Zwei Klavierstücke; Waltzes and German Dances; Ländler, Ecossaises, Minuets

Schubert: Zwei Klavierstücke, ed O. Brusatti.,Doblinger/ Universal

Waltzes and German Dances (D365, 145/I-12, 146, 844, 643/1, 783/1-16, 722, 977, 820, 973, 974), ed. A.Weinmann, Wiener Urtext/Universal

Ländler, Ecossaises, Minuets (D790, 366, 734, 814, 158, 299, 421, 511, 816, 781, 41), ed. A. Weinmann, Wiener Urtext/ Universal


The sample facsimile of the Zwei Klavierstücke, if nothing else, shows the master's hand. The provenance (among the Graf von Gleichen opera sketches, D918) seems compelling. But even at first sight-reading you'll wonder why Schubert bothered to sketch a dozen such bars, let alone 125 in C major and 300 in C minor, all common-time and common­place. He could hardly even have hoped to pass them off as future works by Rosemary Brown. The composer of such sad stuff was presumably in a sorry state; so at least these sketches have some biographical interest. In his last years Schubert was recurrently ill; his metabolism, like his music, was often cyclic. The spiritless work of his depressive phase was usually cancelled, like the Andantino of D964/1, or shelved, like the present offerings. Only their editor or their discoverer (whoever that was - the text is far from clear) could seriously link them with the eight impromptus D899 and 935 and claim that these two would also have been prepared for publication had Schubert lived longer. This dubious contention relies on the unsupported assertion that none of the Graf von Gleichen music antedates mid­ 1827; but this ignores the explicit testimony of its librettist Bauernfeld that Schubert started work immediately the test was handed to him in August 1826. It is hard to judge which of two further editorial claims is less convincing: that this publication accords with Schubert's intentions, or that it offers a permanent addition. to the keyboard repertory.

    In textual and analytical fields however the editing is sure-footed and purposeful, and the result is a worthwhile and timely contribution to Schubert studies - at a reasonable price, too, though the eight paragraphs of introduction are translated poorly and the 50 textual notes not at all. As Otto Brusatti well says, the sketching process in Schubert normally shows a strong grasp of form and structure. These two pieces may be wooden and rough-hewn; but they could have provided just the right support for a fine lyric flowering had the season been more propitious. And finally this project deserves not only publication but publicity. As Schumann wrote: “Now that Schubert is long since dead, let us carefully collect and catalogue what he has left to us; it all bears the stamp of its creator”. Most of it also bears the stamp of the Vienna libraries; they and the world may still profit from Schumann's advice.

     Schubert dances inspire even rivals to stay in step, by playing down to the public. The two-volume collected editions of both Henle and Wiener Urtext are well presented; the former scored three firsts (D91, 380/3, 816) while the latter offers far fuller source-information and textual commentary. But both firms feel that if only you want a selection, you can't be all that choosy. Buy Henle's, and you can whistle for your detailed notes. Instead you are fobbed off with a reference to their complete edition - which by definition you don't want or can't afford, and which in any event has little to say about sources.

     So Wiener Urtext had a great chance to be an edition of quite another colour. But their selected dances get off on the wrong foot by an inconvenient division into two volumes. Even the foreword trips up. lf the editor had looked at his own complete edition he would have noticed that Schubert's dances were certainly not “always written just for piano”. And if all these works are indeed “essential to a rounded evaluation”, that seems a rather eccentric way of introducing an atypical selection arranged in no discernible order. Why for example trot out all those 20 flat-footed minuets from the juvenilia D41? Again, the facsimile of D365/32 plainly differs from the printed text; D366/17 reappears as D814/I; neither the variance not the variants rate a mention. Indeed, the fact that such points remain unnoticed is itself unnoticed. Thus the Ländler volume announces that “remarks on the details of the musical text will be found there”. But they won't, because there aren't any. It's not only the pianist, one feels, who has been “spared the time-consuming effort of looking up a reference”; it's whoever prepared this selection from Alexander Weinmann's excellent Sämtliche Tänze. The latter is the edition to have, if at all possible; but when it comes to selections, Henle remains the better choice.       


The Musical Times, Nov. 1978 (p. 970) © the estate of eric sams