Violin Sonata No.1 in A minor Op.105

Composer: Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
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Composer: Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)

Performance date: 30/06/2014

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1851

Duration: 00:18:08

Recording Engineer: Richard McCullough, RTE

Instrumentation: vn, pf

Instrumentation Category:Duo

Artists: Carolin Widmann - [violin]
José Gallardo - [piano]

By 1850, when
Schumann moved to Düsseldorf as their municipal Music Director, he was
considered by many to be Germany‘s
greatest living composer. Schumann was not a success as a conductor as he was
gradually losing touch with reality but in the four years 1850-54 he hardly
seemed to stop composing. For a long time these late works of Schumann were
dismissed as the ramblings of a diseased mind, a campaign, it has to be said,
begun by Clara, his long-suffering wife, who could never be accused of
disloyalty. However posterity has grown kinder and we marvel that these works
once were rejected.

His style had moved
a long way from the miraculous youthful piano works, that unstoppable flow of
ideas that seemed to trip up over each other in their desire to reach the page
had been replaced by a more serious muse, who could replace unceasing invention
with masterly structures and a sure grasp of form. Three violinists inspired
this late flurry of violin music, Ferdinand David, leader of the famous Leipzig
Gewandhaus Orchestra and co-founder with Mendelssohn of the Leipzig
Conservatory, Joseph Wasieleweski leader of the orchestra in Düsseldorf and of
course the young Joseph Joachim, already a famous virtuoso. The first two
sonatas followed each other in the autumn of 1851, while the three works for
Joachim date from his last autumn of sanity in 1854.

The First
Sonata is alone among Schumann’s symphonically conceived chamber works in being
cast in three movements, rather than four, with the Allegretto combining the
functions of slow movement and scherzo. The passion of the opening bars of the
Sonata is expressed largely through much use of the rich and intense tone of
the violin’s bottom G string. The main theme, with its turbulent piano
accompaniment, unfolds as though in a single breath and in a stroke of inspiration
the second subject with its striking refrain flows unimpeded out of the
transition. A similar overlap occurs at the start of the recapitulation. Here,
as the development is still reaching its conclusion, the violin gives out the
main subject’s phrase in an achingly expressive broadened form, and the
original tempo is not picked up again until the theme is already in mid-flow.

Allegretto’s main theme, with its phrases culminating in a ritardando followed by a long-held pause, is serene enough to
afford the necessary feeling of repose between the Sonata’s passionate outer
movements. The first reprise of the theme gives way to an episode in a quicker
tempo whose flow is touchingly interrupted by a long-held violin note behind
which the sound of hunting-horns can be heard on the piano, changing from major
to minor. At the end, with a gently rustling sound followed by two pizzicato
chords, this delicately scored piece disappears into thin air.

The unstoppable semiquavers
of the finale’s theme permeates not only the movement’s outer sections, but
also the passionate episode in the major at its centre. During the closing
pages the violinist unobtrusively slips in the expressive version of the main
theme from the opening movement with an underlay of a new triplet rhythm in the
piano, a brief interlude in the finale’s restless motion.