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Papillons, Op. 2, is a suite of piano pieces written in 1831 by Robert Schumann. The title means 'butterflies' in French. The work is meant to represent a masked ball and was inspired by Jean Paul's novel Flegeljahre.[1]

The suite begins with a six-measure introduction before launching into a variety of dance-like movements. Each movement is unrelated to the preceding ones, except that the second, A major, theme of the sixth movement recurs in G major in the tenth movement and the theme of the first movement returns in the finale. Eric Jensen notes that the 11th movement is appropriately a polonaise as Vult and Wina speak in her native language, Polish (Jensen 2001, 92-93). This movement starts out by quoting the theme of the traditional Grossvater Tanz (Grandfather's Dance), which was always played at the end of a wedding or similar celebration. Repeated notes near the end of the piece suggest a clock striking, signifying the end of the ball.

Related works[edit]

Schumann quoted some themes from Papillons in his later work, Carnaval, Op. 9, but none of them appear in the section of that work titled "Papillons". The main waltz theme from the first movement in Papillons was quoted in the section "Florestan", with an explicit acknowledgment written in the score, and again in the final section, "Marche des Davidsbündler contre les Philistins", but without acknowledgment. The Grandfather Dance also appears in the final section, with the inscription "Thème du XVIIème siècle". Jörg Widmann quotes starting 8 bars of finale to entry of his third string quartet 'The Hunt'.


  1. ^ Explicating Jean Paul: Robert Schumann's Program for "Papillons," Op. 2 Eric Frederick Jensen 19th-Century Music, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Autumn, 1998), pp. 127-143 Published by: University of California Press Article DOI: 10.2307/746854. Accessed via JSTOR (subscription required), Article Stable URL:

Jensen, Eric Frederick. 2001. Schumann. New York: Oxford University Press.

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