Thema mit Variationen o.op. E flat major 
IThe Variations on a Theme in E flat major were produced in February of 1854, just a few weeks prior to Robert Schumann’s commitment to the sanitarium in Endenich. The theme is related to the song Frühlingsankunft (“Nach diesen trüben Tagen, wie ist so hell das Feld!”), as well as to the second movement of the Violin Concerto. On February 6, 1854 Schumann wrote Joseph Joachim: “The muse is now silent — at least outwardly so…Now I will close; it is growing dark. I have often written you in sympathetic ink, and there are secret messages between the lines that will someday spring forth.” Schumann felt himself surrounded by ghosts during this period, who according to Clara presented him with music either “wonderful” or “horrible.”  During the night of February 17 Schumann imagined that he heard angels’ voices that presented him with the chorale-like E flat major theme which he wrote down immediately. On February 27 he worked on the fair copy of the score. In the middle of this activity he left the house and threw himself into the Rhine, only to be rescued. A day later he finished the dramatically interrupted work and sent the manuscript to his wife. It was his last completed composition. His last works were treated critically by Clara Schumann. She wrote Johannes Brahms on May 5, 1886: “You know, the Variations are our sad, but sacred legacy — I gave them to you on the condition (to which you gave your promise), that you would never make any use of them.” She destroyed the Romanzen for cello and piano. The Violin Concerto was first rediscovered in modern times, as Clara and her daughters forbade its performance. A letter from Schumann to Clara from Endenich, dated seven months after composition, is proof that the Variations were important to the composer: “Was it just a dream, that we were in Holland last winter, and that you were so brilliantly received, especially in Rotterdam, and they had a torch parade for us, and how you played Beethoven’s Concerto in E flat, Sonatas in C major and F minor, Chopin Etudes, Songs without Words by Mendelssohn, and my new Konzertstück in D major so splendidly in the concerts? Can you remember a theme in E flat, that I heard once in the night and to which I wrote the Variations; could you send them to me and perhaps also some of your own compositions?” It is quite probable that Robert Schumann made his final corrections on the Variations while in Endenich.
                                                                                  Translation: William Melton

© Franz Vorraber