Carnaval op.9, A-flat major 
composed 1834/1835 - Dédiées à Monsieur Charles Lipinski 

Préambule - Pierrot - Arlequin - Valse noble - Eusebius - Florestan - Coquette - Réplique - Sphinxes - Papillons - A.S.C.H.-S.C.H.A. - Chiarina - Chopin - Estrella - Reconnaissance - 
Pantalon et Colombine - Valse allemande - Paganini - Aveu - Promenade - Pause -
Marche des „Davidsbündler“ contre les Philistins

„For you, the Dance of Masks will be a puzzle to decipher.”
Robert Schumann to Ignaz Moscheles

Schumann’s first essay in variation form was based on the Sehnsuchtswalzer in A-flat major by Franz Schubert. Other essays in variations on themes by famous composers stem from this period, such as the Beethoven Variations and Chopin Variations. Ultimately Schumann rejected these attempts. The third version of the Beethoven Variations became “Exercices” in fair copy, and remained unpublished. The Chopin Variations exist only in a short, unfinished version, and the Sehnsuchtswalzer Variations were at length absorbed into Carnaval. Schumann wrote: “I am aware that my Carnaval is provocative; the heart of an artist is sometimes a strange thing, and the shrieking dissonances that life delivers are softened by reconciling art, which often clothes pleasures in long, dark veils, so that one may not see them openly.”  Henriette Voigt, who had met Schumann through his friend, the pianist Ludwig Schuncke (who died young), introduced the composer to Ernestine von Fricken, a pupil of Schumann’s own piano teacher Friedrich Wieck. Schumann fell in love with the young woman. Letters to Henriette Voigt soon voiced doubts about this liaison, though Friedrich Wieck supported the infatuation to divert Schumann’s attention from his daughter Clara. Ernestine would later support Clara and Robert’s relationship in their struggle with Wieck. Carnaval, op. 9, portrays a masked ball in which musical versions of the typical masked figures are augmented by those of Schumann’s own acquaintances (Florestan and Eusebius are Schumann himself, Chiarina is Clara, Estrella is Ernestine, and appearances are also made by the violin virtuoso Paganini, Chopin, and many others). The motivic seeds of Carnaval are revealed by the notated but unplayed “Sphinxes” (inspired by Jean Paul’s Sphinx moths): the pitches E-flat, C, B, A (“es c h a” in German) denote Schumann, and A-flat, C, B (“as c h”) or A, E-flat, C, B (“a es c h) stand for Asch, the birthplace of Ernestine.

Translation: William Melton
© Franz Vorraber