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SCHUMANN, R.: Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13 / Fantasie in C Major, Op. 17


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Robert Schumann (1810-1856)


Symphonic Etudes Phantasie in C major


Robert Schumann is in many ways typical of the age inwhich he lived, combining in his music a number of theprincipal characteristics of Romanticism, as he did in hislife. Born in Zwickau in 1810, the son of a bookseller,publisher and writer, he showed an early interest inliterature and was to make a name for himself in lateryears as a writer and as editor of the Neue Zeitschrift f??rMusik, a journal launched in 1834. His father encouragedhis literary and musical interests and at one time thoughtof sending him to study with Weber, a proposal that wasabandoned with the death of the latter, closely followedby the death of Schumann's father.

Schumann's career now followed a moreconventional course. In 1828 he entered the University ofLeipzig, where his attention to his studies was asintermittent as it was to be the following year atHeidelberg. He was eventually able to persuade hismother and guardian that he should be allowed to studymusic under the well- known piano teacher FriedrichWieck, whose own energies had been directed with someintensity towards the training of his own daughter Clara,a pianist of prodigious early talent. Schumann'sambitions as a pianist, however, were frustrated by aweakness in the fingers, whatever its true cause, and hisother musical studies had, at the very least, lackedapplication. Nevertheless in the 1830s he wrote a greatdeal of music for the piano, often in the form of shorter,genre pieces, with some extra-musical literary orautobiographical association. There was an affair withone of Wieck's pupils, later broken off, but by 1835 hehad begun to turn his attention to Clara Wieck, nine yearshis junior. Wieck had good reason to object to the liaison.

His daughter had a career before her as a concertperformer and Schumann had shown signs of instabilityof character, whatever his abilities as a composer mightbe. Matters were taken to an extreme when resort washad to litigation, in order to prevent what Wieck saw as adisastrous marriage.

It was not until 1840 that Schumann was eventuallyable to marry Clara, after her father's legal attempts tooppose the match had finally failed. The couple marriedin September, remaining first in Leipzig, althoughjourneys took place for concert appearances by Clara,generally accompanied by her husband, whose positionwas of lesser distinction. In 1844 they moved to Dresden,where it seemed that Schumann might recover from thebouts of depression that he had suffered in the earlierdays of marriage. Here again no official position seemedto offer itself and it was only in 1849 that the prospect ofemployment arose, this time in D??sseldorf, whereSchumann took up his position as director of music in1850.

Mendelssohn had enjoyed an uneasy relationshipwith the D??sseldorf authorities, and Schumann, muchless skilled in administration and conducting, provedeven less able to cope with the difficulties that arose. Thepressures on him led to a complete nervous break-downin 1854 and final years spent in an asylum at Endenich,where he died in 1856.

Schumann wrote his Symphonic Studies during theyears from 1834 and 1837, revising the work in 1852,when he dedicated it to his friend William SterndaleBennett. It was later to appear after his death in variouslyextended forms. The original composition came at a timewhen he was concerned with the Neue Zeitschrift andwith the writing of piano music.

In 1834, when the Symphonic Studies were firstconceived, Schumann was directing his amatoryintentions towards Ernestine von Fricken, a young pupilof Wieck. His ardour cooled when he discovered that shewas the illegitimate daughter of Baron von Fricken, andnot likely to inherit from him. The theme for the studieswas designed as a compliment to the Baron and makesuse of a melody of his, the basis of a set of variations forflute. At first Schumann brought together a group oftwelve variations, out of the original eighteen, under thetitle 12 Davidsb??ndler Studien, a reference to thefictititious League of David, banded together against thecultural Philistines of the day. This was later to bechanged to Et??den in Orchestercharakter f??r Pianofortevon Florestan und Eusebius (Studies in Orchestral Stylefor Piano by Florestan and Eusebius), Florestan andEusebius being two of the pseudonyms Schumann usedin his critical writing, one passionate, the otherthoughtful. The publishers, however, provided thesimpler XII Etudes symphoniques, issuing the workunder this title in 1837. The 1852 edition bore the titleEtudes en forme de variations, and included only tenvariations. Five more were published seventeen yearsafter Schumann's death, in 1873, here included and listedunder the title Anhang.

The work opens with the solemn C sharp minortheme, followed by ascending imitative entries in theslightly livelier first Etude, here leading to the delicateaccompanying tracery of the first Anhang variation. Thetheme is heard in the bass of the second Etude, while thethird brings rapid arpeggios. The solid chords of thefourth Etude are succeeded by a fifth scherzando inwhich the left hand answers the right. The fourth of theAnhang variations provides an expressive contrast, whilethe sixth Etude is marked by the wide leaps in the lefthand, with the melody heard in the upper part. The tripletfiguration of the E major seventh Etude here leads to thethird and second of the Anhang variations, the latter withelaborate figuration. The eight Etude uses a motif ofcontrapuntal suggestion, to be followed by the very rapidninth and the fifth Anhang variation, written in D flatmajor. An energetic tenth Etude and an expressiveeleventh are capped by the triumphant more extendedfinal treatment of the material, now in D flat major, theenharmonic equivalent of the tonic major of C sharp.

Schumann's Phantasie in C major, Op.17, originallybore the title Obolen auf Beethovens Monument: Ruinen,Trophaen, Palmen: grosse Sonate f??r das Pianoforte f??rBeethovens Denkmal, von Florestan und Eusebius,Op.12 (Small Contribution to Beethoven's Monument:Ruins, Trophies, Palms: Grand Sonata for the Pianofortefor Beethoven's Memorial, by Florestan and Eusebius).

It had the alternative and briefer title of Ruine,Siegesbogen und Sternbild (Ruinen, Triumphbogen undSternenkranz: Ruins, Triumphal Arch and Constellation).

The matter of the proposed Beethoven monument inBonn was one that interested a number of musicians. Astatue was eventually erected in 1845, largely as theresult of the generosity of Franz Liszt, who provided thegreater part of the money needed, while reserving tohimself the choice of artist. Schumann, who in the enddedicated his Phantasie to Liszt, suggested that ahundred copies of his Grand Sonata, as it was firstenvisaged, should be sold for the benefit of the fund. Thisdoes not seem to have happened, and in any case, beforeits publication in 1839, the work underwent somerevision. Liszt replied enthusiastically to the dedicationto him, while offering his assistance to Schumann in hisproposed relationship with Clara Wieck, in answer toSchumann's implied revelation of the state of hisaffections.

Whatever changes may have been made, thePhantasie remains something of a sonata. It is in threemovements, prefaced by four lines from FriedrichSchlegel:

Durch alle Tone tonet
in bunten Erdentraum
ein leiser Ton gezogen
f??r den, der heimlich lauschet.


(Through all the notes that sound


in the varied dream of earth,


a gentle sound there is


for the one who listens secretly.)
Facts
Item number 8557673
Barcode 747313267323
Release date 09/01/2004
Category Romantic
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Performers
Artists Glemser, Bernd
Glemser, Bernd
Composers Schumann, Robert
Schumann, Robert
Producers Muller, Wolfgang
Disc: 1
Phantasie in C major, Op. 17
1 Thema (Andante)
2 Etude I (Un poco piu vivo)
3 Anhang Variation I
4 Etude II (Espressivo)
5 Etude III (Vivace)
6 Etude IV
7 Etude V (Scherzando)
8 Anhang Variation IV
9 Etude VI (Agitato)
10 Etude VII (Allegro molto)
11 Anhang Variation III
12 Anhang Variation II
13 Etude VIII (Sempre marcatissimo)
14 Etude IX (Presto possibile)
15 Anhang Variation V
16 Etude X (Sempre con energia)
17 Etude XI (Con espressione)
18 Etude XII (Allegro brillante: Finale)
19 Durchaus phantastisch und leidenschaftlich vorzutr
20 Massig. Durchaus energisch
21 Langsam getragen (durchweg leise zu halten)
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