Schumann’s "Davidsbund"

Having founded the “Neue Zeitschrift für Musik” (new magazine for music) in 1834, and set to work, with a pen as sharp as poetic, to criticise and show up the great deficiencies, abuses, and want of talent prevalent in his day, Schumann gathered round him men as collaborators, who shared his opinion, and gave them the name of “Davidsbündler” (Confederates of David), their object being, (similar to that of David who fought the Philistines), to fight ignorance and arrogance.

Writing to Dorn in 1836, he said: “The “Davidsbündler” are nothing more than an intellectual, romantic confederacy … Mozart was just as great a confederate as Berlioz is now.” Each “Bündler” (confederate) signed his cipher; and Schumann himself, – who, as we know, divided his musical being into two parts: one assuming the soft, gentle, sensitive nature and form of a Eusebius, the other, that of the powerful, fiery Florestan, – wrote his offensive and defensive articles on music, signing them Florestan or Eusebius, according to their tenor. “”Florestan and Euseb” represent my double nature, which like Raro, I should like to mould and blend into one man.”

The mystification of the public by Schumann the author, was continued by him as a composer. Strictly speaking, most of his piano-compositions up to the Faschingsschwank (op. 26) of 1839 may be called Davidsbündler-compositions; for, in these, Schumann renounced the set form and language of the music, bound by rules and fostered by the average talent of those days; he created a sort of romantic music for the piano, at first, not understood by all. In 1836 he published the grand, revolutionising f minor sonata op. 11, with the mystifying heading: “Dedicated to Clara by Florestan and Eusebius”, the same as the “Davidsbündler Dances” op. 6 (1837), which, as letters prove, are not “Bündler-Contests”, but nuptial-eve and wedding-day-thoughts set to music. Allusions, referring directly or indirectly to the ideal object of his efforts, shaped into musical quotations or in poetic mottoes, are furthermore contained in his “Symphonic Etudes”, op. 13 (1838), in his “Faschingsschwank” (Carnival Prank), op. 26, introducing the “Grossvatertanz” (Grandfather’s Dance), which had already appeared as a quotation in the finale of “Papillons” (Butterflies) op. 2 (1829/31).

To this day, we feel the effect and influence of these compositions as “Davidsbündler”-music, in the sense and spirit breathed into them by their author: the boldness and power of their genial character, the freshness and the novelty of their themes; last, not least, Schumann’s style of romantic piano-composition blending extreme contrasts with a marvellous, perfect art, in a manner peculiarly his own.

Source by Alex Kashevnikof

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