Robert Schumann. This man causes me pain. This man gives me joy. All at the same time. You may wonder why. Because of a stupid obsession of mine, one of these senseless ideas man comes up with to torture himself. Some time ago I have decided that I like Franz Schubert better than Schumann. I know both men’s works fairly well by now, and I hate to admit it, but if I am honest, Schumann is equal to Schubert. It. Can. Not. Be. I will never admit that in public. No way.
About being a fool
Every now and then, mostly after sunset, I decide to enjoy some work written by Schubert… and end up listening to Schumann. And I feel guilty about feeling so good with Schumann’s music. Stupid isn’t it? No ranking of composers has ever made sense and my idée fixe about Schubert being necessarily better than Schumann is haunting me. I can’t drive it away, it always comes back. What a fool I am!
Anyway I just looked out of the window and saw this darkening blue sky. I was impressed although I have observed this phenomenon before. Today it impressed me. And without even thinking about Schubert I picked Schumann’s Cello Concerto in A minor as a musical companion for tonight while I wait for my wife to come home.
No applause, please!
Schumann, Menschenskind1, what a piece! It is of outstanding elegance, wonderfully orchestrated. The cello parts are very expressive, the orchestral parts unobtrusive, wonderfully lyrical, perfectly fitting the solo parts, even enhancing it. He wrote it in October 1850 within two weeks shortly after having been nominated music director in Düsseldorf. It is written in three movements played without breaks. Schumann apparently abhorred applause between two movements, so he outmaneuvered any enthusiastic audience. However, the cello concerto was never performed during his lifetime.
Clara Schumann was enthusiastic about the concerto. In November 1850 she noted in her diary: “It pleases me very much and seems to me to be written in true violoncello style. A year passed and in November 1851 she wrote: “I have played Robert’s Violoncello Concerto through again, thus giving myself a truly musical and happy hour. ”
I am truly glad Schumann gave me a happy hour too and kept me good company through a recording by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Claudio Abbado and the Russian cellist Natalia Gutman.
1Menschenskind in German means literally “child of a human” and could be translated with… son of a gun?! German is much more poetic.
© Charles Thibo