Schumann Letters Edition

The complete correspondence of Robert and Clara Schumann is estimated at around 20,000 letters. In times before the telephone or e-mail, letters were the essential means of long-distance communication. Robert Schumann collected and filed the majority of letters addressed to him. These 28 stapled volumes of around 5,500 letters were received by the State Library in Berlin from the estate of Clara Schumann. However, they were moved to Silesia during World War II and are today held in the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow/Poland.

The Robert Schumann Research Centre in Düsseldorf, which is involved in the Complete Edition of Schumann’s works and is sponsored by the Academies’programme, had the entire Krakow letters inventory, the so-called Correspondence, filmed; it also secured the rights to their publication, made transcripts of these 5,500 letters and entered them into databases. In addition, all letters from/to Schumann that could be ascertained were entered into a database, and the handwritten index of the around 2,400 letters posted by Schumann, held in Zwickau, was transcribed in its entirety. All of this groundwork, including a keyworded literature database, was made available to the Zwickau Letters Project by the Düsseldorf Schumann Research Centre in 1996. Also, the commentary on the letters' texts has been and continues to be supported by the Düsseldorf Research Centre.

The Robert Schumann House in Zwickau holds Schumanns own handwritten letter indexes in which he carefully listed letters written and received by him, often with a note as to their contents. The world's largest collection of letter autographs by Robert and Clara Schumann is also found in the Zwickau archive: just under 300 letters by Robert and more than 2,000 letters by Clara Schumann.

Indeed, the first Schumann biography by Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski in 1858 featured 70 letters by Robert Schumann from the years 1833 to 1854 in a separate appendix. By 1904, other important editions had appeared, some supervised by Clara Schumann herself or commissioned by her: Jugendbriefe [Letters from her youth], ed. by Clara Schumann. Leipzig 1885, fourth [revised] edition 1910; Briefe. Neue Folge [Letters. New series], ed. by Gustav F. Jansen. Leipzig 1886, second [substantially altered] edition 1904; Hermann Erler, Robert Schumanns Leben aus seinen Briefen geschildert [A description of Robert Schumanns life based on his letters]. Berlin 1886. However, they offer only a fraction of the inventory of letters verifiable today, and the letter texts are sometimes reproduced in abridged form. Curiously, the most comprehensive edition of Schumann letters published thus far, with some 1,100 letters, is a Russian translation by the now deceased Moscow musicologist Daniel W. Zhitomirski. More recent German-language letter editions which obey modern editing principles were dedicated to the letters contained in individual collections, such as those of the Bonn University Library (ed. by Siegfried Kross, Bonn 1978/exp. 1982, cf. also the holdings of the University and State Library of Bonn acquired after 1982) and the Bonn City Archive (ed. by Thomas Synofzik, Bonn 1993). An edition begun in 1984 of the correspondence between Robert and Clara Schumann (ed. by Eva Weisweiler, Vol. 1: 1984, Vol. 2: 1987, Vol. 3: 2001) remains a fragment. Single examples of Clara Schumann's correspondence have appeared separately.

Against this backdrop, and on the basis of the groundwork made by the Schumann Research Centre in Düsseldorf and with that organisation's support, an office in charge of the Schumann Letters Edition began work in Zwickau in September 1996 to gain a deeper understanding of Schumann's biography and his relationships with his contemporaries by indexing and publishing the inventory of letters. By deliberately choosing the concept of a correspondence edition which also includes the letters addressed to Schumann, the project is of fundamental importance to the entire musical and cultural history of the 19th century. Initially funded by the Project Sponsorship of the Saxon State Ministry for Science and Art, the project was first attached to the Chair of Musicology at the Technical University of Chemnitz. After this Chair was abolished, the Zwickau project was supported for a while by the Volkswagen Foundation, but then lay abandoned for several years. In cooperation with the Hochschule Fuer Music Carl Maria von Weber in Dresden, the work resumed as a project of the Germany Research Foundation in October 2005 (Professor Dr Michael Heinemann). The Schumann Letters Edition is being published by Verlag Dohr in Cologne -

Th. Synofzik, translated by Thomas Henninger

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