Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Stefaniak, Alexander. “Clara Schumann’s Interiorities and the Cutting Edge of Popular Pianism.” Journal of the American Musicological Society 70 (Fall 2017): 697-765.

Accounts of Clara Schumann’s virtuosity emphasize a spiritual or transcendent quality associated with her performance of canonic repertoire alongside showpieces. However, these accounts fail to capture the importance of popular piano styles in her compositions and choice of repertoire and the ways that the discourse of interiority in Schumann’s work imbues popular piano styles with sentiment and “soul.” Near the beginning of Schumann’s career, she often programmed showpieces deemed by contemporary critics (including her future husband, Robert Schumann) as transcending physical virtuosity. Chopin’s Variations on “La ci darem la mano” , based on a theme from Mozart’s Don Giovanni, was particularly significant in this respect and was a regular encore in Schumann’s recitals. Schumann’s own compositions from this era, including the 1833 Romance variée and 1835 Piano Concerto, adopt an approach to harmonic and formal intricacy similar to Chopin. Other repertoire selections, particularly Adolph Henselt’s opera variations and her own Pirate Variations, hew more closely to popular tastes and provide Schumann a vehicle to exhibit her mastery of texture, a facet of her pianism that garnered much critical acclaim. Schumann’s 1854 Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 20, reflects a shift in her career regarding her performance of virtuosic interiority. In this work, Schumann evokes a sense of interiority through memory, achieved in part with allusions to two Mendelssohn variation sets and a quotation of her earlier Romance variée. This reminiscence is not just a historicist gesture or a nod to the romance with her husband; it recalls a radically different time in her career as a young virtuoso.

Works: Chopin: Variations on “Là ci darem la mano” , Op. 2 (707-19); Adolph Henselt: Variations de concert sur le motif de “L’elisir d’amore” de Donizetti, Op. 1 (728-44); Clara Schumann: Variations de concert tur la cavatine du “Pirate” de Bellini, Op. 8 (744-52), Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, Op. 20 (752-61)

Sources: Mozart: Don Giovanni (710-19); Gaetano Donizetti: L’elisir d’amore (728-44); Vincenzo Bellini: Il pirata (744-52); Felix Mendelssohn: Variations in E-flat Major, Op. 82 (754-61), Variations in B-flat Major, Op. 83 (754-61); Clara Schumann: Romance variée (754-61)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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