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Violin Sonata No 2 in D minor Op.121

Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)

Carolin Widmann (photo credit: Kass Kara)

Carolin Widmann (photo credit: Kass Kara)

Composer
Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
Composition Year
1851
Work Movements
1. Ziemlich langsam – Lebhaft
2. Sehr Lebhaft
3. Leise, einfach
4. Bewegt
Artists
José Gallardo [piano], Carolin Widmann [violin]

Programme Note Writer:
© David Winter

The belief that Schumann’s late works are not among his best goes back to his earliest biographer J.W. Wasielewski, who maintained they were lacking in vigour and originality. However Wasielewski explicitly omitted the two violin sonatas from this wide ranging criticism, possibly because he premiered the First Sonata with Clara Schumann; for the Second Sonata his place was taken by Joachim. By this time Schumann had fallen out with the musical authorities in Dusseldorf, where he was Musical Director. His health was obviously deteriorating and he was much more interested in composing than conducting their amateur choir and not very good orchestra.

We should be grateful that Schumann did devote so much time to composing at Dusseldorf. He produced a number of marvellous works; none more so than his two published violin sonatas. The second in D minor begins with a slow introduction of loud chords. These spell out the name of the violinist to whom the work is dedicated, Ferdinand David. There is no note for “i” and in German a “v” becomes an “f”, so the opening chords spell out the letters DAFD.  This theme occurs in at least eleven different versions throughout the sonata. It appears in speeded up form as the first movement moves from the slow introduction to the main body of the movement and it occurs again at the crucial turning points of the movement. It also appears, though less prominently, in the remaining three movements.

Once the first movement assumes its main rapid tempo, we are in a swirling world of surging themes and unsettling off-beat rhythms.  These large scale late works of Schumann are so original in structure that they can often be hard to grasp at once.  Schumann favours the lower strings of the violin so that the sound world he creates in his violin sonatas is richer and darker than usual. This deepens the unsettling mood of turmoil and drama although Schumann includes passages of delicacy and light to offset the prevailing darkness.

The second movement is a scherzo which begins with a repeated four note idea which might easily have come from Schubert. This alternates with a quieter lyrical passage which when slowed down becomes the main theme of the slow movement.  The tune is a version of an old German chorale and provides the basis for a set of four variations. The movement begins with a statement of the theme by the piano while accompanied by pizzicato violin. The variations develop with increasing complexity. The third variation is stormy (DAFD reappears). In the fourth the theme is played by the violin double stopping while the piano accompanies with sweeping arpeggios. This is a glorious passage of wonderful intensity. In the final movement, Schumann returns to the mood of the first movement although more often in major keys than in minor ones. The main theme is built round a busy, bustling figure. The music swirls around it, in Joachim’ phrase, in glorious waves of sound and this fabulous sonata ends on a note of unexpected triumph.

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Violin Sonata No 2 in D minor Op.121

Composer: Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
Performance date: Monday 30th June 2014
Venue: Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,

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Composer Robert Schumann (b. 1810 - d. 1856)
Work Title Violin Sonata No 2 in D minor Op.121
Composition Year 1851
Work Movements 1. Ziemlich langsam – Lebhaft
2. Sehr Lebhaft
3. Leise, einfach
4. Bewegt
Artist(s) José Gallardo [piano], Carolin Widmann [violin]
Performance Date Monday 30th June 2014
Performance Venue Bantry House Library, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland,
Event Crespo Recital Series
Duration 00:33:50
Recording Engineer Richard McCullough, RTE
Instrumentation Category Duo
Instrumentation vn, pf
Programme Note Writer © David Winter

The belief that Schumann’s late works are not among his best goes back to his earliest biographer J.W. Wasielewski, who maintained they were lacking in vigour and originality. However Wasielewski explicitly omitted the two violin sonatas from this wide ranging criticism, possibly because he premiered the First Sonata with Clara Schumann; for the Second Sonata his place was taken by Joachim. By this time Schumann had fallen out with the musical authorities in Dusseldorf, where he was Musical Director. His health was obviously deteriorating and he was much more interested in composing than conducting their amateur choir and not very good orchestra.

We should be grateful that Schumann did devote so much time to composing at Dusseldorf. He produced a number of marvellous works; none more so than his two published violin sonatas. The second in D minor begins with a slow introduction of loud chords. These spell out the name of the violinist to whom the work is dedicated, Ferdinand David. There is no note for “i” and in German a “v” becomes an “f”, so the opening chords spell out the letters DAFD.  This theme occurs in at least eleven different versions throughout the sonata. It appears in speeded up form as the first movement moves from the slow introduction to the main body of the movement and it occurs again at the crucial turning points of the movement. It also appears, though less prominently, in the remaining three movements.

Once the first movement assumes its main rapid tempo, we are in a swirling world of surging themes and unsettling off-beat rhythms.  These large scale late works of Schumann are so original in structure that they can often be hard to grasp at once.  Schumann favours the lower strings of the violin so that the sound world he creates in his violin sonatas is richer and darker than usual. This deepens the unsettling mood of turmoil and drama although Schumann includes passages of delicacy and light to offset the prevailing darkness.

The second movement is a scherzo which begins with a repeated four note idea which might easily have come from Schubert. This alternates with a quieter lyrical passage which when slowed down becomes the main theme of the slow movement.  The tune is a version of an old German chorale and provides the basis for a set of four variations. The movement begins with a statement of the theme by the piano while accompanied by pizzicato violin. The variations develop with increasing complexity. The third variation is stormy (DAFD reappears). In the fourth the theme is played by the violin double stopping while the piano accompanies with sweeping arpeggios. This is a glorious passage of wonderful intensity. In the final movement, Schumann returns to the mood of the first movement although more often in major keys than in minor ones. The main theme is built round a busy, bustling figure. The music swirls around it, in Joachim’ phrase, in glorious waves of sound and this fabulous sonata ends on a note of unexpected triumph.