The circumstances in which these poetic “Soirée Pieces” (thus their original title) came into being are quite surprising. In 1849 Dresden was seized by violent political turmoil that ultimately forced Schumann to flee with Clara to the countryside. Yet none of this is apparent in the music of these three pieces, whose idyllic character signifies a longing for harmony and seclusion. Originally conceived for the clarinet, they were accompanied by alternative parts for violin and cello as early as the original print. We have subjected our editions to a thoroughgoing critique and include a section of detailed editorial notes.
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According to Schumann himself, 1849 was the most fruitful year of his compositional career. It was his final full year in Dresden, where he had lived with his IV family since December 1844. In May he had fled to nearby Maxen, and later to Kreischa, in order to avoid the heavy fighting between rebels and the troops of Saxony and Prussia. Although he and Clara followed the … more
About the composer
Connected with his oeuvre is the term he coined, Poetic Music, with which he strove for a fusion of literature and music, a paradigm particularly seen in his lyric piano pieces prior to 1839. Thereafter he devoted himself to other genres (song, symphony, chamber music, among others).
|1810||Born in Zwickau on June 8, the son of a bookdealer.|
|from 1828||Studies law in Leipzig, piano with Friedrich Wieck. Decision to pursue a career in music.|
|1830–39||He exclusively composes piano works, mostly cycles, including “Papillons,” Op. 2 (1829–32); “Carnaval,” Op 9 (1834/35); “Davidsbündlertänze,” Op. 6 (1837); “Kinderszenen” (“Scenes from Childhood”), Op. 15 (1837/38); “Kreisleriana,” Op. 16 (1838); “Noveletten,” Op. 21 (1838).|
|1832||A paralysis of a finger in his right hand makes a career as a pianist impossible. Founding in 1833 of the fantasy brotherhood the “Davidsbund” (“League of David”).|
|1835–44||Editor of the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik (New Journal of Music).|
|1840||Marriage to Clara Wieck; 138 songs, including the Eichendorff Liederkreis, Op. 39; the song cycle “Dichterliebe,” Op. 48|
|1841||Symphony No. 1 in B-flat major (“Spring” Symphony), Op. 38, and Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120.|
|1842||Three string quartets, Op. 41; further chamber music.|
|1843||Teacher of composition at the Leipzig Conservatory. Oratorio “Paradise and the Peri,” Op. 50.|
|1845||He settles in Dresden. Journey to Russia.|
|1845||Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54, Symphony No. 2 in C major, Op. 61.|
|1850||City music director in Düsseldorf. Premiere in Leipzig of his opera “Genoveva,” Op. 81. Symphony in E-flat major (“Rhenish”), Op. 97; Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129.|
|1853||Beginning of his friendship with Brahms. Completion of the Scenes from Faust. Violin Concerto in D minor for Joseph Joachim.|
|1854||Suicide attempt and admission to the psychiatric institution in Endenich, near Bonn.|
|1856||Death in Endenich on July 29.|
About the authors
The sheer popularity of the Fantasiestücke begs the question whether another edition of these pieces is really necessary, but the quality of the edition under review more than counters such concerns. That the print quality and layout is excellent – sharp and clearly laid out – almost goes without saying. But it is Ernst Herttrich’s exceptional editorial work, preface and comments that really make this edition worthwhile.