Anticipating nostalgia with Robert Schumann

The summer is going by. © Charles Thibo

So typically Schumann! The summer hasn’t reached its climax yet, but I am thinking about autumn already. No, Robert Schumann does that, and I am just his eager follower. Never really in the present, always somewhere else, always ahead of the rest of the world and looking back with nostalgic feelings – if there’s a way to inflict suffering upon oneself, Schumann is sure to find it. His Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Minor (op. 105) works exactly this way. How sweet it is to imagine myself remembering in September the warm summer evenings, the lush colours of nature, the particular smell of dry grass, the play of the fireflies.How delicious it is to anticipate the coming melancholia.

Continue reading!

Weird Traits in a Musical Language of Her Own

Franz von Lenbach painted Clara Wieck.

By now the situation has become clear, and the question that I raised in one of my earliest posts about Clara Wieck: She rarely felt an inner voice compelling her to compose. Someone else had to give the impulse, her father Friedrich, her husband Robert. Once she had taken up the challenge, she usually executed the task con brio. Her personal ambition was to be a pianist, to perform, and much less to make history as a composer. Which did not prevent her to write, some lovely, entertaining Romantic piano pieces, such as her op. 15: Vier flüchtige Stücke (Four Fugitive Pieces). How did I come to that conclusion? I read an excellent biography exploring Clara’s character in depth.

Continue reading!

“I hear that D minor sound wildly from afar”

Unconditionally red. © Charles Thibo

Pulsation. Dynamics. Passion. Beauty. Sublimity. Eternity. On 29 May 1841, Robert Schumann noted he had the “hint of a thought for a symphony”. A day later, his wife Clara Wieck made an entry into the Schumann’s common diary: “Yesterday [Robert] has started to write another symphony, that should comprise only one movement, but also an adagio and a fugue. I haven’t heard anything yet, but I observe Robert being busy, and at times I hear that D minor sound wildly from afar and I know that this works comes from the depth of his soul.” What an admirable description!

Continue reading!

Conquering the Realm of Instrumental Music

Schubert Sym2_0000_edited-1
Space. © Charles Thibo

Endless progress. Perpetual Extension. A certain idea of the vastness of space, to be filled with music. Solemn, grandiose music. Those keywords kept coming back while I read Wolfram Steinbeck’s study on Franz Schubert’s symphonies and more specifically about Schubert’s Symphony No. 2 in B flat, D. 125. Schubert wrote this early symphony between December 1814 and March 1815. The short time span shows Schubert’s determination to master a form considered to be the purest art form in Romanticism. The writer E. T. A. Hoffmann who so strongly inspired Robert Schumann, wrote: “[This kind of music] is the key to a realm unknown to humans; a world that has nothing in common with the exterior world that we perceive with our senses […] where all feelings, that could be described by words, are left behind and fade into the indescribable.”

Continue reading!