Schumann and the Tonal Analogue

in Robert Schumann: The Man & His Music, edited by A. Walker, London 1972 (pp. 390-405)


NEARLY all Schumann's music contains or derives from words, whether as texts, titles, programmes or epigraphs. It is also famous for its structure of music qua mosaic, an aggregation of small‑scale motifs. Now, surely these two basic facts about Schumann‑his obviously verbal content, his obviously motivic form‑may well be related? He works by way of motto-­themes, I suggest, because that is literally what they are – mottoes turned into themes.

    In a letter to Clara Wieck1 he defined his creative procedures thus: 'Everything that happens in the world affects me .... I think it all over in my own way, and then it has to make room for itself and find an outlet in music.' Clearly he has in mind a physical or chemical reaction. Music is for him another form of ideas, as steam is another form of water. In his mind the musical stage is of course the higher of the two; more ethereal, less tangible, and composed of small separate entities or droplets of sound.

    In describing this transformation Schumann uses one image in particular on which I shall later dwell at some length, because it seems to me beautiful as well as apt and interesting. In general he speaks and writes of his art in terms of words and ideas promoted into music‑mottoes in both senses. The musical sense is ‘a short and well‑defined theme usually occurring at the opening of a composition and used again during its course, in its first form or altered, in the manner of a quotation or an allusion to some definite idea'.2

    That is Schumann in a nutshell. And for its origin we need look no further than the family tree, and not very far up that. His father was bookseller, publisher, author, editor, librarian, translator, anthologist and bibliophile ‑ altogether a rather bookish man. Like father like son ‑ we can hear the boyish pleasure and pride in the early letters:3 'I've rummaged through the entire library. . .', 'I've been allowed to help with the proof‑reading. . .', and so on. No wonder the music took its time to conic filtering up through all those layers of print, words, concepts, ideas. No wonder either that it emerged effervescent with utterance and articulation, a new and refreshing spring.

    In the world of creation, Schumann's first parents were Schubert and the novel­ist Jean Paul Richter. In them, music and letters are not just united, but equated For if in Schubert you can hear how music speaks, in Jean Paul you can hear how literature sounds. His prose is sonorous, not only with rhetoric but literally with puns and other word play; he writes from a quasi‑musical imagination. This accounts for Schumann's otherwise puzzling life‑long veneration for Jean Paul. They have in common romantic freedom and classic restraint‑or (if you like) Florestan and Eusebius. That idea came fromJean Paul of course. In all his novels, as Schumann noted,4 he presents himself in two contrasting characters, for example Vult and Walt Harnisch in Schumann's favourite novel Flegeljahre or 'Salad Days', which also mentions the musical letters, A, C, and H, in their surname. (We shall be hearing more of that pair and their signature tunes.) They symbolize, I suggest, two different aspects of high‑mindedness‑flights of fancy, lofty ideals. All his life, Schumann qua Florestan was imaginative. Again, all his life qua Eusebius he was an idealist. All the more reason therefore for believing that his own testimony and practice will be the best guide to the truth about his mind and art.

    He testifies repeatedly that for him words and music are different forms of the same thing. For example, he writes: 'When I play Schubert, I seem to be reading a Jean Paul novel turned into music.5 The sonorous and the conceptual‑where those two realms meet you will find on the border not only Schumann's customs but his actual practice. Music can easily (though exceptionally) be assigned a specific denotative meaning, just as words can, and through exactly the same process of spelling and reading letters. If one were unfamiliar with Schumann's op. i, but had absolute pitch, then one could read the name ABEGG aloud just from hearing the first five notes of the theme. One would then be reading music in a novel sense but an entirely valid one. Schumann's theme not only means, but says, ABEGG.

    Those variations were written by 1830, when he was studying law at Heidel­berg. In August of that year he wrote the 'Abegg' theme in a friend's autograph album with the superscription 'Je ne suis qu'un songe'.4 Those words 'I am but a dream' are, need one say, a quotation from Jean Paul, where they are spoken by the noble Liane de Froulay, as she appears in disguise. Meta Abegg was said to have been met at a masked ball. Her title of 'Countess' was a further disguise‑a whimsical fancy of Schumann's, like the fancy title of the work itself – Thème sur le nom Abegg, varié pour le pianoforte, dédié a Mademoiselle Pauline Comtesse d'Abegg. The music is vividly expressive. The elated outgoing arpeggios of the theme in waltz time clearly embody the feeling of dancing at a masquerade. But this dancing, it seems to me, is going on in Schumann's mind, and nowhere else. Meta Abegg – was there ever such a person? Her title was an invention; the title of her music was an invention; even her theme was an invention: 'je ne suis qu'un songe'.

    In the first variation, some would say that Schumann uses only the first two notes of this theme, ABEGG. But in fact all five notes remain audible, if we listen hard enough, even when Schumann uses them in vertical combination, and turns his theme into a chord.

Ex 1

An interesting anticipation of serial techniques, perhaps‑or merely a trivial coincidence? Hardly the latter, in view of what happens next. In the theme, 'Abegg' had appeared backwards after the double bar: G‑G‑E‑B‑A. At the corresponding point in the first variation we again hear the theme verticalized.

Ex 2

Much the same happens in Variations 2 and 3 and in the Finale; and then Schumann displays how 'Abegg' can be contained in two chords.

Ex 3

Is it possible to doubt that the melody is there being deliberately verticalized? The theme remains perfectly clear and audible, given the idea, even when it is stood on end.

    At the same time there is some enigma here. Not just in the extraordinary notation, to which I shall return later, but in the concept as such. Just what kind of theme is this? – composed of arbitrary notes, yet symbolizing a person, and a scene, and a state of mind, and also developed purely technically as music, in some rather unexpected ways? It has perhaps some affinity with the Schonbergian note row, and more with the Wagnerian Leitmotif and more still with the idée fixe of Berlioz; but first and foremost it was in every sense the idée fixe of Schu­mann. He called it a 'Papillon' – a word he used in connection with so many of his works.

    He actually referred to his 'Abegg' Variations as 'Papillons';7 the original rifle of his op. 2 was Papillons musicals (sic) ;8 he called his Intermezzi, Op. 4, ‘Papillons on a larger scale';9 the Impromptus, Op. 5, were offered to a publisher s 'a second set of Papillons';9 and, of course, he gave that title to one of the pieces in Carnaval, Op. 9. By 'Papillons', I suggest, he means motifs that can appear or disappear, fly forward or backward, and assume an infinite variety of shapes and colours. Let us observe one in Carnaval, where it is tantalizingly flaunted in the piece called 'Florestan'. The second theme, which drifts in without comment, 'adagio', in the ninth bar, reappears later marked by Schumann with the singular word 'Papillon' and a question mark.

Ex 4

Here, plainly, is another kind of extra‑musical reference. The intrusive 'Papillon' question begins and ends Op. 2, which derives from a chapter in Jean Paul's Flegeljahre which begins and ends with Vult Harnisch.

    That same theme, at the end of Op. 2 is made to dwindle, note by note, and finally to vanish; while at the end of Jean Paul's novel Vult Harnisch is heard gradually slipping away into the distance until he finally vanishes altogether. The concluding words say that he...

took his flute and went, blowing it, out of the room, down the stairs, out of the house and down the road. Walt heard with delight the    vanishing tones speaking to him; for he never dreamed that his brother was vanishing with them.

This, then, is what Schumann is symbolizing in his Finale; as the music runs out of sight, it runs out of sound, finally reducing almost to vanishing‑point in one single note. And shortly thereafter you hear it, in a slightly different guise, disappearing altogether, in a way reminiscent of Ex. 3.

Ex 5

   So this theme, I suggest, actually means to Schumann the idea of Vult Harnisch in Jean Paul's novel. On that basis we can easily understand why this Vult Harnisch theme comes into the piece called 'Florestan' in Carnaval – for the excellent reason that they are one and the same person or persons. Each is a name for the dynamic out‑turned face or mask of Schumann's Janus‑like creative mind. If you consider Op. 9, No. 6 as absolute music you may find a certain incongruity, a certain enigmatic quality, in that novel theme of the apparent stranger who comes dancing slowly in at the words 'adagio' and 'Papillon'. But Schumann hardly wrote a note of absolute music in his life. Here as everywhere, his notes are on fire with ideas, so to speak, and so to speak with tongues. One may ask whether on this basis there is in Op. 2 a theme meaning Walt Harnisch which appears in the Carnaval piece called 'Eusebius', his alter ego. One may also wonder whether Vult and Walt, like Abegg, are enciphered on the music to ensure that the idea is stamped all the way through, like Brighton rock. After all, the evidence says plainly that we are in a very strange world in Schumann's very first two works. Both contain passageswhich have everyappearance of meaning disappear­ance. 'Je ne suis qu'un songe' was Schumann's idea of an apt quotation for Abegg, and those words applied to an apparition in disguise. After the ball, Meta Abegg's image faded; she lost her magic at midnight, like Cinderella. Vult Harnisch vanished as the morning bell struck, like the ghost in Hamlet – you can hear that in the music too.

    This is Schumann's imagination, not mine; my facts are his fancy. This is what he meant when he spoke of music as a language, and musicians as poets. Music, for him, was the word given a new freedom by a change of existence from one mode to another, as a chrysalis changes into a butterfly. The change is natural and inevitable, an élan vital in each case. The result is small, frail, elusive, colourful, moving and beautiful: Papillons musicaux.

    It took Shakespeare himself to give us the verbal equivalent of that image – ­the poet, who gives to an airy nothing a local habitation and a name. It took Schumann to restore the balance for music, to make from the name an airy nothing, an expressive cipher; to develop from 'Abegg' (ab ovo, as it were) into a 'Papillon'.

    Schumann once compared himself in an unproductive mood to a chrysalis awaiting change.11 The German word for the larval state, 'Larve', like its Latin and French equivalents, also means a mask. This is the source of all that secondary imagery of masks and dances. 'Larventanz', or masked ball, is the actual name of the chapter in Jean Paul from a reading of which there emerged, according to Schumann, one 'Papillon' after another.12 This play on words is Schumann's own; he writes those words, 'Larventanz' and 'Papillon', in the same line of a letter home13 excitedly explaining that there is a direct musical transformation from the one to the other, from masks or larvae to butterflies, And indeed his musico­verbal ideas kept on and on, for years after, emerging from just such masquerades.

    Even in his critical writing he related words to music in this same way; several of his reviews take the unusual form of a suite of dances or a ball programme.14 His music begins with Abegg, from the masked ball in Mannheim; proceeds to ASCH and SCHA from Carnaval in Leipzig; and continues with similar ideas in Faschingsschwank aus Wien ('Carnival jest from Vienna'), the Davidsbündlertänze, and very many others, all 'Papillons'. I suggest that each one was, in a very precise sense, a fancy dress. You may recall how delighted Schumann was at a friend's discovery15 in the first movement of the early G minor symphony – 'Huch! Da fliegt der Schmetterling fort!' said the friend – 'Look! There goes the butter­fly!' Fatuous though it may sound to us, Schumann thought this a very poetic idea. Again, in the 'Spring' Symphony, as he wrote to a conductor in later life, there might be a suggestion of a butterfly flying up,16 which implies that this symphony might contain a 'Papillon', in the sense of a meaningful and unifying motto theme; and so indeed it does. Mosco Carner17 goes so far as to suggest that every one of the symphonies and the cycles of piano works and songs‑all Schumann's best‑known and loved works in fact‑represent 'a succession of musical tableaux, whose progress and purpose are chiefly determined by extra­musical thoughts and such general aesthetic considerations as contrast and formal balance'. The reason is that 'Schumann appears to have needed the stimulus of poetic ideas and literary images to bring his imagination to the boil'.18

    We need not infer that Schumann consciously needed ideas and images to compose; rather that his music is no other thing than the diffusion of those ideas and images into a more rarefied form – a process which the chemist as well as the psychologist might call sublimation. One of his likeliest sources was Jean Paul, who makes a very interesting distinction between two classes of thoughts: daytime ideas, the dayflyers or genus Papilio, and the night thoughts or night flyers, otherwise known as 'Sphinxes'.19 Surely Schumann had read that passage? We have probably all been puzzled by the appearance of 'Sphinxes' in Carnaval. We think first of Greek or Egyptian myth. But those Sphinxes asked riddles or kept secrets, whereas Schumann's, on the contrary, answer riddles and disclose secrets; his Sphinxes are not so much myths as moths, or Papillons de nuit. And that is what a Sphinx actually is, in its dictionary sense. In English or German, even in French, it means a moth or 'Papillon' . And in Carnaval it means a meaning­ful musical idea.

    Let me abstract a few examples. Many of us must have wondered what in the world a 'Faschingsschwank', a Carnival joke or jest, might be. It pleased Schumann so to entitle two major works: Op. 9, which was later re‑styled Carnaval, and Op. 26, the Faschingsschwank aus Wien. The word will not be found in any German dictionary; it is just an invention by Schumann, I suggest, as an expression of music in which the notes ASCH SCHA occur. The word is built up from those letters in that order as the music is built up from those notes. Surely Schumann is again equating music and letters and joining them in a dance, thus:

Ex 6

There are many other carnival novelties and disguises, as we can see from op. 9. I said earlier that one of Schumann's first influences was Schubert, who is certainly first on the scene here. Carnaval began as variations on a theme which Schumann knew as the Sehnsuchtswalzer,20 or 'longing waltz', part of which is left showing in Carnaval as a direct quotation for everyone to hear, in the same key and at the same place.21 Schumann thus symbolizes an idea, a scene and an emotion. The spirit of Schubert is being invoked, like the spirit of Abegg. Again it is a waltz in masquerade. But it is also perhaps mainly a Sehnsuchtswalzer expressing the emotion of longing or yearning‑a feeling which in Schumann's case meant principally Clara Wieck. The following lines, in which he refers to her by her pet name, Clarchen, were written only a few years later: 'Egmonts Geliebte Clärchen hiess; O Namen wundersuss' ‑ 'Egmont's beloved [in Goethe's play] was called Clärchen; how wondrous sweet that name.'22 That was the merely verbal mind at work; with no very impressive result, you may think. But the marvellous musico‑verbal mind turned Egmont, the Goethe play, into Egmont, the Beethoven overture. The noble first subject represents the tragic hero himself. So to a mind like Schumann's the following theme would surely mean Clärchen, with its voice dolce and piano, soft and low, an excellent thing in feminine subjects. Next, that mind re‑fashions it as a suitable subject for longing for and dancing with in the world of musical imagery.

EX 7

As in the Schubert example, these are the same notes in the same key. So Clara, alias Clärchen, alias the feminine second subject of Egmont, slips unnoticed into Carnaval, in mask and fancy dress; and is instantly followed by an old friend which, though incognito, is instantly recognizable‑the opening and closing theme of Papillons: Vult Harnisch, alias Florestan, alias Robert Schumann in his dancing mood. Are we being too fanciful if we hear who was following whom on this occasion and with what expression?

Ex 8

     These ideas cover fully half of Schumann's creative life; the better half, you may think, and not only because it is dominated by Clara. Perhaps it also covers sufficient ground for a hypothesis. Suppose that these motto‑themes, these 'Papillons', were in fact Schumann's habitual mode of composition? Then other people ought to have heard them in other works. And so indeed they have. Rudolph Réti23 has identified the following notes as a linking motif in Kinderscenen, Op. 15.

Ex 9

The protective colouring of this 'Papillon' is so effective that it has generally been overlooked rather than overheard. But where it is pointed out we can detect its outline plainly enough. We can even sketch further ideas and draw in­ferences. Thus the piece called 'Schlummerlied' published in the Albumblätter, op. 124, and attributed to 1841, has this same motif in the opening bars, and at the same pitch‑level, and hence perhaps first saw the light as a Scene of Child­hood. Certainly most of those motifs were of the same birth in Schumann's creative mind or psyche, whether conscious or subconscious. Now let us take those themes of five consecutive notes that go lifting or dipping through all the piano sonatas and the Fantasie, Op. 17. These themes are more self‑evident, and so, on abundant evidence, is the connection of those works with Clara.24

    These motifs are unifying, expressive, structural, reversible‑in short, 'Papil­lons'. Many of them have been collected by others over the years, for example by Karl Wörner25 and Paula Rehberg.26 Further specimens have been pin‑pointed more recently by Roger Fiske in the Davisdbündlertanze, op. 6, a work which according to its composer had special meaning for Clara; it contained wedding thoughts, he said, and other hidden ideas.26 Dr Fiske's basic Clara theme in B minor (Ex. 10) can be found throughout Op. 6, for example as melody in the opening bars of Nos. 11 and 13, and as bass at the beginning of No. 4. All this will hardly be unrelated to its extended mirror‑image, again in the same key, at the end of No. 2, and again at bars 21 ff. from the end of No. 3, which contains the five‑note rising melody found at the beginning of No. 5 – and so on.

Ex 10

    Now if we link all those B minor themes together they form the long pendu­lum which suddenly appears, swinging backwards and forwards palindromically like other 'Papillons', in the Scherzo of the F minor sonata, in the key signa­ture of five fiats‑surely as meaningful and deliberate a quotation as the 'Papillon' I have already described in 'Florestan'.

Ex 11


However this may be, there seems little doubt of the special expressive significance for Schumann of the B minor Clara theme. It is for instance a linking theme in the Liederkreis, op. 24, written for Clara in their marriage year, 1840, for example at the beginning of the second song. It also recurs in the fifth song of the even better known Heine cycle of the same year, Dichterliebe – however absurdly appropriate it may seem to find a 'Papillon' poised quivering over the open flower of a lily.

    Given these ideas, the next field for their agreeable and harmless pursuit might be the next work after the Davidsbündler, namely the Fantasiestücke, Op. 12. These pieces too are flights of fancy, as their title shows; again they were meant for Clara; and again we hear 'her' Op. 6 theme in the opening bars. This time, however, it appears in the major, and provides the opening melody of 'Warum' and 'Grillen'

Ex 12

and a theme which recurs throughout the cycle; and it duly reappears in its mirror‑form in secondary themes throughout, for example in 'Des Abends', 'Aufschwung' and 'Grillen'.

 Ex 13


    All these seem to be unifying themes just like 'Abegg' and 'Asch'. I find it reasonable to suppose that the identifiable and inter‑related themes in music dedicated in every sense to Clara will contain themes signifying her, as Schumann repeatedly suggested they did. If so, one of them might well speak her name, as 'Abegg' and 'Asch' did theirs.

    Now such a theme would be instantly recognizable; Clara's own features would show through it unmistakably. You need not be a cryptographer to see that just as 'Abegg' can be identified by its melodic shape‑five notes, of which the last two will be the same, so Clara too will have a characteristic Gestalt­ – five notes, of which the third and fifth are the same. One example would be the retrograde form of the B minor theme, Ex. 10.28 One can hear that when its first note is C, its third will be A and its fifth will be A. And anyone can hear that this Clara theme is one of the most famous unifying themes in all music, a locus classicus of cyclic construction in Schumann's Fourth Symphony. Less well known, though, is the locus romanticus in Clara Schumann's biography where her husband says (in April 1841) that his next symphony will be called Clara and that in it he will depict her.29 The next was of course the D minor, written a few months later, which has this same theme woven throughout its texture. Is not Schumann depicting Clara as he had depicted Abegg and the rest, namely literally?

    One can demonstrate that this is indeed so; and further we can infer what cipher systems are being used, and why, and when, and how, and where Schu­maim found the idea. Given his boyhood and background, of course, it had to be in a book; and there is in fact only one such book‑a German manual of cryptography30 by a professor of Schumann's subject, law, at Schumann's univer­sity, Heidelberg, published in the same town, by the same firm, as Jean Paul's Flegeljahre (1804‑5), the inspiration of Papillons; published moreover by suppliers of the Schumann family bookshop, in the year after its foundation in Zwickau (1808). So two of Schumann's favourite works, fiction and non­fiction, could both have arrived in the same consignment. I say favourite works, because of the detailed evidence that Schumann knew Klüber's Kryptographik well, and had a copy by him all his life. Its ideas recur in his critical writings and his letters, as well as in his music; and it has a section on how to make a musical cipher by substituting notes for letters.

    It also describes codes which use musical symbolism. So did Schumann, for example in the Etudes Symphoniques. The Finale opens with a tune from Act III of Marschner's opera Der Templer und die Judin, where it is sung to words about the victorious hero Richard the Lionheart, the pride of England.

Ex 14

There is general agreement that this was intended by Schumann as a tribute to his admired friend Sterndale Bennett, then in Leipzig. That consensus is fortunate, since in the absence of external evidence the hypothesis I wish to advance might otherwise seem bizarre. For what Schumann did, I suggest, was first to identify Marschner's tune with a few of the words to which it was sung; then, by treating these words as a cryptic reference to his friend, he paid a compliment to Sterndale Bennett. In a sense the idea is an old friend. As we can infer from Op. 1 and else­where, that upward arpeggio might well have suggested to Schumann an out­going feeling of ebullient elation, very suitable for a triumphant finale; and it also counter‑balances the downward arpeggio with which the theme begins. So this too could be an emotive and structural palindrome, just like 'Abegg'. But the two differ‑and exactly as code differs from cipher. The latter means that each single symbol is separately replaced by another, for example as letters are re­placed by notes in 'Abegg'. In code, a group of symbols arbitrarily represents some more complex meaning; thus a musical phrase can be feigned by reference to its words to mean 'Sterndale Bennett.'

    Now if this verbal reference is indeed the key to Schumann's use of code we can try it on his many other musical allusions, for example those to Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte heard by Hermann Abert31 in the Fantasie, Op. 17, and by Mosco Garner32 in the C major symphony. We expect the melody to refer first of all to its original words, which will then be given a purely personal interpretation. They are 'Nimm sie hin denn, these Lieder' – 'accept my songs'; and the music consequently sings of its own dedication. Similarly, the postlude to a song written for Clara shortly after their marriage33 seems to quote a song

Ex 15

by Giordani. If so, this quoted melody should refer in the first instance to the original words – 'Caro mio ben / credimi almen / senza di te languisce il cor' ­which puts an agreeable gloss on an otherwise rather wooden work.

    It may be hard to understand how the Marschner tune can actually signify pride and elation, the Beethoven tune humility and devotion, the Giordani tune simplicity and affection. But it seems to me entirely certain that Schumann heard such melodies, and the Marseillaise, and the Grossvatertanz, as encoded signals. He habitually imagined musical sounds as semantic symbols; which may explain why his aesthetic and his practice have bewildered everyone, including himself. It is only in modern times that this view of music has become intellectually respectable, thanks to the theoretical underpinning offered by Susanne Langer,34 who has conferred new status on the symbol itself‑quite an achievement. She argues very cogently that works of art embody not an actual emotion, but the pattern, or Gestalt of emotional awareness; thus music is for her a tonal analogue of emotive life. This view applied seriatim to each separate component of the total pattern, to each small‑scale Schumannian analogue or motif, suggests a special case of the general theory. Each such motif corresponds to an emotional equivalent; the symbol sounds like the symbolized feelings feel. Thus 'Abegg', 'Asch', the various Clara themes, are made to sound gay or melancholy as the mood requires.

    To pursue that hypothesis, the obvious testing‑ground would be the songs. There, if anywhere, one would expect to find direct and definable correspondence between verbal concept and musical equivalent. So I chose at random one of the seventy or so motifs I thought I had heard over the years in Schumann's songs; and then chose‑again at random‑a group of songs in which to make a spot­check. The analogue chosen was my auditory experience that Schumann in his song‑music responds to a poetic mention of the sky or heaven by a tendency to subdominant harmony. The group of songs chosen for test was Myrthen, op. 25, written in early 1840. There is no obvious reason for any such correlation, and a transition to the subdominant is by no means the normal trend of Schumann's harmony at this period; further, one would expect his song modulations to be structural and long‑range, rather than a mere local response to a verbal idea. All the more surprising then that, of the twenty times the word or idea of 'Himmel', heaven or sky, occurs in Op. 25, it is associated with the subdominant on no fewer than sixteen occasions, some of them very striking indeed.

Ex 16

[In each case the flattened seventh-subdominat occurs for the first time with the appearance of the word 'Himmel']

    Similar analogues have been heard in other vocal music, whether it be in Wagner's operas, or the songs of Schubert, Wolf or Brahms. When it comes to Schumann's songs there is a measure of independent confirmation, for in them such commentators as Wolfgang Boetticher and Martin Cooper have identified meaningful motifs. Even without an immediate verbal context, such motifs were, as I have shown, audible to Hermann Abert, Erwin Bodky, Mosco Carner, Roger Fiske and Robert Schauffler by sympathetic personal intuition, and to Karl Wörner, Paula Rehberg and Rudolph Réti by analysis. What I have tried to show for my part is that all such motifs essentially exemplify one and the same notion. For even at their most expressive, as in the songs, all these motifs have structural significance; and even at their most arbitrary, as in the enciphered names, they all have emotive significance. It seems that in Schumann's music emotion and structure are somehow inseparable.

    This passion for structure as the embodiment of emotion was something Schumann retained to the end. His was a symbolizing, calculating, chess‑playing, ratiocinatory mind. Naturally we often find it puzzling, because it often was‑as the music and letters amply testify. But even so, what they show is the merest tip of the iceberg‑or perhaps one should say volcano. For even when it neared extinction, that mind still flickered and flared with fires now grown dark and ominous. Shortly before Schumann's final breakdown he wrote to Joachim: 'Between the lines of this letter there is invisible writing which will one day come out.'35 That idea incidentally is one of the many to be found both in Johann Klüber's book on cryptography and in Schumann's own writing. But it had no other contact with external reality. There was in fact no invisible writing in the letter; there was only the all too visible writing on the wall. Then later in the asylum‑think of the comforts about which this stricken man wrote home.36 Like his father, he was a book‑lover first and last. He wanted a copy of his favour­ite novel, Flegeljahre, the genesis of all his 'Papillons'. Then he mentions his English chessbook‑no doubt Staunton's Chess‑Player's Companion, another inexhaustible source of symbols. Then in another letter to Clara he writes 'I still get a lot of pleasure out of the palindrome‑riddle Roma‑Amor'. The letters still flutter helplessly back and forth in his mind to the last. So his imaginative life ended as it began, with the alphabet. Just before Schumann died, Brahms paid him a visit, and was distressed to see his revered master and friend planning journeys and itineraries. Whole sheets of paper were covered with them. Nothing very upsetting about that, you may think. But what disturbed Brahms was this: all the journeys were by way of towns and rivers beginning first with the letters Aa, then with Ab, and so on.36 There were ABC guides to the last of his creative fantasies, as to his first. That is all that was left when the music, the psyche, drifted away from him; just the remains of a larva, a mere death mask. Asch, and a Sphinx or two. But what ideas they were when alive and active, those 'Papillons' of his; how colourful and moving!


1 Jugendbriefe, p. 282.
2 Blom: Everyman's Dictionary of Music, p. 386, London, 1946.
3 Jugendbriefe, p. 16.            
4 Boetticher, p. 259.
5 Jugendbriefe, p. 82.            
6 Jansen, p. 492.
7 Boetticher, p. 160.               
8 Jugendbriefe, p. 155.
9 Briefe, p. 40.       
10 Gertler: Schumann in seinen frühen Klavierwerken, 1931, p. 60.
11 Jugendbriefe, p. 200.       
12 Ibid., p. 167.
13 Ibid., p. 166.     
14 GSK, Vol. I, pp. 201, 256, etc.
15 Boetticher, p. 319: as Gerald Abraham has pointed out (Schumann: A symposium, p. 193), the theme in question is an analogue of Papillons No. 1.
16 Briefe, p. 225.  
17 Abraham, op. cit. pp. 191‑92.
18 Abraham, op. cit., p. 180.
19 Politische Fastenpredigten, Tübingen, 1817, section V.
20 GSK, Vol. I, p. 202f.
21 Cf. Schubert, D. 365 (bars 9‑1O), and Schumann's Carnaval (bars 10‑11).
22 Litzmann, Vol. 1, p. 255.
23 Réti: The Thematic Process in Music, pp. 35‑55, New York, 1951. See also pp. 95‑99 on the Piano Concerto, and pp. 295‑97 on the First Symphony.
24 Cf. Schauffler: Florestan: The Life and Work of Robert Schumann, New York, 1945, pp. 296‑317.
25 Robert Schumann, Zurich, 1949, p. 145.
26 Paula and Walter Rehberg: Robert Schumann, Zürich, 1954, p. 476.
27 ‘A Schumann Mystery'. The Musical Times (1964), pp. 574‑78.
28 Litzmann, pp. 169, 179, 184.
29 Apparently, Erwin Bodky used to tell his students in Berlin between the wars that this basic idea was in fact Schumann's Clara theme.
30 Litzmann, Vol. II, p. 30.
31 Johann Ludwig Klüber, Kryptographik, Tübingen, 1809. See also my article 'A Schumann Primer?', Musical Times, November 1970.
32 Robert Schumann, Berlin, 1920, p. 69.          
33 op. Cit., p. 229.
34 'Der Himmel hat eine Träne geweint', Op. 37 No. 1.
35 Notably in Philosophy in a New Key, New York, 1942, and Feeling and Form, London, '953.
36 Briefe, p. 39.     
37 Ibid., pp 397ff.
38 Johannes Brahms in Briefwechsel mit Joseph Joachim, ed. Moser, Berlin 1908, Vol. I, pp. 130‑1.