Eric Sams

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Eric Sams (3 May 1926 – 13 September 2004) was a British musicologist and Shakespeare scholar.

Born in London, he was raised in Essex; his early brilliance in school earned him a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge at the age of sixteen. His lifelong passion for puzzles and ciphers stood him in good stead in his wartime service in British Intelligence (1944–47). After the war he read modern languages at Cambridge (French and German), 1947–50; upon graduation he entered the Civil Service. In 1952 he married Enid Tidmarsh (died 2002), a pianist. Their elder son, Richard, is a Japanese scholar and chess master working in Tokyo; their younger son Jeremy Sams is a composer, lyricist, playwright, and theatre director.


In music, Sams wrote on and studied a range of subjects and genres, though his specialty was German lieder. He wrote volumes on the songs of Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and Hugo Wolf. His theory of song-motifs is one of the 20th century's most important contributions to the research in the field of German song studies. From 1965 to 1980 he was a regular contributor to The Musical Times with essays and reviews. Most notably, he wrote on Schumann's and Brahms's ciphers and music codes (the "Clara-Theme", among others), on Elgar's Enigma and on Schubert's and Schumann's pathologies. His New Grove articles include Schubert and Schumann work-list, "Wolf" and Wolf work-list, "Mörike", "Hanslick" and "Musical Cryptography" (also in Grove 6). He reviewed opera performance for the New Statesman, 1976–78 and wrote record reviews for Gramophone 1976–78.


In the field of Shakespeare studies, Sams specialized in the early phases of Shakespeare's career. He argued strongly against the concept of memorial reconstruction, believing that variants from standard Shakespeare texts were more likely the playwright's own early versions. He wrote books defending the attributions of the anonymous plays Edward III and Edmund Ironside to Shakespeare, and a chronology of the poet's early career, The Real Shakespeare. Its sequel, covering the later years, remained unfinished at Sams's death but has since been published as an e-book.

Selected works[edit]

  • The Songs of Hugo Wolf, 1961.
  • The Songs of Robert Schumann, 1969.
  • Brahms Songs, 1972
  • Shakespeare's Lost Play, Edmund Ironside, 1986.
  • The Real Shakespeare: Retrieving the Early years, 1564-1594, 1995.
  • Shakespeare's Edward III: An Early Play Restored to the Canon, 1996.
  • The Songs of Johannes Brahms, 2000.
  • Essays and reviews on music, Shakespeare, and cryptography, 1966-1998, online edition in the web-pages of the Centro Studi "Eric Sams"
  • The Real Shakespeare II: Retrieving the Later Years, 1594-1616, 2008, e-book published by the Centro Studi "Eric Sams"
  • Opere complete in 15 volumi. Collana diretta da Erik Battaglia e Valentina Valente. Traduzione e cura di Erik Battaglia. Asti, Analogon Edizioni, 2007- (Vol.1, Il Tema di Clara, 2007; Vol.2, Variazioni con Enigma svelato, 2008; Vol.3, Introduzione ai Lieder di Brahms, 2008; Vol.4, Hugo Wolf. Introduzione alla vita e alle opere, 2008; Vol.5, Tabù or not tabù, 2010; Vol.6, I Lieder di Robert Schumann, 2010; Vol.7, Robert Schumann, Jean Paul: Papillons, with an Introduction and a Commentary by Eric Sams, 2010; Vol. 8, Musica e codici cifrati, 2011; Vol. 9, I Lieder di Hugo Wolf, 2011; Vol. 10, I Lieder di Johannes Brahms, 2013; Vol. 11, L'opera lirica è perfidia e passione per paranoici, forthcoming 2014)


  • Gerald Moore, Preface to The Songs of Hugo Wolf, see above.
  • id., Preface to The Songs of Robert Schumann, see above.
  • Graham Johnson, Preface to The Songs of Johannes Brahms, see above.
  • Anthony Burgess, "Cygnet of Avon", The Observer, February 2, 1986, p. 29
  • Erik Battaglia, "The application of thought to musicology. A Tribute to Eric Sams", in SSUSA (Schubert Society of the USA) Newsletter, Vol. 3, n.l 1, 2005; reprinted in The Lyrica, newsletter published by the Lyrica Society for Word-Music Relations, Harvard, n. 26, Spring 2005.
  • Andrew Lamb, "Elgar, Shakespeare, and A Little Light Music", Essay for the Centro Studi Eric Sams, 2007
  • Ron Rosenbaum, "A visit with an avenging angel" in The Shakespeare Wars, 2008, pp. 66-75.
  • Francis J. Sypher, "Two Essays on Eric Sams", written for the Centro Studi Eric Sams, 2009 and 2011 (also a numbered pamphlet edition, New York 2009-2011)

External links[edit]

  • "Centro Studi Eric Sams" Online Publication of all his essays and reviews on music, on Shakespeare, on cryptography (with letters, lectures and interviews)