Kinderszenen op. 15

Ed. Franzpeter Goebels (Vienna Urtext Edition), Universal.


The first bright colours of the Schumannian scene often faded later in the light of his own second thoughts, or his widow’s. In the Kinderszenen he at least is innocent; apart from a remembered lullaby, his childhood seems not to have needed any hushing up. Clara’s edition as a whole made many marked changes, especially of accents: its motto might be “La donna è mobile… muta d'accento”. In op.15 however she mainly changed the tempo. Her metronome continues to make its mark; who would dream of Träumerei at Schumanns crotchet = 100? But no doubt the original markings should now be restored. There is an understandable difference of outlook between a young bachelor thinking of childhood metaphorically, and a mature wife and mother thinking of childhood more literally, especially if the one is a composer and the other a pianist. Schumann’s dream-children naturally tend to be far more light and sprightly than his widow’s real ones; Haschemann crotchet = 138 rather than 120, Bittendes Kind quaver = 138 against 88. It is good to see his tempos again awarded pride of place and Clara’s relegated to footnotes. A less cautious editor might have contributed some comment more committal than merely advocating a comparison.

     In general it seems to me that the editorial tasks – not in themselves particularly demanding, because no complete ms of op. 15 is known – might have been more fully discharged. Why not collate all available material, including the Library of Congress ms of no.6, and even the copy of no.1 made by Schumann for his sister-in-law (in which the notation suggests that each semiquaver may be meant to coincide with the last quaver triplet, in accordance with the well-known convention still observed by Schubert)? Why should an Urtext resurrect those boring old English mistranslations imported from Clara's edition? Riding a cock-horse doesn't really convey the dignity of a Ritter vom Steckenpferd; and it’s high time that bogeymen were returned to the Victorian nurseries that bred them long ago.  Again, “von” in no.1 means “about”, not “from”, other countries and people. The children are hearing a story, not the latest bulletin from our special correspondent.

     Translation still presents difficulties to this day, apparently. “Bildung” is not “erudition”; and I am not sure where one looks when observing agogics, nor how (unless perhaps agog). The German text of the short preface manages to find room for some extended quotations from Schumann which have only indirect relevance to his op. 15; of his 20 or so direct references to that work, only one is cited. That one tells us that he wrote 30 pieces and selected his 13 Scenes from them. But as to his 17 unseens there is no sign even of curiosity, let alone explanation.

     The standard of printing and design continues as high as ever.      


The Musical Times, Feb., 1974 (p. 145) © the estate of eric sams