Gloomy premonitions plagued Schumann whilst he was working on his latest composition in 1839. The news that his brother Eduard was dying had deeply shaken him. “Writing a ‘Corpse Fantasy’ since Monday,” he wrote in his diary on 31 March. While he was preparing the composition for publication three-quarters of a year later, he chose the title “Night Pieces” with reference to E. T. A. Hoffmann. However, Schumann probably did not want the work to be perceived as being so nocturnal and dark, because he associated with it the desire that it should “pleasantly remind” one of his brother, who had in the meantime died. We are now publishing it in a newly revised version by Ernst Herttrich reflecting the latest in scholarly research.
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- Night Pieces op. 23
Robert Schumann’s op. 23 Nachtstücke (Night Pieces) place him in a long artistic tradition that had its roots in painting (from Caravaggio, via Georges de la Tour, to Rembrandt) and was adapted to the literary field by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Characteristic of “Nachtstücke” in painting are pictures with a sharp contrast between brightness and darkness, in which some parts of … 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
Schummann's rarely heard Nachtstücke Op 23 should get many new fans in this exemplary score.