Album für die Jugend op. 68
Ed. Klaus Rönnau; WienerUrtext/Schott/Universal
There's room for a detailed study of teaching music and its relation to music teaching, with special reference to those few pupil-pieces which are also masterpieces. An ideal edition of the Album for the Young would offer not only a text but also some context, at least in relation to Schumann's own life and work. But the narrow focus needed for editorial observations usually shuts out the broader view; and the present volume is no exception. Though its detailed notes are exemplary, its general comments are far less impressive. Thus there's little or nothing here about the source or significance of Schumann's frequent and meaningful quotations and allusions. We are even austerely assured that these pieces, despite their titles, “actually have no programmatic implications”. Really? Then “The Merry Peasant Returning from Work” might just as well have been called “The Glum Stockbroker Entering his Office” for all the relevance the title has to the music. Similarly the Clara Schumann edition “was not taken seriously” as a source, which seems to me a mistaken judgment. It is so much more helpful on questions of expression and interpretation. Thus she rightly sees and says that the words of the Fidelio theme quoted in no.21 are important to the feeling-tone of the music; they are passed over in silence here. This lack of empathy naturally extends to the Schumannian blend of the unfamiliar with the paterfamiliar, the mystagogue with the pedagogue. The melody of the sketched Rebus, for example, typically spells out a long moral maxim in note-for-letter cipher. The editor gets the message all right, but then adds absurdly that his (obviously correct) solution is “only a hypothesis” - the kind of comment that gives caution a bad name.
In matters of music text however the circumspect approach pays off handsomely. The contents are certainly value for money, including not only op.68 but eight of its rejected sketches, as well as the prose Musical Rules for Life and Home published as part of its second edition in 1850. All the several surviving sources (i.e. not only the two early editions and the composer's corrected copy of the first, but no fewer than three autograph albums) have been most meticulously scrutinized; and the gleanings, though predictably meagre in a field already well gone over, are well worth having. Thus Rundgesang no.22 is arguably put right for the first time ever, with bars 29-32 established as repetitions of 5-8 and 13-16, not an anticipation of 45-48. These final four bars are clearly marked “Zum Schluss” in the autograph printer's copy published in facsimile by the Schumann-Haus in 1956. Presumably the engraver misinterpreted the instruction, and the composer in turn overlooked the error. Again; the top notes in bars 9 and 11 of Gukkuk im Versteck are surely D as here and not Bb as given by both Windsperger (1924) and Demus (1973). Further, the correct ending for Sizilianisch no. 11 is no doubt at bar 24, as Klaus Rönnau also points out, and not at 16b. That latter blunder, though obvious enough to have been corrected in many a popular print, is perpetrated in both the Peters Edition and the Henle so-called Urtext. However, that comparison is unfair to the former, which in all other respects is a reputable rival edition, with even better musical value in its sensible coupling of the masterly Kinderszenen op. l5 instead of the rightly-rejected sketches. The Henle op.68 however is not in serious contention; almost its only indication of any editorial intervention is a name on the title-page.
The Musical Times, Feb. 1980 (p. 113) © the estate of eric sams