About her youth we would agree [the Soirées were written when she was about seventeen]. To evaluate the rest one must appreciate her position as one of the supreme virtuosos of the time, with insight into everything. Let Bach penetrate to a depth where even the miner’s lamp is threatened with extinction; let Beethoven lash out at the clouds with his titan’s fists; whatever our own time has produced in terms of heights and depths—she grasps it all, and recounts it with a charming, maidenly wisdom. At the same time, she has raised her own standards to a degree that leaves one wondering anxiously where it all may lead. I venture no predictions. With such talents one is confronted with curtain after curtain; time lifts them one by one, and what is revealed always differs from what was expected. That one cannot contemplate such a wondrous phenomenon with indifference, that one must follow her spiritual development step by step, may be expected of all those who, in this singular time, acknowledge the natural intimate relationship of kindred spirits, past and present, rather than mere accident or chance.
What do we have, then, in these Soirées? What do they
tell us? Whom do they concern? Are they comparable with the
work of a master? For one thing, they tell us much about music, and
how it surpasses the effusions of poetry, how one can be happy in pain
and sad when happy. They belong to those who can delight in music
without the piano, whose hearts swell to the bursting point at the sound
of intimate yearning and inner song. And they belong to those already
versed in the fraternal language of a rare species of art.
Are they, finally, a result? Yes, the way a bud is a result before it breaks out in the splendid colors of the blossoms, fascinating and important as is everything that harbours a future.
And then, of course, to hear them as she plays them! One hardly knows what has struck him, or imagines how such a thing can be recorded in symbols and written out. This, again, is an astonishing art, and it is all hers. Whole books could be heard on the subject. I say ‘heard’ advisedly. Suspicious of our Davidsbündler resources, we recently asked a good connoisseur to write something about the character of her playing. He promised to do so, and after some two pages concluded: ‘It would be desirable, some day, to learn something tangible about this artist’s virtuosity’, etc. We know where he came to grief, and why we, too, shall stop right here. Not everything can be told in the letters of the alphabet.
Florestan and Eusebius
September 12, 1837
The above exerpt is drawn from:
Schumann, Robert. Schumann on Music: A Selection from the Writings. Trans. and ed. by Henry Pleasants. New York: Dover Publications, 1988, pp. 122-3.
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