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Davidsbündlertänze, Op 6

'Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze, Kinderszenen, Sonata No 2' (CDA67780)
Schumann: Davidsbündlertänze, Kinderszenen, Sonata No 2
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67780 
No 01: Lebhaft
No 02: Innig
No 03: Mit Humor
No 04: Ungeduldig
No 05: Einfach
No 06: Sehr rasch
No 07: Nicht schnell
No 08: Frisch
No 09: Lebhaft
No 10: Balladenmässig: Sehr rasch
No 11: Einfach
No 12: Mit Humor
No 13: Wild und lustig
No 14: Zart und singend
No 15: Frisch
No 16: Mit gutem Humor
No 17: Wie aus der Ferne
No 18: Nicht schnell

Davidsbündlertänze, Op 6
In November of 1837, Clara was in Prague wowing everyone with her playing. Robert must have got his recently composed Davidsbündlertänze to her, because in a letter of 19 November, she wrote:

What makes you think that I cannot bear your Davidsbündler dances? So far I have not been able to get two hours’ peace to myself to dedicate to them, and they need that. None but I could decipher such writing.

She must have found the time in the next few weeks because on 3 March she wrote again, saying that she liked them very much but found them a bit too much like Carnaval, which she preferred.

The Davidsbund was, in Schumann’s imagination, a secret society formed to defeat the musical Philistines of his time, and whose goal it was to elevate the art of music to new heights. Schumann adopted the names of Florestan and Eusebius to characterize the two sides of his nature—Florestan for the impetuous, boisterous, humorous side, and Eusebius for the dreamer, the one who expressed his innermost thoughts and desires. In the original edition of the Davidsbündlertänze, he signed each piece with one or the other initials. Beneath the title, he placed an old German proverb:

Always and forever
delight and pain are linked:
remain pious in delight
and bear pain with courage.

Schumann told Clara that he was never so happy at the piano as when he was composing these pieces, and that they included many marriage thoughts (they were secretly engaged a week before he began composing the work). But this is not so much the type of happiness encountered, for instance, in Carnaval. It is a happiness that stems very much from sorrow—from having already suffered a lot, from not yet having obtained one’s greatest desires. He wrote that the work compared to Carnaval ‘like faces to masks’, meaning, it seems, that this is the real thing.

The catalogue number Op 6 is misleading and has nothing to do with when the work was composed. Robert saved that particular opus number because the Davidsbündlertänze opens with a motto from one of Clara’s compositions, a Mazurka included in her own Op 6. He revised the work the following year, changing the title to simply Davidsbündler and adding the subtitle ‘Eighteen Characteristic Pieces’.

The tonal centres of the work are G major and B minor, even if the work ends in C major. Moods change rapidly, from the swirling opening (in which one needs to ignore most barlines), to the introspection of the second piece. One of the most beautiful moments for me is when the music goes into E flat major for the fourteenth piece in the set, followed by the soaring tune of the fifteenth. How can a simple descending scale over some arpeggios be so exalted and expressive? The stillness of the penultimate one, marked Wie aus der Ferne (As if from faraway), is breathtaking. Within it, the second piece makes a re-appearance in which we truly hear delight linked with pain. An accelerando, masterly done, provides a brief moment of brilliance, before falling back to end softly. Schumann could have ended the work here, but he didn’t. A slow waltz in C major concludes this most wonderful piece, with twelve low Cs in the bass imitating the clock striking midnight. In the first edition, Schumann added an inscription over this last page. ‘Quite superfluously Eusebius added the following; but in so doing, much happiness radiated from his eyes.’

from notes by Angela Hewitt © 2010

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