22. 9 May 1971 [AW]

My dear Eric,


Schumann's Songs


I have read your essay with pleasure and profit. Thank you for producing such an erudite piece of work. It will make a splendid contribution to the Symposium and I look forward to seeing it in print. I have already been in touch with the publishers and I have asked them to pay you for 12,000 words. You'll get a cheque for three-quarters of the resulting fee (54 guineas) within the next few days. The balance will be forwarded on publication. (Your essay actually runs to about 15,000 words, as opposed to the 8,000 originally commissioned. The decision to pay you for only 12,000 words, in case you're interested, stems partly from-the fact that Barrie & Jenkins will balk at the prospect of printing, an extra 7,000 words in a book that is already much longer than at first envisaged, and I can now tell them we've compromised on the excess; and it stems partly from the hope that between us we may indeed cut the essay down by two or three thousand words, in. which case you will have been paid for what is actually printed. I do hope you think that this arrangement is fair.)

   May I now make one or two editorial suggestions? They are not mandatory. If you feel you can't comply, then I shall expect you to tell me. My points are based simply on a desire to publish the finest possible essay on Schumann's songs, an objective we both share.

1. All the music examples should be complete as regards dynamics, phrase-marks, tempo indications, even pedal-marks. Where the example does not start at the beginning, show the prevailing tempo indication.

2. pp. 1-3; Would you consider the possibility of boiling down this introduction to about 300 words? In the light of the essay as a whole, the first three pages (first paragraph excluded) spend a long time 'warming the bed'.

3. p. 4  '...despite the injury to his right hand, he remained a pianist of virtuoso status.' Clearly, this statement cannot be strictly true. Can we reformulate? Schumann himself wrote in 1839: 'An evil fate has deprived me of the full use of my right hand, so that I am not able to play my compositions as I feel them. The trouble with my hand is that certain fingers have become so weak....that I can hardly use them.' (letter to Simonin de Sire).

   If  I don't raise this contradiction, our reviewers will! Perhaps all we need say is, that Schumann retained a virtuoso's understanding of the instrument.

4.  p.10 & p. 18 I should like to see two or three extra music examples here to illustrate this densely packed text.

5. p.20 Footnote 3; more information, please.

6. p.21 I'm bothered by the way you quote a detailed key-structure, here and elsewhere, and describe it as 'strongly unified', and even helping 'to create the impression of a world of nature...moving from winter into spring', when there seems to be nothing particularly special about such a key-sequence. Would any piece which moved through a similar sequence of keys sound as if it was progressing from winter into spring? Obviously not. If that feeling is aroused on this occasion, may it not be caused by other factors?

7. pp.22-23 The key-structure (which you describe as 'expressive' without saying why) is not, as you say, based strictly on the 'cycle of fifths'.

8. p. 23. 'E flat minor, always a deadly key to Schumann'. Can you substantiate this with one or: two footnote examples, and maybe a reference to p.43 where you touch on the topic again? Also, would 'deathly' be better than 'deadly', a word which carries a critical connotation? (e.g. Alan Walker is a deadly editor).

9. pp.44ff  A topic we've discussed once or twice: namely, Schumann's 'creative decline'. It's no part of my role as editor, even as s deathly editor, to persuade you to modify a position you've arrived at after many years, thought. But I'd like to suggest that whatever evidence of mental disturbance the late songs present, is outweighed by such works as the Manfred Overture (1848), the Introduction and Allegro Appassionato (1849) and the Cello Concerto (1850), which show that Schumann was still capable of reaching masterly heights, and that the late 'degenerate' songs do not permit you to draw a general conclusion about a 'falling off' in quality.


   Finally, two general points. Would you consider breaking up the essay wit sub-headings? We followed this practice in the Liszt Symposium. It gives one an 'easy read'. All we require is something like: Antecedents, Words and  MusicPiano and VoiceLiederkreisDichterliebe etc. ending with Schumann's Influence – anything, in fact, which pinpoints the contents of the subsequent paragraphs.

   The other point is simply to give the text a going-over with an eye to weeding out those clichés which creep in to the liveliest styles ('it is hardly possible to exaggerate the impact...', 'Critics have said that..'). Actually, I find the writing excellent, and if we can pare down the essay to an irreducible 12,000 words I shall be completely satisfied.

   How nice to be able to hand the whole thing back you. A pleasant change from some of my other contributors!

   In a week or two, my head will be on the chopping-block, and you will be holding the axe. I'd like you to glance at my essay and preserve me from the consequences of my worst excesses.

   All good wishes, Sincerely,