Robert Schumann described his Blumenstück (“Flower Piece”) in D-flat Major, Op 19 as “variations, but not upon any theme,” adding that “everything is interwoven in such a peculiar way.”
Indeed, the brief solo piano piece unfolds in a series of dreamy episodes through which runs a common thematic thread. Following its initial statement, the opening episode fades into the background, and it is the second section of the piece which recurs as a refrain. Blumenstück is filled with charm and intimacy, yet there is also something vaguely obsessive and hypnotically circular about this music. The title refers to the German word for a still life portrait of flowers, and illustrates Romanticism’s celebration of nature.
Composed in 1839 during a period of time when Schumann was living in Vienna and attempting to secure publication for his music periodical, Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Blumenstück was intended to be a companion piece to the Arabeske in C Major, Op. 18. In the days long before recordings, it was conceived as popular music to be played principally by women in their homes. In a letter to his soon-to-be wife, Clara Wieck, from January 24, 1839, Schumann’s description of his compositional activity included “other small things, of which I have so many, and which I shall chain together prettily under the title Kleine Blumenstücke, much like one might name a series of pictures.” Nearly two months later on March 11, he wrote to Clara, who was living in Paris,
I am so deeply in love with you that I think of you with such love as I have never known before. The whole week long I sat at the piano and composed and wrote and laughed and wept. All at once.
Blumenstück is infused with the falling four-note “Clara” motif which Schumann used in his Carnaval, Op. 9. Although occasionally he dismissed the seriousness of Blumenstück, Schumann offered the piece as a gift to his wife on their wedding day.
This 1966 concert performance features the legendary Russian-born American pianist, Vladimir Horowitz:
- Schumann: Blumenstück in D-flat Major, Op 19, Vladimir Horowitz Amazon