A refugee trek advances through the countryside. Hermann, a young wealthy man, falls in love with Dorothea, a woman among the refugees who pass his home town. An impossible love? Having vetted the girl with the help of the town’s priest and pharmacist, Hermann’s family agrees to a marriage. The young man himself however is afraid of being rejected by Dorothea. He employs her as a maid until, finally, the mutual love is being revealed and all ends well.
“It is as if we took a yellowish sheet out of an old, lost book, a sheet that reminds us of a time long ago and lets this time shine brightly, so that we forget the present. In a similar way, the fantasies of the master may have illuminated his beloved memories when he found these old melodies, sung in lovely Italy, and wrote this delicate painting of sounds.” Robert Schumann was enthusiastic when he commented in 1843 on Felix Mendelssohn’s Symphony in A major, Op. 90. I can understand him. Schumann’s String Quartet No. 2 in F major (Op. 41/2) made me feel something akin to his experience. I return to the time when I read the novels Schumann loved so dearly, the time I first explored in-depth Schumann’s music. I should listen more often to Schumann. There can be no doubt.
A hint of drama, a longing for tenderness, a calm discussion about him and her, repressed fear to displease, not to be up to the challenge, a touch of don’t-question-my-authority arrogance… is that what inspired Robert Schumann when he wrote the String Quartet No. 1 in A minor, Op. 41? The music triggered those ideas in my mind and perhaps they reflected more my own feelings than Schumann’s. Who knows? Man is a curious beast. Super intelligent, super difficult to live with.
In his lighter moments Robert Schumann was quite a joyful fellow! I could not imagine how else he could have written Op. 102. The German title is “Fünf Stücke im Volkston”, which would give “Five Pieces in a Folk Tune” if translated. But the title is misleading, these pieces, even if written for the amateur musician, have nothing simplistic about them, far from it. They are very refined, carefully constructed, permeated by the elegant, graceful version of German melancholia. To compose a melody creating the illusion to be light is one of the challenges – I think Mozart once said this.