Unpublished pieces from the Album for the Young op. 68
Ed. J. Demus. Ricordi
Unpublished pieces for children by Schumann; what a sale! Or perhaps what a sell. Let’s see. Of the 17 items on offer, three are discarded versions of op.68 pieces (nos. 8, 21, 26). Seven others got as far as being awarded titles by the composer: Für ganz Kleine, Puppenschlafliedchen, Auf der Gondel, Kickuck im Vertseck, Haschemann (quite unrelated to op.15, no.3). There are also three untitled pieces, one fragment, and three easy arrangements of the classics (Weber's Trinklied, the “Ode to Joy” tune, and “Vedrai, carino”).
Jörg Demus is rightly admired as a pianist; but really his editing here is all lingers and thumbs. “Unpublished”, the cover announces; but that’s just one of those cover stories. Later we discover that the word “unpublished” is being used in the (surely rather unusual) sense of “published”. Two previous editions, both in facsimile, are in fact mentioned. But their dates, 1956 and 1924, are not. Nor is the fact that the more recent one is still listed in a current catalogue. Nor is the existence of an ordinary printed edition (ed. Werner, c1958) containing sewn of the “unpublished” pieces plus two more not included in the present edition. Nor are a number of other relevant matters.
Perhaps the most perplexing lacuna is the editor’s confessed inability to puzzle out the meaning of Rebus. That's a striking example of how Schumann’s mind works and others don't. He must have thought it was (literally, in op.68) child's play, To get the message, you have only to know how to read music. The melody notes then spell out “(L)ass das Fade, fass das Aechte” (roughly, “Leave what is trite, hold fast to the right”) using D as T and Eb (Es) as S or SS.
One thing however is entirely clear to the editor, namely that all the complete pieces in this volume “are worth as much as those brought out before”. I think that intending purchasers may feel rather differently about the merit of the less familiar pieces, which are at best ad hoc work and at worst odd hack-work. But no doubt the result is well worth £1.50 to all Schumannians, most music-teachers, and many music-lovers, if only for the curiosity value of the music (and, one is bound to add, of the foreword).
The Musical Times, Jun., 1974 (p. 488) © the estate of eric sams