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Robert Schumann’s Sketches for a Fourth Sonata

In 2009, Dr. Paul Green and his nephew, Frederick Moyer, tracked down a fragmentary unfinished fourth piano sonata of the great romantic composer, Robert Schumann. With help from Stanford University, Green and Moyer acquired electronic copies of the sketch, transcribed them, and entered the score into clean computerized format.  On July 26, 2009, this unknown classical work was made available to the public for the first time here on this site. Below is an extensive music essay by Green describing his search, work, and the piece’s historical significance.

Recent media comments about this site and this project:

Alex Ross, New Yorker: “a discovery worth reporting . . . you can read Green’s meticulous account of the find and then download an ingenious computer application that allows you to listen to Moyer’s performance (expertly, sensitively done) while following along in the Schumann score.”

John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune: “a model of how modern scholarship and digital technology can serve each other’s interests.”

Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun: “This project is a very classy example of musicological excavation, IMHO, and the product is doubly enhanced by Moyer’s sensitive, involving performance of this tantalizing music.”

For more media comments click here

Schumann Score Purchase the  Deciphered Sheet Music


Schumann Essay Read the essay: The Second Schumann F-minor Sonata: A Detective Story

RasmussenExamine and listen: Karl Aage Rasussen’s completion of Schumann’s Finale


The Second Schumann F-minor Sonata: A Detective Story

Copyright 2009, Paul E. Green, Jr.

October  14, 2009

Note: We are soliciting ideas stimulated by this writeup. Please give us your comments in the COMMENT AREA at the end of this article. . . . . . Paul and Fred


Late one night back in 1990, alone with our Steinway and digital recording equipment, Fred Moyer, our genius pianist nephew, sat down and recorded the Third Schumann Piano Sonata, Opus 14 in F Minor, sometimes referred to as the Concerto Without Orchestra. As is so often the case, it then happened that other more mundane things intervened with both Fred and us Greens and the existence of this tape was soon quite forgotten.

When Skip and I moved to Chapel Hill in 2007, the DAT tape of that midnight séance resurfaced and we were so smitten by the magnificence of the composition and the beauty of Fred’s performance that we had a number of CD copies made and started giving them out obsessively to our friends or anyone who would listen and telling them insistently about the listening experience awaiting them. I kept listening to this music and began to wonder why such a great piano composer had not gained more visibility for his sonatas – after all, there is something about the sonata format of two-theme statement, quasi-improvisatory development, and recapitulation that has grabbed the musical soul and persisted to become, in spite of centuries of change-of-fashion, the most favored vehicle of much of the music that the world calls “the greatest.” Continuing long after Schumann, almost every composer of note had something important to say in this medium[i].

This listening experience, plus a passing exposure to the equally impressive first Schumann Sonata in F-sharp minor, opus 11, (when Elizabeth Allen played it at one of our house concerts in the mid-1970s) caused me to wonder “Who was this Schumann that he could write music like that while everyone seems to know him mostly for his concerto, his symphonies, and his suites of miniatures (Fantasiestücke, Davidsbundlertänze, etc., some of these earlier than the sonatas, most of them later). Many of these miniatures were great enough, but not nearly so great as the sonatas, to my taste.

So I betook myself to the comprehensive Grove’s dictionary[ii] to see what else there was, and lo and behold there was a second F-minor piano sonata that Schumann had only started on, the fourth one to be given the name “sonata” in his own catalog of his works. The authoritative biography by the late John Daverio[iii] pronounced it “lost,” as I later found out.

But it hadn’t been permanently lost, as it turns out.

The search begins

Certainly a contributing reason that nobody was very curious about it is that it kept getting confused with the well-known third piano sonata, also in the key of F-minor, the one in Fred’s midnight taping activity that began this investigation of mine. One had to realize that Schumann, for some reason, had liked that key well enough to visit it twice in rapid succession.

But Mr. Grove’s Schumann maven had not been confused – not he. The Schumann article in Grove mentions in passing that Schumann had alluded in correspondence to what had to be two F-minor sonatas, one that was finished and one unfinished. Composition of the second one was interrupted by a series of concerns that Schumann had with his journal, so that by the time he got back to the second F-minor sonata, he seems to have had a change of heart about continuing. The second one never received an opus number.

Now, considering the merit of all of the known Schumann piano sonatas, this mysterious hint that not everything was widely known was a most intriguing challenge that perhaps the fragment was worth finding and hearing.

At daughter Nancy’s suggestion I first tried the Library of Congress to see if they had it. The answer was: no, but if I looked in the catalog New Edition of the Collected Works of Schumann, by Margit McCorkle, I would find that there once had been a four-page [presumably four double-sided sheets] fragment of this piece described as entry F28, and would learn that “the fragment had been sold at auction to a private collector in December, 1997 by Sotheby’s in England”, and that “it currently resides in an unidentified archive in southern Germany”.

As our family’s German speaker, Nancy then emailed the Robert Schumann Gesellschaft in Düsseldorf where she used to live, and all they could tell us was that they didn’t know who had bought the fragment. Similarly, when Fred Moyer asked Sotheby’s who the purchaser had been, they declined to answer, but instead forwarded his inquiry to the purchaser, who never answered. Thus it was clear neither who had offered the fragment to Sotheby’s for auction nor who had bought it. At this point I sought the help of Diane Steinhaus of the UNC Music Library, and she pointed me to the McCorkle compendium. There I learned (from Anhang F38) that before the ms. was sold by Sotheby’s, it had been appraised for them by Ms. Linda Correll Roesner, of New York City. An email to Ms. Roesner elicited the information that she had had it in her hands for only about an hour, and had no idea who might have bought it at the auction, which might have taken place either in New York City or in Europe. That seemed to be that: a dead-end.

Historical and biographical background

I started reading up on Schumann in earnest, and discovered that his piano sonatas were all completed within months of each other, beginning at a time when he was alone, pining away for Clara Wieck, whom he was unable to marry until September, 1840. These sonatas are (Ref. iii, pp. 133-134)

Sonata 1, op. 11 in F-sharp minor completed – 8/1835

Sonata 2, op. 22 in G-minor – 10/1835

Sonata 3, op. 14 in F-minor (“Concert sans orchestre”) – 6/1836

Fantasie in C-major, op. 17 – 12/1836

Sonata fragment in F-minor (Anhang 28) abandoned – 2/1837

Opus 17 has a place on this list because it is as much a formal piano sonata as the others, but has this different name for a reason to be discussed shortly.

There are several remarkable things about this list, four of which I shall now enumerate. First of all, starting in early 1837, Schumann essentially abandoned the piano sonata vehicle for good, reserving the sonata format for symphonic and chamber music first movements and an occasional finale, as was the classical custom[iv]. His reason for abandoning piano sonatas is closely related to the second remarkable thing, the seemingly short period in his brief life into which he crammed intensive piano sonata composition (18 months out of his 46-year lifetime of 1810 to 1856).

He started out this year-and-one-half period in his life pining away for the astonishing Clara[v], whose own compositions are only now becoming adequately appreciated. In addition to mothering eight children (of whom three died during her lifetime), she was at various times pretty much the principal Schumann family wage-earner via her continued concert career. Robert was sometimes very efficient and articulate in writing, but at the verbal level, moody, psychotic and “strange,” not particularly well-fitted for the real world, but with an inner greatness well recognized by Clara, if not by her concerned father. For an entire year and a half around 1836 Robert and Clara were forcibly separated from one another by Clara’s father Friedrich Wieck, one of music history’s bad guys for sure. Yet, one has to remember that he had lavished most of his own life on the career of his genius daughter, and here comes this strange sphinx Robert – who could be confident about him? Wieck couldn’t see Robert’s greatness, but Clara could and did[vi].

By 1839 Robert and Clara had sued Wieck, and by 1840 had won the court case and married. But as compositional success came within his reach, Robert turned his back on the often-anguished piano sonatas of his most lonely years and began to take very seriously his forthcoming responsibilities as provider. He considered, in accordance with the musical tastes of his day, that he might be better off financially by composing orchestral works or the suites of miniatures we now know him best for, and leaving the more inaccessible keyboard forms like piano sonatas for future listeners (i.e., us). Actually, these suites didn’t work all that well for his career either, in spite of Clara’s heroic exertions to give them public performance as often as possible. The world was really ready to listen to Robert only late in his life, and even more so for decades after his death, when Clara performed his works all over Europe, almost to the end of the nineteenth century. Through all the years, both before and after his eighteen months of piano sonata composition in 1835-7, Robert never lost his respect for the sonata form, as attested by several of his writings, for example those given here in Appendix I. But, except for his Opus 118 late sonatas for three of his young daughters (perhaps more properly “sonatinas”?) he never attempted another serious keyboard sonata after the fragment that is the subject of this study.

The third remarkable thing about this list of piano sonatas is the choice of keys: all minor, except for the Fantasie, opus 17. Actually, as noted by Marston[vii] and others, the reason for the C-major choice for that composition is that it started out as a single movement to celebrate the unveiling of a statue of Beethoven and only later gained other movements and a spirit of longing for Clara. The composer just kept the first movement’s tonality that he had started with, but the listener will note that much, if not most of this Sonata is somewhat anguished.

Surely the choice of minor keys must have had something to do with the man’s moodiness, his loneliness and his distracted life during this sonata period.

But why these particular minor keys?

Perhaps something could be made of that fact reported by Ostwald [viii] and others, that during the period Schumann was writing his sonatas he was interested in the weird but widely-read theories of one Christian Schubart, who associated different keys with different psychological states in a most detailed way[ix]. The list of Schubart’s characterizations of the different keys is so crazy that I have been unable to resist the temptation to include an excerpt here (as Appendix II).

And it particularly remained a mystery why Schumann twice in succession picked F-minor, a key he otherwise visited occasionally, but seems not to have particularly favored or disfavored at any other time in his career. He himself claimed in correspondence that the fragment was “very different” from the Concerto without Orchestra, the other completed and published F-minor piano sonata. Different how?

And there is a fourth remarkable thing, which I learned from Reich’s Clara Schumann biography (Reference v). The first F-minor sonata, op. 14, seems never to have been performed in public by Clara during her long lifetime. To me it is remotely conceivable that the reason she only performed this sonata in private to one or two friends is that it was so obviously a very special piece of the couple’s private romantic life, apart and then together? The beautiful slow movement with its astonishing heart-rending ending, is explicitly entitled Variations on a theme of Clara Wieck, based on a (now lost) piece by Clara; no other of his sonatas has such an explicit sharing of musical creativity.

The search concluded

Back to the details on how I succeeded in obtaining this fragment, such an important document in Schumann’s on-and-then-off love affair with piano sonata form.

Enter Tim Carter, chair of the UNC Music Department, specialist in early music and a web super-sleuth. He and I were having dinner one evening and he was telling me about the many amazing new details he had uncovered concerning the 1936 music drama Johnny Johnson, written by our Dad, the playwright Paul Green; music by Kurt Weill. When I thought to mention my dead-end Schumann researches, Tim ventured the comment that maybe he could find out who had bought the autograph, and the next thing I knew he had located it. It was right here in the U. S. of A. – more specifically at Stanford University. Just to show you what Google plus Tim Carter could do with a slender clue, the smoking gun was 3 or 4 words buried in the many pages of vol. 13, no. 1 of the minutes of the Music Library Association, Northern California Chapter[x].It seems that the Hewlett Foundation had turned out to be the successful bidder on the mysterious fragment and had given it to the Stanford Library. At this point, all I had to do is send Stanford a check for $4.45 and, at long last, I had a photocopy.

I later learned through Prof. Jon Finson of the UNC Music Department that the autograph was a “gift of Walter B. Hewlett in honor of Condaleezza Rice, Provost of Stanford University, 1998.” Miss Rice was later the Secretary of State in the administration of the second Bush. The citation for this is is

The autograph photocopy that I received from Stanford seems to be of the same ms. that departed Leipzig into the hands of the Sotheby auction house. Once I had the photocopy of the autograph, I got a copy of the Sibelius music scoring software, and after many days of gruesome input-check-alter-undo-redo-disrupt-redo-recheck, etc. the transcription of the entire two-movement fragment was now essentially complete. It only remained for Fred to debug this so as to fix certain errors..

Schumann’s musical script is surprisingly neat and legible (compare Beethoven), and there are only a very few places where it is unclear what a given mark might mean. (The distinction between sharps and naturals is one). Much of the material that survives, particularly the Finale fragment, exhibits a good state of detail: expression marks, tempo changes, etc. are all there.

What does it sound like?

Because the Sibelius software allows one to hear what one has notated, one can get an impression of it, once the piece is entered as a Sibelius file. Is it a great masterwork? It sounds pretty vigorous, even dramatic to me, but not up to his best (but after all, it is simply an early draft). I can’t believe that the reason Schumann failed to resume work (after a many-months’ interruption due to journalistic obligations) was because the musical inspiration was insufficient. I prefer to believe in the idea cited earlier and widely held by his biographers, that at that time piano sonatas had lost their attraction for him for economic reasons – his particular audiences seemed no longer to care for them. This makes me wish that he really had been less, not more practically-minded, so that the world would now have the entire second F-minor sonata to enjoy, and maybe others too.

What does it look like, and why?

In the first movement (Allegro molto), there are 66 measures, in two seemingly disconnected pieces, but clearly written on opposite sides of the same sheet. This can be proved because the irregular tearing pattern at the right side of page 1 and that at the left side of page 3 match exactly. Schumann apparently had a stock of music sheets, each with 10 staves, each page encompassing up to 40 or so measures, and when he got going, he’d just rip off another sheet from the pad, with the tear side at the right, and then turn it over sideways to continue. The bottom of each page also shows similar irregularities.

Prof. Finson tells me that in Schumann’s day, music paper often had one or more irregular edges, and that it was rare for all these edges to be straight unless or until they had been bound into a book.

My initial reaction to the first movement autograph is that this is just a few ideas thrown down indiscriminately on two successive sheets. Page 1 (bars 1 through 31) is the more finished of the two, complete with expression marks and other details only for the first 25 or so bars. Page 2 may or may not be related material.

The other movement (Finale: Agitato) must be taken somewhat more seriously. It consists of 166 measures across five pages: 1, 2?, 3, 4, and 5. The “?” that I put for page 2 is because someone has written over the real page number, to the point of illegibility. Possibly, an IR camera could read through it. That pages 3, 4, and 5 are assuredly continuous can be substantiated, not just from the continuity of the note patterns, but also by looking at the match between torn edges of pages 3 and 4 of the sheets of music paper that Schumann used.

In transcribing this autograph using Sibelius, I made no attempt to rectify any material or add to it. This has been undertaken by Fred Moyer, with great success, as I’m sure you’ll agree from comparing the autograph with the Sibelius transcription, and from listening to the composition. Perhaps others who will read this can contribute their thoughts.

Assuming that what I think is page 2 of the Finale is exactly that, then we are likely to be looking at everything Schumann wrote of the Allegro (66 measures) and Finale (166 measures) with nothing missing in the middle. I shall now try to make a case that this is so.

Are there other versions out there?

The manuscript I have (identified on my 1/14/2009 order, number 2005-2061 to the Stanford University Library, as “MSS Codex 1000F – Schumann – Sonate IV – entire”) was bought from Sotheby’s auction house by someone in 1997, and given by the Hewlett Foundation to Stanford in 1998[xi]. Linda Roesner [xii] had appraised it for the Sotheby auction catalog number 194 of 5 December 1997, having been told that it had come as number 11/288 from the Alfred Wiede collection at Weissenborn, a suburb of Zwickau, Schumann’s birthplace. Dr. Wiede, who died some time before 1940, was an important collector of Schumann autographs. Roesner’s description of the names of the two movements, the number of pages, sheets and movement designations tallies exactly with what I have: “4 sheets (8 pages), about 230 measures total“.  I count 232 measures, 66 in the first movement and 166 in the Finale.

However, this does not prove that there are not other versions of the second F-minor sonata floating around, perhaps even more complete than what I have.

To dig further into this question, we can start with the massive 688-page ten-pound doctorate thesis of Wolfgang Boetticher [xiii], written in 1940, just as World War II was beginning to reach its most physically destructive period, with many European cities about to be heavily damaged and many collections scattered. This volume is the Dead Sea Scrolls for Schumann archaeologists, and lists no fewer than four citations of what might once have been part or all of the present document, or which may have became unwittingly conflated with one another to form the present document. The question is: are there differences between any of these and the Stanford document and are they big?


  • Page 566. As shown in the first example above, Boetticher reproduced almost the same initial four measures of the Finale – Sonata IV Agitato as in the autograph copy that I have from Stanford (second example above), and he used these to illustrate Schumann’s use of passages consisting of consecutive sixteenth notes. He attributed the fragment to “SketchbookWiede VII/Bl.2 (page 2).”
  • Page 630, refers to a sketch for opus 14, first and last movements: “An initial interrelated sketching of several movement portions, very difficult to read and rapidly written. 4 sheets, 8 written sides. With the final intentions brought out only with difficulty. Nydahl (Stockholm) some time after 1928.” Captain R. Nydahl of the Stiftelsen Musikkulturens Främjande [Charitable Organization for Promotion of Musical Culture] at Stockholm-Riddergarten, was an important collector of Schumaniana who helped Boetticher with material for his 1940 book.
  • Page 639, referring to an “Allegro of a Piano Sonata in f-minor”, he says: “Moderately careful sketch, not identical to the Grand Sonata for Klavier, opus 14. 2 sheets, 4 written sides. About 1833. WW (Weissenborn) 288.” (The “WW” was an abbreviation for “Wiede-Weissenborn”).
  • Page 639, referring to a “Klaviersonata in f-minor,” Boetticher says: “Sketch entitled ‘Finale Sonata IV Agitato’, about 180 measures with many strike-outs. 2/4 tempo, breaks shortly before the reprise. WW (Weissenborn) Sketchbook 1V”.

From examining just the last three items in this detailed list, I cannot convince myself that there ever were two versions of the F-minor Sonata fragment. It seems more likely that these three largely undated entries in Boetticher can be explained as the same manuscript appearing at different places at different times. It is tempting to conclude, from examining just these plus the Roesner articles, that what I have is everything, and that any ambiguities are unimportant or explainable or both. As for Page 630, this is clearly not Opus 14, the other F-minor piece, but probably this one, seen early on. The first Page 639 listing is the first movement of this second F-minor sonata, and the second Page 639 listing is the Finale. The Page 630 listing must have been the whole two-fragment piece when it was filed as one item, before 1928. Apparently, at some time after 1928 the first movement (cited as “WW 288”) and the Finale (cited as “WW Sketchbook IV”) were archived separately for a time and then eventually recombined to form “11/288” which Roesner appraised for Sotheby’s. After this the overall manuscript was offered at auction in 1997 and sold to Stanford in 1998.

But how does one explain away the large number of discrepancies between the third and fourth measures of the Page 566 citation (the first musical example given above) and the corresponding material in the document I have from Stanford (second example above)?   The first example is cited as having belonged to Herr Wiede’s collection, but located neither in “288” nor in “Sketchbook IV,” but in Sketchbook VII, page 2. A detailed comparison of this passage and the corresponding portions of the autograph is inconclusive. In some instances Boetticher’s version undid something that was patently wrong in the autograph (e.g., on beat two of measure three, the low D-flat should surely be E-flat) but in other cases the converse is true. In my opinion, the differences are probably not enough to sustain the argument that there may be more of Schumann’s last pianoforte sonata to be rediscovered. Indeed, Boetticher has often been criticized, not only for his earlier Nazi sympathies, but for his editorial carelessness.  (See, for example the remarks by Charles Rosen at the 1999 Library of Congress commemoration of Western musicology).

Why did Schumann revisit F-minor so soon after Opus 17?

It seems quite striking that when Schumann returned to composition in 1837, after many months of distraction due to activities involving his musical journal, he started on a second F-minor sonata, even though the one he had completed and published a few months previously as Opus 14 was also in F-minor.  (This is a key that he didn’t actually habitually avoid, but he never in his other compositions tended to favor it either).

The most tempting explanation is that he wanted to write another sonata, but didn’t want to start anew in a different key because he felt that he had enough promising material left over from Opus 14 make starting over unnecessary.  This is the same practice of keeping the key he had started with for existing material that we saw earlier in connection with the Beethoven commemoration, Opus 17.

So, how much material did he have on hand already when he started writing out the first and last movement fragments that are the subject of this paper?  Well, the answer seems ambiguous, at least to me.  He had some material, but not all that much, as follows:

•    The unused Scherzo (Allegro vivacissimo), 167 measures long, appearing on pp. 130 – 135 of Volume IV of the Henle edition of Schumann’s piano works.  This has long been known, and is occasionally performed.

•    One page (56 measures) of a Prestissimo movement, appearing as Folio 12v in the British Museum autograph.  This has been marked for deletion by Schumann himself for the initial publication of Opus 14.

This is not much material.  However, there seems to have been in earlier times much more of the second of these two.  Boetticher, in a second example on page 566 of his monster tome, reports that Herr Nydahl saw in Stockholm about 250 measures of material that began with exactly the same eight measures as given in the 56-measure urtext from the British Museum.

Perhaps one reason Schumann stopped work on the second F-minor sonata was that he didn’t like what he’d done on the important first movement and he had only a few new ideas for the rest of it.  Ostwald (Ref. vii, p. 128) puts the possibility this way, referring to Opus 14:  “Originally in five movements, Schumann tried valiantly to shorten it, setting huge chunks aside for a second F-minor Sonata, which he never finished.”

I have transcribed the existing 56 measures of the Prestissimo into a Sibelius file, and it too sounds pretty good to me – enough so that finding the rest of it should be given a high priority.


This fragment is clearly a work that ought to be heard and studied, even if what Schumann wrote is intact for only fractions of the two movements. It can now be heard.

This fragment marks the end of Schumann’s piano sonata period – there were no more. It was also a transitional event toward the other kinds of work on which the composer would spend the remainder of his short life. To me, there is clearly enough artistic merit in this fragment that it should be brought out of the darkness, studied, performed (perhaps in the form of a short encore piece) and should be the subject of a wider awareness. Its apparent relation to the great Opus 14 sonata, also in F-minor, is enough to make it more than simply a museum piece. And there is also the possibility that some day at least some missing chunks will be found. Stranger things have happened.

Perhaps, during the upcoming Schumann Bicentennial year of 2010, some sort of international effort could be mounted (by UNESCO? EU?) to place all of Schumann’s autographs, fragments especially included, on line in either bitmapped format or some compressed standard that is likely to endure. My experience has been that there is unlikely to ever be such an enduring standard for image compression, so the best solution would be to bit-map everything. At the rate that the capacity-cost curve of backward-compatible nonvolatile memory is improving, this would be the best long-term strategy, albeit with larger short-term expenses. With the present state of the art, the 87 megabytes per page of Freds Urtext images might be too expensive for a comprehensive digitization of anything more than a carefully selected fraction of Schumann’s total output.

Meanwhile, as we have noted, our fragment was probably intended to be supplemented with extra unused material from Opus 14.  Given that, wouldn’t it be worthwhile for some composer today, familiar with Schumann’s idiom, to  flesh out more of the fragment into a full-fledged fifth Schumann sonata in time for next years’s Schumann celebrations?  Is there enough unused Opus 14 material to permit this?  Schumann may have thought so. To recover the rest of the prestissimo movement is a matter of looking at all known Schumann piano fragments in four flats in the hopes of finding again what Mr. Nydahl had found in the 1930s.  This leaves the weakness of the first movement fragment as a  challenge to one of today’s composers, if the objective is to provide a really worthwhile fifth Schumann sonata in toto.

Appendix I – Schumann on Sonata Form

Schumann seems to have run hot and cold over the intrinsic merits of sonata form. On the one hand, it is true that he abandoned this format for his piano compositions after 1840, retaining it only in his chamber music and concerto. Indeed, according to Daverio (p. 135), writing to De Sire in 1839 he expressed preference at that time for his cycles of miniatures, particularly Kreisleriana, over his sonatas.

On the other hand, here is what he had to say about sonata form even sixteen years later in 1855 (Newman, op cit., p. 42, as quoted in Rathbun[xiv]):

“If a composer puts himself to the test with one of the greatest and most important art forms, which the sonata is, the highest demands will be made of him, because not only are an honorable endeavor [and] an artistic conviction required, but after such great examples [as those of the Classic masters] there must be, besides strong talent, a perfect mastery of form and, generally speaking, the technical wherewithal – in short, a superior grade of artistic maturity”.

Rathbun goes on to speculate that part of Schumann’s disenchantment with the form was his observation as a musical journalist that great sonatas were no longer being composed by his peers. Schumann had written the following back in 1839:

“For a long time now we have been silent about any achievements in the category of the sonata, and we really have nothing extraordinary to tell about today. Yet it is always a pleasure, amidst the wild array of fashionable portraits and caricatures, to see again one of these sober faces. For once they were the order of the day, but we see them now only by way of exception. It is strange that sonatas are written mostly by unknown composers; the older living composers who grew up in the heyday of the sonata (the most significant of these are Cramer and then Moscheles) cultivate this category the least. What prompts the former (principally young artists) to compose is easy to guess; there is no more distinguished form with which they could make themselves known and respected by higher criticism. Most of the sonatas of this kind are studies in form; they were hardly born out of strong inner necessity. If the older composers don’t compose any sonatas now, they must have their reasons. We will leave it to them to decide what these are. . . . . . In general it appears that the form has run its course.”

Appendix II – Excerpt from C. Schubart, “Ideen zu einer Ästhetik der Tonkunst,” 1805

Each tonality is either colored or uncolored. One expresses innocence and simplicity with uncolored tones, gentle, melancholic feelings with B keys [mit B tönen]; wild and strong passion with cross-tones [Kreuztönen].

  • C-major is quite pure. Its character signifies: innocence, naivite, the language of children. [Words are italicized here whenever it appeared so in the original.]
  • A-minor affords feminity and tenderness.
  • F-major, pleasurability and peace.
  • D-minor, strong-spirited, begetting spleen and steam.
  • B-flat major, serene affections, a clear conscience, hope, expectations of a better world.
  • G [misprinted as H = our B-natural]-minor, humorlessness, displeasure, dragging one to an unpleasant level, bad-spirited gnashing of the teeth; in a word , rancor and disinclination.
  • E-flat major, the key for love, devotion, the intimate conversation with God; through its modulation to B-flat, the Holy Trinity [trias] are expressed.
  • C-minor, declaration of love, and at the same time, lamenting unlucky love – every languishing, longing, sighing of the lovesick soul resides in this tonality.
  • A-flat major, the key of the grave. Death, the grave, putrefication, eternity lie within its compass.
  • F-minor, deep melancholy, funereal lamentation, and a longing for the grave
  • D-flat major. A squinting [sic!] key, degenerating into pain and rapture, not laughing, but smiling; it cannot howl, but grimaces with a modicum of complaint – one can thus only rarely
    establish character and feeling in this key.
  • B-flat minor. An oddity, for the most part clothed in the raiments of the night. It is somewhat morose, and takes most rarely an agreeable aspect. Mockery of God and the world; displeasure with one’s self and everything; anticipation of suicide – resound in this key.
  • G-flat major. Triumph in the face of difficulties, breathing freely after climbing steep hills; echoes of the spirit that’s struggling and endlessly beset – all reside in the use of this tonality.
  • E-flat minor. Feelings of anxiety of depression of the soul; the in-breeding despair; the blackest heaviness of soul, the gloomiest aspect of the spirit. Each anxiety, each apprehension of the
    shuddering heart breathes from the noble E-flat minor. If ghosts could speak, they would certainly speak in this key.
  • B major. Strongly colored, wild anxiety is proclaimed, clad in the most dazzling colors. Wrath, jealousy, frenzy, delirium, desperation and [Jast – not in my dictionary] of the heart lies in this domain.
  • G-sharp minor. A morose, pressured heart about to suffocate, noise of weeping, which [hinzeufzt] in the double-cross [Doppelkreuz]; this key’s coloration is a strong battle, in a word, with all that sounds tiresome.
  • E-major. Loud, shouting-for-joy, laughing jubilation, and not yet entirely complete enjoyment, lies in this key.
  • C-sharp, minor. The sound of penitence, sad conversation with God; about friends; and the play-fellows of life; murmurs of contented friendship and love lie nearby.
  • A major. This key embodies declaration of guiltless love, contentment with one’s circumstances; hope for meeting again upon parting of a loved one; youthful serenity and trust in God.
  • F-sharp minor. A gloomy key: it pulls on the passion like a mad dog in its aspect. Its voice is resentful and discontented. It appears orderly in its aspect as though not to say: thereafter it always longs for the peacefulness of A-major or for the triumphal blessedness of D-major.
  • D-major. The tonality of triumph, hallelujah, of a war-cry, of a victory celebration. Thus one places [die einladenden] symphonies, marches, feast-day songs, and heaven-celebrating choruses in this key.
  • B-minor is, so to say, the tonality of patience, of quietly awaiting one’s fate, and the result of spiritual resignation. Therefore, its lamentation is gentle, without breaking out at any time into offensive grumbling or whimpering. The use of this tonality is, for all instruments, moderately heavy; for that reason, one finds indeed few pieces that are explicitly set thus.
  • G-major. All countrified, pastoral, each peaceful and happy passion, each tender gratefulness for sincere friendship and true love; – with one word, each gentle and peaceable beating of the heart goes exquisitely in this key. Loss! That would be against its inward-shining lightness, today for a day it will be very much neglected. One doesn’t consider that there is, in the proper understanding, no heavy and light tone: clearly, the apparent heaviness and lightness depend on the composer.
  • E-minor. Naïve, feminine innocent declaration of love, complaint without grumbling; sighs unaccompanied by tears; nearby hope purest in C-major, this tonality speaks of blessedness. There from nature one has only one color; thus one can compare a maiden, dressed in white, with a rose-red bow at her bosom. From this key one travels with inexpressible grace back to the fundamental C-major, where heart and ear find the most complete satisfaction.

Appendix III – A note about sources

I must note that finding out anything about Schumann’s autograph scores is very difficult because of a certain reluctance on the part of the holders of the documents to let the fact of their possession be widely known. I am extremely grateful that the Stanford University Library seems to be an exception. Since so many of Schumann’s autographs have been sold at auction in recent years, piece by piece, and the auction houses are exercising their traditional secrecy, then when ownership changes by auction sale, future secrecy is almost guaranteed. The following quote from Marston’s little volume (Ref. vii, p. 16) on Op. 17 says it very well:

“Study of Schumann’s sketches is still in its infancy. It is important to establish over the Schumann sketch sources the bibliographical control achieved in relation to Beethoven’s sketches in recent years. All the sources must be identified and ‘reconstructed’: that is, their original physical state when used by Schumann must be discovered. Only then will it be possible to begin to understand the relation of the sketches to the finished works.”

McCorkle’s massive Schumann survey goes as far as it can, but is often reduced to admitting that what is needed has disappeared into some private collection.

Appendix IV – Open issues

What is on the missing Page 2 of the first movement, and have I been correct in my identification of the page whose number is overwritten with “”U.4” as Page 2 of the Finale?

Why did the late John Daverio claim (on p. 152) that the second F-minor sonata may have existed in full?

Did Clara’s theme truly exist as a Clara composition?

Is my hypothesis correct about the parent-child relation between the two F-minor pieces, Opus 14 and the fragment?

Why does Grove[xv] refer to “a big romantic sonata” . . . of which a “lost allegro in c-minor may really be the first movement.”

Why are there several small differences (in the third and fourth measures) between (1) Boetticher’s page 566 excerpt, (2) the beginning of the autograph we have been discussing, and possibly (3) the British Museum’s autograph of Schumann’s Opus 14?

Author biography

Dr. Paul E. Green, Jr. is a recently retired electrical engineer who has worked in radiophysics and telecommunications at MIT, IBM and Tellabs. His hobbies of chamber music playing and organ building have led him in a number of musical archaeology directions.

Paul Green, Jr.


[i] W. S. Newman, The Sonata Since Beethoven – Third Edition, W.W. Norton, New York, 1983
[ii] E. Bloom (ed.) Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Fifth Edition, St. Martins, 1954, vol. VII, p. 630
[iii] J. Daverio, Robert Schumann – Herald of a “new Poetic Age,” Oxford Univ. Press, 1997
[iv] C. Rosen, The Classical Style,Norton, Norton, 1972, New York
[v] N. B. Reich, Clara Schumann – The Artist and the Woman, Revised edition, Cornell Univ. Press, 1985
[vi] Film: Spring Symphony (Frühlingssinfonie), with Natasha Kinsky, Babette Hierholzer, Gidon Kramer and others (in German with English subtitles), DSFA Studios, Babelsberg, Germany, 1983. See also the web page, which describes the many movies (some quite obscure) that have been made about this historic love affair.
[vii] N. Marston, Schumann Fantasie, Op. 17, Cambridge University Press, 1992
[viii] P. Ostwald, Schumann – The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius, Northeastern Univ. Press, 1985, p. 145
[ix] C. Schubart, Ideen zu einer Aesthetik der Tonkunst, J. V. Degen, 1806
[xi] T. Carter, Private communication, Dec. 7, 2008.
[xii] Linda C.Roessner, The Autograph of Schumann’s Piano sonata in F Minor, Opus 14, Musical Quarterly, vol. 61, no. 1, 1975, pp. 98-130
[xiii] W. Boetticher, Robert Schumann –Einfuhrung in Personlichkeit und Werk, Bernard Hahnefeld Verlag, Berlin, 1941
[xiv] J. R. Rathbun, A textual History and Analysis of Schumann’s Sonatas Op. 11, op. 14, and op. 22: An Essay together with a Comprehensive Project in Piano Performance, Doctoral thesis, School of Music, University of Iowa, July, 1976
[xv] E. Bloom, ed., op. cit., p. 610

Karl Aage Rasmussen’s completion of Robert Schumann’s 4th Piano Sonata Finale

October 22, 2009: Danish composer and writer Karl Aage Rasmussen has taken what Robert Schumann wrote of the Finale of his 4th Piano Sonata and completed it into a finished work. Rasmussen states “I have tried to avoid ‘composing in the style of a genius’ which is senseless.”His composition is “an attempt to shape the material into a form which will make the music performable as a meaningful whole.”

Certainly no stranger to Robert Schumann, Rasmussen has written a book on the man, orchestrated his Hans Christian Andersen songs, and most recently has written a play based on Robert’s wife, Clara Schumann. A  prolific composer, Rasmussen has arranged and transcribed works by Schubert, Brahms, Stravinsky, Satie, and Carl Nielsen.  To read more on Karl Aage Rasmussen visit his website:



15 Responses to “Schumann’s Unfinished Fourth Sonata”

  1. Betsy Says:

    Fred and Paul, This is extraordinary! Congratulations to you and your collaborators on this work. In a world that’s spinning too fast, it is nice to know there are interested and earnest folks out there who will say, “Stop the planet. We gotta take a look at this!” Namely, the bits of music from Schumann’s lonely but brilliant mind that have surfaced.

    Little did Schumann know, in the words of Old Tom, “There will be some whisper of remembrance” in the distant future. Hats off!


  2. Joanna Says:

    This is a remarkable effort. Thank you both for your unstopppable curiosity, creativity and perseverance! Brilliant!

    What’s next?

  3. Chris Bourg Says:

    Just wanted to provide a working link to the catalog record for the Sonate IV in the Stanford University Libraries Special Collections:


  4. FredMoyer Says:

    Thank you Chris. – FM

  5. Jeffrey Kallberg Says:

    Very nice detective work! And a very helpful software program you’ve put together.

    A couple comments on the interpretation of the manuscript of the first movement.

    1) With respect to your reading of the horizontal line above mm 14-17, you’re right to interpret it as a sign to repeat. Schumann himself confirms this by writing “bis” (i.e. “again” above the barline between mm 14 and 15. (“Bis” was a common abbreviation in 19c sketches – I’ve seen it often in Beethoven and Chopin sketches.)

    2) With mm 14-17 in mind, look above m. 39: to my eye, Schumann’s notation reads “bis (in 8ve)” – i.e. repeat the bracketed material (mm. 39-41) up an octave. As in mm. 14-17, Schumann seems to use the bracket above the staff together with writing “bis”. (And while on m. 41, to me that looks like “pp”, not “pizz”: it would be unusual for Schumann to have used “pizz” in the context of keyboard music.)

  6. Margit L. McCorkle Says:

    To the Mssrs. Green & Moyer:

    My compliments on your essay above which should be of interest to all Schumann fans!

    May I just request a couple corrections concerning myself and my catalogue: clearly I am still alive and well — your reference may be the first (so far as I am aware) to my having already departed this earth…. Also, the Schumann catalogue is not a multi-volume work, but only a very large single volume.

    With respect to the desideratum that all Schumann’s sketches be made available in transcription, this is being carried out gradually by the Schumann scholars editing the multi-volume Collected Edition. This effort is certainly aided by the surfacing of sources for public access, such as fortunately has been the case with the manuscript you have presented here.

    Finally, strictly speaking, Schumann did once more turn to the piano sonata later in life, in the three didactic works he wrote for three of his daughters and published as Op. 118. Not, of course, that these can compare in interest with the early virtuosic works in this genre!

    Sincerely yours,

    Margit L. McCorkle

  7. Paul Green Says:

    Reply to Margit L. McCorkle

    Hi. . . . I don’t know where I got the impression that you had gone the way of John Daverio, Peter Ostwald and others. How awful of me. I’ll fix it right away!

    I just borrowed your magnificent one-volume (sic!) Schumann Werkeverzeichnis from the UNC Library and am numb with admiration for what you accomplished.

    My notion that some rich angel should underwrite making the urtext images available for posterity digitally was to do so in bitmapped format (i.e. the original images, strikeouts, mistakes, blotches, etc. included), maybe even in color. How do you like the bitmap images that Fred has on this web site – you can see every little blotch and slip of the pen. I know that Charles Rosen, for one, seems not to have had much use for the present available editions, especially Boetticher’s. Actually, in thinking it over after looking at your volume, (and considering the ongoing new edition work), I guess there is just too much autograph material out there and much of it is in places where the owner is unlikely to want the uniqueness of his possession of an urtext diluted by making digital images publicly available. Do you agree that a giant digitization project would be a rather hopeless quest at this time?

    Right now I’m looking at a CDROM that the British Library sent me of ADD37056, the images of Opus 14, and discovered another mistake in my paper: there are TWO images on page 566 of Boetticher, the first from the fragment, but there is also a second one, this from Opus 14 (given as Anhang 3 on pg. 60 of your volume). I had the two confused in my paper. This too I will fix. I don’t believe this invalidates my conclusion that Opus 14 and the fragment are “parent and child”; Ostwald also thought so.

    As for the three late sonatas for his young children, Opus 118, I had several words of mention of these in an earlier draft, but they seem to have evaporated. I will reinstate this.

    Again, a thousand thanks for your help. . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . .Paul Green

  8. mary au Says:

    Hello Frederick,

    Have you ever come across a painting, etching… of Schumann’s drawing of black cats on Music manuscript paper? It was supposed to have been drawn by Schumann himself after he was institutionalized in an asylum. One of the cats even have an arched back. My friend remembers seeing it in a book she has, might even have been one of his biographies. However, she cannot find the book anymore.

    I am doing a Halloween recital on 10/31 which includes works for cello and piano by Schumann (Fantasy Pieces and Adagio & Allegro) and both Brahms sonatas (e minor and F major).

    If you have ever seen such a painting.., please me know where I can get a copy of this image. Thanks.

    Any ideas of how to tie Schumann and Brahms to Halloween?

    All Best wishes,

    Mary Au
    (323) 666-2603

  9. FredMoyer Says:

    No I haven’t heard about the Schumann drawing. Perhaps you might find some mention of it in Peter Ostwald’s book “Schumann – The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius” about Schumann. He was a psychologist and he probably would have found that interesting. And I can’t think of a Halloween connection to Schumann/Brahms. Sorry I’m not very helpful.

  10. Michael Lewin Says:

    Dear Mr Green,
    My gratitude and amazement for your most fascinating musical sleuthing, and remarkable discovery.
    I write, however, to tell you that by a byzantine coincidence, I will apprently be practicing at your home on Tuesday morning, as I will be in the area to perform with the Durham Symphony.
    Please give my warmest regards to my friend Fred, and I look forward to meeting you!
    -Michael Lewin

  11. Karl Aage Rasmussen Says:

    Dear Mr. Paul Green.

    Several others have expressed their gratitude for your work on making the Schumann 4th sonata sketch known to the public. I couldn’t agree more. Also your perceptive essay clarifies most things and Fred Moyer’s performance is indeed splendid.

    I am a Danish composer and writer having some experience working to complete similar sketches (most significantly Schubert’s unfinished opera “Sakontala”); you may want to get more information from my site and blog. Thus I immediately decided to take you up on your suggestion: to attempt a completion of the Finale.
    I think I can claim to be “familiar with Schumann’s idiom”, having, among other things, written a book on Schumann, orchestrated his Hans Christian Andersen songs (for the Bregenz Festival, recorded by Bo Skovhus on SONY) and his “Papillons” (commissioned by Riccardo Chailly and the Gewandhaus orchestra) and recently written a play about Clara Schumann.
    However, here, as always, I have tried to avoid “composing in the style of a genius”, which is senseless. I have had to introduce a secondary subject, though, a cantabile version of the theme elaborated in the development section. But that is all. Everything else is derived from the existing material.
    I do not claim that this would be anything like what Schumann would have done. It is just an attempt to shape the material into a form which will make the music performable as a meaningful whole.

    Using the Kontakt player in “Sibelius” you can get an impression. That it is nothing like what a pianist can do goes without saying.

    Thanks so much again for introducing me (and the world) to this overlooked piece by Schumann. I hope you will enjoy – or at least appreciate – this attempt.


    Karl Aage Rasmussen

  12. FredMoyer Says:

    We have placed Mr. Rasmussen’s work onto the main portion of this page (above). It includes a downloadable soundclip and PDF of his score.

  13. robyn wiegman Says:

    I found your posting to be insightful! Thank you.

  14. Where Angels Fear to Tread | Dial M for Musicology Says:

    […] one note thereof.  Now, Prof. Kallberg has drawn my attention to an ongoing project involving an incomplete Fourth Piano Sonata by Robert Schumann, and of course there is the Unheard Beethoven site, which has MIDI […]

  15. Mark Zimmer Says:

    My congratulations on your musical archaeology and your first steps toward becoming The Unheard Schumann! It’s pretty rewarding to dig through these things, although the archives holding Beethoven materials (with one obnoxious exception) seem to be a good deal more accommodating than the folks with the Schumann materials, which is a pity. But there’s plenty more to be discovered there, I’m sure, so please keep at it!!

    Mark Zimmer & The Unheard Beethoven

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