Arabeske op. 18; Blumenstück op. 19

Ed. J. Draheim. Wiener Urtext/Universal


I like the colour-symbolism of “Urtext” editions; cool grey-blue for the austere scholarship of Henle, warm scarlet for the added Austrian interest in life as well as works. But the extra detail can sometimes seem inept or inadequate. Both these pieces date from Schumann's visit to Vienna, and their inspiration owes much to wine, women and song. As we are rightly informed, they were calculated to appeal to the ladies of Vienna; and each was dedicated to a woman. But the deeper feeling in the music remains unmentioned here. Blumenstückwas sketched in Schumann's Brautbuch, not his manuscript book; like the following year's crop of Myrthen op.25 it was offered as a bridal bouquet. Similarly the original metronome marking of op.18 (later calmed down by Clara for the Gesamtausgabe) suggests that Schumann's pulse was already racing almost uncontrollably. There is corroborative evidence, again unmentioned, in the apparent allusion (bars 89-96) to the fifth Davidsbündlertanz, or the surely deliberate Schubert quotation of Zum Schluss(bars 214 etc: cf bars 15-16 of Das Rosenband, then recently published in Vienna). Despite their clear relevance, however, none of Schumann's well-known personal preoccupations at the time, nor even his famous Schubert discovery of the C major Symphony in ms, receives any kind of comment. Nor will it do; merely to admonish us not to overestimate the influence on op. 18 of W. Sihler's Arabesken, which Schumann is known to have read. Why not take the trouble, having mentioned that work, to locate and to describe it, and evaluate its possible influence for our benefit? Again, if the putative links between these works and visual art are to be mentioned at all, why not relate the title to Schumann's admired master Raphael, with whose arabesques he may well have been familiar?

    If the editorial preface stays so firmly on its launching-pad, the reason is just this lack of thrust. Clearly, there's no lack of space. The draft first page of op.19 is reproduced in print as well as in facsimile, for no very obvious reason; and since this is the only autograph source for either work, the detailed notes take up only half a page. Within these limitations the task of textual exegesis and recension, based on the first editions, has been capably discharged. The basic minimum of biographic material is competently identified and deployed as ever, the printed page is a pleasure to play from in its admirable cleanness and clarity. But the editorial coverage, if not the cover, lies at the cooler end of the spectrum.


The Musical Times, Jun., 1978 (p. 522) © the estate of eric sams