Recorded on 12/04/2005, uploaded on 08/30/2009
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
The first several years of Schumann's output as a composer was dominated exclusively by the piano. Following the lead of Chopin (whom Schumann greatly admired) and his op. 10 Études, Schumann set out to compose his own set of study pieces for the piano.
Known today as the Symphoniques Études (or, "Symphonic Etudes"), the collection has had a rather interesting genesis and history. It was begun in 1834 as a set of sixteen variations on a theme by Baron von Fricken. The baron was an amateur musician and also the guardian of Ernestine von Fricken, whom Schumann was engaged to in 1834 before breaking it off the following year. Concluding the original set of etudes was a solitary variation on the tune Du stolzes England freue dich ("Proud England, rejoice!") from Henrich Marschner's opera based on Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe.
Of the original sixteen variations on Fricken's theme, only eleven were published in 1837, along with the Marschner variation under the title of XII Symphoniques Études. Oddly, though, only nine movements were explicitly indicated as variations. Later, in 1852, Schumann published a second edition of the work. In it he eliminated the third and ninth etudes (the two not labeled as variations in the first edition) and made revisions to the piano writing. This edition appeared under the title of Études en forme de variationes. Both editions were dedicated to Schumman's friend and English pianist William Sterndale Bennet. Bennet performed the work in England to much success, though Schumann never thought the work entirely appropriate for the concert stage.
Five years after Schumann's death, a third edition of the work was published by his father-in-law, Friedrich Wieck. In 1890, Schumann's Études were once again republished. In this edition, Johannes Brahms restored the five variations cut by Schumman, now known as the "posthumous" variations. Today, these variations are often included in performances, though their exact placement often varies.
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