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Thomas Hampson / Twenty Songs

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The first printing

But what constituted this first printing? It is clear from the aforementioned documentation as well as from the appearance of the manuscript that no changes or shortening of the cycle were made between June 1840 and October 1843. It is further clear that for years Schumann had placed a special emphasis on printing the 20 Lieder as they were intended: a complete cycle. It is also true that for years after the publication of the Dichterliebe Schumann continued to think of the Heine cycle in its original format. A diary entry from July 1846 says:


I have composed almost all of my works ­ even the smallest pieces ­ in an inspired frame of mind, many in a remarkably brief time ­ my First Symphony in B Major in just four days, a cycle of twenty songs in a very short period, and Die Peri in an even, relatively speaking briefer time. From 1845 onward when I began to find everything there in my brain, I began an entirely new approach to composition.

The first question that comes to mind is what happened to the four songs which were cut? We only know that they were first published posthumously as part of Opus 127 and Opus 142, and therefore, they are often misconstrued to be late works of Schumann. The other pressing question is when and why did the changes to the manuscript come about? This is more difficult to answer because to date there is a dearth of evidence or documents from the time of the actual printing. Not even correction copies are available, as they are for Schumann's other works.

All this opens the door to speculation about the process of changing and editing which took place. Before the above mentioned letters and documents had come to light, the common assumption was that Schumann must have cut the four songs, himself, and that the changes were naturally made for the better. The arguments in support of this theory were based on a variety of premises ranging from biographical ones to musical and textual speculations. And the efforts to establish such evidence tended to lead to an even broader view that a creative person like Schumann tends to think about his spiritual output at different times in different ways and that with the years it was quite possible he had changed his views about his songs.

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