Papillons op.2; Intermezzi op.4

Ed. H.-C. Müller (Vienna Urtext Edition). Universal

Ed. G. Lorenz. Henle/Novello


“Urtext” means in the op. 2 context that the autograph and first edition have been collated and the discrepancies catalogued in two pages, of detailed notes, in English as well as German. The page of preface and the two pages of “suggestions to performers” are also bilingual (unlike their translator, I'd say).

    The approach is suitably scientific. But some of the apparatus looks rather rickety. An example is the editorial dictum that because some of the 80 or so changes between autograph and first edition were presumably made by Schumann himself at proof stage, they can all reasonably be assumed to have his sanction, unless a printer's error is suspected. But if the necessary proof is missing, we just don't know; and to assume where we don't know risks having one's edition known as the non sequitur text.

    Fortunately Hans-Christian Müller's editing is in practice shrewd and perceptive. He can feel for example the weight of the evidence showing that Papillons emerged directly from a reading of Jean Paul's Die Flegeljahre, despite the critical consensus to the contrary. Gerhard Puchelt on the title-page is credited only with the fingering, of which he has a good grasp. But he lends a hand, rather less adroitly, with the editing as well. He adds the unfamiliar but telling detail that op.2 no.3 was described by Schumann as “the giant boot” (i.e. one of the fancy dress costumes in Jean-Paul's masquer­ade). This knowledge makes it doubly incredible that he prefers his own crotchet=160 to Schumann's 120. Surely Schumann of all people must have known what pace best fitted his own boot? But in general this edition with its detailed factual content, its attractive format and its clear text should be of material help towards a really thorough and thought-out interpretation of Papillons, whether as performance or commentary. So far as I know, no such thing is yet on record.

    “Urtext” seems to mean one thing in Vienna and quite another in München-Duisburg. The Viennese school provides notes and commentary with its Schumann texts; Schumann called his Intermezzi “longer Papillons”, but no one would guess that from the Henle edition. Not one of the 30 or so references . to op.4 in Schumann's letters and diaries is here recorded. Nor are we given any details of the sources used, i.e. the autograph and first edition. According to Eismann, the Ms of the former is incomplete; but the editor, Günter Lorenz, is silent on that score also. The net haul, apart from added fingering by Hans-Martin Theopold, is contained in six brief footnotes.

    One of these is quite interesting. It seems that the motto “Meine Ruh ist hin” in the middle section and coda of no.2 was added at proof stage. By then, Clara Wieck was nearly 15; and anyone who likes can believe that Schumann was referring to Gretchen and her spinning-wheel.

    Even if biography is eschewed, I feel that an Urtext edition ought to do more than merely collate the sources. And has even that been done carefully enough, if no.4 appears as “Allegro” instead of the traditional “Allegretto semplice”? Without going so far as to suggest that “Ur” might read “oo-er”, one must say that £1.35 does seem rather a lot to ask for adding fingering and a few footnotes to a text which is already available in other acceptable versions.           


The Musical Times, Dec., 1973 (p. 1247) © the estate of eric sams