Papillons op.2, D major
composed 1829-1831 - Dédiés à Therese, Rosalie et Emilie
“Spring arrives not with violent changes in climate or landscape, but more subtly with the appearance of a blossom, or a butterfly.” Diary entry, 1832

Schumann wrote in his diary in 1832: “When I had finished I looked out of the window at the beautiful spring sky. I felt the gentle air currents, and shared the intimacy of a nightingale’s call. As I brooded about the Papillons, a large and pretty moth hovered at the window. He stayed well clear of the lamp and did not singe his wings. I took this as a good omen.” “Who can demand a mechanical or harmonic analysis of a piece from a listener at the first encounter? Yet Papillons may be an exception, for the changes are so abrupt, the colors so bright, that the listener still has the previous page in his head when the player is almost finished. This self-annihilating aspect of Papillons engages the critical faculty, but certainly not the artistic. A glass of champagne could be tossed off between each piece if preferred.”
To his mother, Schumann wrote: “Now the butterflies flutter in the broad, glorious spring landscape; spring itself stands to view at the door—a child with sky-blue eyes—and thus I begin to understand my own existence…” This existence was the spring of his composing life, and his maturation from the Heidelberg “adolescent years” of student life and ball scenes—scenes such as those that are to be found in Papillons. “The conclusion (of Papillons) seems a new beginning for me,” Schumann wrote Ludwig Rellstab. The ascending scale theme of the first Papillon appears again at the ending, where it disappears little by little, as into the far distance.

Translation: William Melton
© Franz Vorraber