Robert Schumann

Papillons (Butterflies) for piano, Op. 2

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Robert Schumann's first set of character pieces for piano, Papillons (1829-1831), may be regarded as a sort of study for the better-known Carnaval (1833-1835). Both are musical representations of festival scenes and involve multiple characters and dance-sequences; Schumann, in fact, reworked elements of Papillons for use in the later work. The concept for Papillons was apparently suggested to the composer by Jean Paul Richter's novel Flegeljahre (Age of Indiscretion); originally, each of the 12 pieces had a title that made reference to that well-known literary work. The extent of the novelist's influence on Schumann is, of course, difficult to determine. Schumann removed the titles before publication, wanting, as was typical throughout his creative life, to conceal the sources of inspiration. Precisely why the work was ultimately titled Papillons (Butterflies) has never been explained; yet the title was obviously Schumann's invention, and the suggestion of airiness and flight is clearly borne out by the music. Papillons, in keeping with its origin as music for a fictitious festival or ballroom scene, is a set of dance pieces, many of them waltzes. Even at this early stage in his compositional career -- Papillons is only the composer's second published work -- Schumann's craft can hardly be called commonplace. The work draws on many external sources of inspiration, both literary and musical: witness, for instance, the canon at the octave in No. 3 that seems to make a direct allusion to a similar instance in Haydn, or the incorporation into the finale of the same old German song (the "Grossvaterlied") that the composer used to represent the Philistines in Carnaval. The conclusion of Papillons is considered by many to be the composer's first masterstroke. Atop a 26-bar pedal point on low D -- an extraordinary gesture for a work written before the introduction of the modern sostenuto pedal -- Schumann combines a fragment from the "Grossvaterlied" with the waltz melody that opens the work. Six accented notes represent the striking of a clock (Schumann inscribed on the score, "The clamor of the carnival dies away, the clock in the tower strikes six"), after which the pianist executes a remarkable diminuendo effected by the removal of notes, one at a time, from a sustained dominant-seventh chord. The party-goers disappear as the sound gradually vanishes into nothingness.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Introduction in D major. Moderato
    2. Waltz in D major
    3. Waltz in E flat major. Prestissimo
    4. Waltz in F sharp minor
    5. Waltz in F sharp minor
    6. Polonaise in E flat major
    7. Waltz in D minor
    8. Waltz in F minor. Semplice
    9. Waltz in C sharp minor
    10. Waltz in B flat major. Prestissimo
    11. Waltz in C major. Vivo
    12. Polonaise in D major
    13. Finale in D major

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Avie AV 2398
    2018 Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler PH 17067
    2017 Decca / Eloquence ELQ 4826291
    2017 Sony Classical 88985416702
    2016 A Life of Music Records
    2016 La Dolce Volta LDV 28
    2016 Warner Classics 557828
    2016 Ars Produktion ARS 38213
    2015 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8508016
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95020BR
    2015 Naxos 8573399
    2015 Musica Omnia MO 0511
    2015 Erato 550567
    2015 Oehms Classics OC 012
    2014 TYX Art 14040
    2014 Rewind REW 511
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMU 907503
    2013 Newton Classics 8802180
    2013 Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951890
    2013 Piano Classics PCL 0057
    2013 IBA [Idil Biret Archives] 8571301
    2013 Accent ACC 24238
    2013 Decca 4785093
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099970490
    2012 Sony Classical 88691912562
    2012 Guild GMCD 7374
    2012 ECM / ECM New Series / Universal Music Group ECM 2122/23
    2012 Alpha / Alpha Productions ALPHA 813
    2012 Haenssler HAEN 98646
    2011 ECM B 001611502
    2011 Gall (formerly Gallo) 1077
    2010 Denon Records
    2010 Berlin Classics 0016682
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94008
    2010 Erato / Virgin Classics 5099962852
    2010 Erato
    2010 Decca
    2010 Decca
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099960904
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 4778693
    2010 Deutsche Grammophon 002894778816
    2010 Oehms Classics 754
    2010 Cambria 1174
    2009 Gega 325
    2009 Channel Classics 27609
    2009 Brilliant Classics 93910
    2009 Document 231752
    2009 Dal Segno 044
    2008 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2008 Conoisseur Society 4256
    2008 Berlin Classics 0184342BC
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099921741
    2008 Claves 2713/18
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920653
    2007 Sabintu 1214
    2007 PentaTone Classics 5186165
    2007 Apex
    2007 Claves 502603/04
    2007 Parlophone
    2006 Urania URN 22299
    2006 Harmonia Mundi 901890
    2006 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41962
    2006 Edel Records 2822
    2006 EMI Classics 347826
    2005 Nonesuch
    2005 Meridian Records 84490
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 EMI Music Distribution 62961
    2005 EMI Classics
    2005 Hyperion 67120
    2005 Warner Classics
    2005 Archipel 0215
    2004 Avie 29
    2003 BBC Legends / BBC Music 41222
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000085502
    2003 Eroica Distribution 3138
    2003 Ivory Records IVCD73001
    2003 EMI Music Distribution 67987
    2003 EMI Classics 5679822
    2003 Decca 000122802
    2003 Thorofon CTH 2521
    2003 Decca 470915
    2002 APR (Appian) 5580
    2002 Andante 1964
    2002 SOMM SOMMCD024
    2002 Naxos 550076
    2002 Arion 68382
    2002 EMI Music Distribution 75233
    2002 Urania 4205
    2001 BBC Legends / BBC Music 40852
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 74191
    2001 EMI Music Distribution 565464
    2001 Nuova Era 7353
    2001 APR (Appian) 5612
    2000 INA Memoire Vive 37
    2000 Amadis 7127
    1999 Philips 456787
    1999 Pearl 9932
    1999 Philips 462232
    1999 The Piano Library 259
    1998 Dante 9537
    1997 Sony Music Distribution 63380
    1997 Encoded Music 10015
    1997 Russian Compact Disc (RCD) 16288
    1997 Seraphim UK 69727
    1997 Newport Classic 85611
    1996 Berlin Classics 0091902
    1995 Sony Music Distribution 68345
    1995 Music & Arts 858
    1994 Denon Records CO-78907
    1994 Infinity Digital 64386
    1994 Naxos 550784
    1993 Denon Records 377573
    1993 IMP Classics 889
    1992 Elektra 79264
    1992 EMI Classics 64625
    1992 Deutsche Grammophon 435045
    1992 EMI Music Distribution 077776442921
    1991 CBS Records / Sony Music Distribution SX11K-48153
    1991 RCA 60856
    1990 CBS Records 42448
    1990 Sony Music Distribution 45742
    Dante 4HPC
    Vox 127
    Pickwick 23
    Profil - Edition Günter Hänssler 5014
    Mastersound 034
    ABC Classics 4763852
    Panton Records 810891
    Erato
    Nuova Era 7323
    Lyrinx 83
    Mastersound 34
    Centaur Records 2065
    Lyrinx 083
    BBC Music Magazine 245
    Dell'Arte 7005
    EMI Music Distribution 49235
    ASV 4501
    Deutsche Grammophon 471312
    Ades 13241
    Ades 20317
    CBS Records 76635
    Town Hall 58
    Klavier Records 11101
    Arlecchino 12