Programme Music in the Last Four Centuries: A Contribution to the History of Musical Expression

By Frederick Niecks | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.

FIFTH PERIOD CONTINUED: SCHUMANN.

ROBERT SCHUMANN ( 1810-1856) proves himself in his musical works, and confesses himself in his critical writings and letters, a composer of programme music. The proposition may be startling to many; for expressions of his are sometimes quoted to show that he disapproved of programmes, and described his titles as afterthoughts. Nevertheless the proposition is quite true. No doubt, Schumann is on some occasions vague and self-contradictory on the subject, but the aggregate of his statements confirms the above proposition. The cause of the occasional vagueness and self-contradictoriness is his anxiety to protest against a too materialistic view and use of programmes. As Schumann's sayings throw much light on the question, and not only do that, but also give us a deep insight into his own creative processes, I shall not apologize to the reader for drawing largely from the master's criticisms and correspondence. Indeed I have not the least fear of complaints on that account, as Schumann is too delightful a writer, and his artistic self-revelation positively unique. My method will be to quote chronologically his principal declarations on programmes and titles from his Collected Writings on Music and Musicians, interjecting a note of my own here and there, and adding a particularly interesting passage from one of his letters; and then to illustrate the nature of his works for the most part by remarks derived from his correspondence.

-183-

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