the customary natural at bars 141 and 143 of op. 11 no. 1. What this edition lacks however is the enlightening humaneness of, for example, KarlHeinz Köhler's commentaries in the Peters edition, where Schumann is a man as well as a manuscript; and for the practising pianist that must tip the scales.
The Musical Times, Nov. 1984 (p. 651) © the estate of eric sams