If there is one metronome in the history that humanity doubt even more than that of Beethoven,
it is undoubtedly the metronome Robert Schumann used to set the tempi for his music.
If you want to learn the true reason why it is that so many musicians and musicologists
today don’t take these incredible valuable pieces of information serious, stay tuned
because I’m gonna break this down for you with the example of one of Schumann’s most
known piano pieces: the Kinderszenen.
So hello everyone, my name is Wim Winters, welcome to Authentic Sound, this channel is
all about looking in a new way to all kinds of authentic bits and pieces of musical facts
that today oftentimes are overlooked, but can be totally transformational for your own
journey as a musician or music lover.
And one of those things definitely are exactly the authentic metronome numbers or in other
words, the tempo indications composers of the past gave to us, musicians.
They are almost by default entirely overlooked today since the speeds they suggest seem not
real to us.
That is also true for the metronome numbers Robert Schumann left.
Hence the common story his metronome must have been broken, right?
Now, the story of Schumann’s broken metronome goes back a while, more precisely to 1855.
One year before Schumann’s death, Clara Schumann, felt the need to undermine her husband’s
judgment for speed by stating Robert was using a broken metronome.
She backpedalled on this statement heavily in 1864 when she stated that there had merely
been some minor differences between what she and Robert had in mind regarding the tempi
for his works.
That difference is indeed shown in a comparison between the MM’s for the Kinderszenen, given
by Clara and Robert.
But the harm had been done and the evil spirit never got back into the bottle.
Today we see a renewed interest in these authentic metronome marks as true tempo indications.
Publishers as Henle Verlag and Wiener Urtext have realized that metronome marks are among
the most valuable information we have from the past.
It are impressive tools of knowledge, helping us understand the true meaning of the works
written centuries ago.
But before we jump into the conclusions both Henle and Wiener Urtext make, let’s compare
the historic-authentic metronome marks for the Kinderszenen.
You might be surprised to learn we actually have three complete sets, more or less directly
connected with the composer’s time.
First the MM’s printed in the first edition.
Though there seems to be no direct source to a written confirmation that the MM’s
for the opus 15 are from Schumann’s hand, Robert has seen them and, being closely involved
in proofreading his works and editions, he at the minimum has approved them.
Michael Struck, in the same Henle Interview :
“They are authorized, for Schumann did not correct them in, let alone remove them from,
any of the later editions (though he did make other corrections.”
Wiener Urtext basically states the same: “Schumann never took offence at these metronome markings
nor corrected them” In any case, the MM’s as published still
in Henle at the beginning of each piece (but stored back in the last paragraph of the last
page, in the critical notes of the edition by Wiener Urtext! ) are both in context and
time extremely close to Robert Schumann, if not from his hand.
And so, in the Instructive Ausgabe of 1887; that of Clara, we indeed see a new metronomisation
for Schumann’s opus 15, this time from Clara’s hand.
As we have a set of metronome numbers by Otto Boehme, friend of the Schumann’s, written
in his copy of the Kinderszenen.
Let’s compare them and see how they correlate.
What we can say is that all of these tempi are pretty close to each other.
Only three tempi given by Boehme exceed a 25% compared to the possible Schumann tempi,
and if we would take a 15% margin, Clara is still on board with 12 tempi out of 13.
Only in one case she gives a tempo that is 18% faster than robert’s, all the other
are below the 15% threshold.
So how actacully do Henle and Wiener Urtext deal with this?
What information do they give to their musicians?
Well, Henle does not speak about the other two sets of MM’s.
But in spite of the fact they validate the set of metronome markings of the first edition,
they have Dr. Michael Struck give some questionable advice at the end.
First the interviewer suggest no more no less the whole beat practice could be a solution.
He only uses some other words to describe the same thing.
I quote: “Could it be that Schumann (and Böhme)
simply confused the reference value, for example could they have intended eighths instead of
For instance Schumann set the tempo of the “Träumerei” at quarter note = 100 (a
very fast tempo).
Böhme went as far as writing quarter note = 132.
But if you divide that in half, namely eights in place of fourths, then you are approaching
“today’s” tempo of the „Träumerei“.
Reading this makes your heart beat faster, since yes, there you have it, it is that simple,
develop that idea Dr. Struck!
But he does not.
His answer is really disappointing but also shows the struggle our musicologists have
with these authentic tempo indicators: they simply don’t know what to do with them.
Hide them is no option, certainly not in the age of the internet, but coming up with an
answer is too difficult either it seems.
I quote: “That is an interesting hypothesis, but
it doesn’t work.
For, even Clara Schumann, in her „instructive edition“ set the tempo for „Träumerei“
at quarter note = 80.”
End of quote.
This quarter note 80, by the way, results still in a very fast tempo.
And by the way, this tempo of eight note 80 – so Clara’s tempo read in whole beat-
is still perfectly normal today.
Listen for example to Danil Trifonov’s version, played live a few years ago.
(music) Struck continues with a last advice that – with
all due respect- makes no sense, let alone it would be helpful for the poor musician
at his piano waiting for a solid answer.
On the question if we should look to Schumann’s original metronome markings more seriously,
Struck answers: “Yes, I urgently suggest taking a closer
Not by letting the metronome tick while one plays, but by attempting to play the pieces
as close as possible in the tempo intended by Schumann.
A point that appears important to me is also that Schumann noted several “ritardandi”.
How can you really become slower if your basic tempo is already too slow?”
Now, not only our friend Trifonov answers already to that question, but are we really
sent to the musical forest with a compass on which is written that the indicated ritardandi
will somehow explain the tempi of which the majority we feel make no sense at all?
I hear Alberto answering already: are you kidding me?”
With all respect for researchers like Doctor Michael Struck, but if that is all you can
come up with, why not simply saying you have no idea, you don’t know?
There is a beauty, an inspiring beauty even in acknowledging that you don’t have the
answer to give.
Wiener Urtext ends in a way that in spite of the incredible institute they are today,
must be called out to be a highly opinionated advice that might have the effect of sending
an entire generation in the opposite direction of Schumann’s musical paradise.
In one paragraph, the author Joachim Draheim says not to take these tempo indications serious
but use them only to play as fast as possible.
I quote: “These markings will not absolve today’s
performers from finding their own appropriate tempi.
Performers are advised against blindly choosing one of the three possibilities listed here,
although all three, notwithstanding their different weightings, will generally serve
to counteract the current widespread tendency to sentimentalize these works by dragging
First of all, in no uncertain terms, Draheim makes the case for Robert and Clara to be
Sorry for the hard words, but what else is written here?
Both have given tempi that he feels the need to advice against using them.
Would we dare to repeat that statement when Schumann would come back to give a masterclass
on his Kinderszenen?
Don’t think so.
And furthermore if the Kinderszenen are also not allowed any more to have a high portion
of sentiment, which music still can?
But it is beyond my understanding why Wiener Urtext’s editorial board let a closing statement
like this pass.
Even going further in eliminating the MM’s from the Kinderszenen at all.
For the first time since over one and a half century!
How can they say the given Metronome Marks do represent an historical situation, are
historical facts, are correct and yet, at the same time advices strongly against using
Not even bothering to give one single reason why.
And if that is not enough, after they threw three sets of authentic metronome numbers
under the bus, they even go further by using them only for a freepass of speeding up any
tempo that we today might have in mind for these wonderful miniatures of music.
Citation desperately needed I would say.
So what is our answer to these mysterious metronome marks?
What would you think about some music?
As Alberto Sanna already has brought to you the complete Kinderszenen without any compromise
to the MM’s as approved by Robert Schumann, he will record the same bundle again twice,
once in Clara’s tempi and once in Otto Boehm’s tempi, both with the application of the WBMP.
And that will be the answer to these mysteries of which the status of mysteries has been
protected for way too long.
The true reason we struggle so much today in accepting the WBMP as an historic fact
is similar to what made Clara Schumann say in 1855 on the metronome of her husband.
Yes, we feel obliged to the incredible minds of people like Beethoven, chopin and Schumann,
but when push comes to shove, we, in our time, are not ready to give up our individuality,
our ego, our ability to show off at our instruments that we studied for so long and so hard.
That is the real reason why we struggle with those authentic metronome marks and that is
the reason why institutes as the Wiener Urtext greenlights prefaces like this one.
It takes courage to face facts and figures and resist the spirit of a certain time.
And our time may today not be ready to face the musical historical truth in an uncompromised
But tomorrow it will.
There simply is too much power hidden in the music of that time.
It will surface.
And it will soon.
Thanks to music as the incredible beautiful version of the Kinderscenen Alberto Sanna
uploaded here on the channel and which you can access by clicking on this thumbnail over
And thanks to all you who are watching these episodes and even supporting the platform
we built through our patreon site.
Thanks for checking this out,it really helps us keep going.
And for now, thanks for watching, see you soon again, bye.