Papillons op. 2

Ed. W. Boetticher. Henle/Novello

Ed. H.-C. Müller. Wiener Urtext/Universal

Ed. H. J. Köhler. Peters



Schumann described his Papillons as “self-destructive”. So is the Henle edition. Its apparently reasonable price is not so much a bargain as a reduction ad absurdum.The brief preface contains little factual information apart from a proposed date of composition, and this is contradicted on the very next page. For further scholarly background we are brusquely told, in broken English, to consult the editor's other writings. To be consistent, he should also have referred us elsewhere for the actual music. Then we could just buy the Urtext of a leaflet advertising his books and articles on op.2.

     The Wiener Urtext is far more helpful, with some sensible if restricted commentary, as well as detailed collation and recension and an interesting facsimile page (5v) from the Paris autograph. But this is in turn eclipsed by the resplendent achievement of H. J. Köhler in the Peters edition, which all serious Schumannians should instantly acquire. It falls short of perfection in that lire English translation is either rather unidiomatic or (in the Revisionsbericht) non-existent. Otherwise it offers a convincing and comprehensive account of how this marvellous music is best interpreted, whether by players, listeners or commentators - namely as a lively and colourful pattern of quasi-verbal symbolism based on successive scenes from Schumann's favourite novel, Jean Paul Richter's Die Flegeljahre. All the relevant passages are copiously cited, and their relation to the music is sensitively explored and expounded. The fullest possible range of sources is deployed, including the Leipzig and Zwickau material; at the same time the taxing editorial task has been discharged in the most meticulous detail (noting for example the possible need to re-emphasize the anacrusis when it recurs at bar 8 of no. 12). The result is an exemplary guide lo Schumann's first flights of fancy, which arguably set the pattern for all his finest work.


The Musical Times, Feb., 1979 (p. 139) © the estate of eric sams