(1810-1856) Complete Works For The Piano
Early Years (b), Opus 7-11 (1835)
From Toccata op.7 to Sonata N.1 in F-sharp minor op. 11
Two CD Set
Toccata (1835) op.7
In the Toccata (1835), op.7, a outlandish piece, all the techniques
refined in the Studies after Paganini will reach their apex.
Deeply impressed by Paganini, Schumann was aspiring to write the most
difficult piece of the entire piano repertoire!
The work was first written in D major and titled “Etude fantastique”,
then reworked in 1832 and named Toccata, following a titling tradition
set by Carl Czerny for “moto perpetuum” style pieces
Allegro in B Minor (1835) op.8
major concern of the composer at this stage of his creative life was
the grasping of the large-scale sonata form that he admired and
extensively studied in the works of Beethoven.
The Allegro in B Minor (1835), op.8 was his first attempt.
The date of the composition of this beginning of a sonate is actually
1831. That is right after Abegg variations and Papillons.
Even though many writers emphasized the “un-evenness” of the overall
structure and the “feeble construction” of the large scale musical
form, the sheer energy with which the 21 years old composer embark in
such large a work (intended to be a full scale Sonata) with fresh and
original musical ideas is worth performing and listening to.
Carnaval (1835) op.9
Clara was still a child, Robert was in love with Ernestine von Fricken,
a young baroness from Boheme. They got secretly engaged in 1834, just
before Ernestine left for her hometown Asch.
Before the mutual feelings faded, this affair triggered th remarkable
Carnaval (1835) op.9 around the Mardi-Gras day of 1835. First
entitled “Scenes mignonnes sur quatre notes” this series is all based
on four notes: ASCH which happen to be also the only “musical” letters
of the name Schumann.
After the eightieth piece of the series, Schumann presents, with the
title “Sphinxes”, those very letters bare and un-harmonized, the key to
the entire cycle. These letters are unveiled as three combinations of
the name of the city where Ernestine lived: Asch. “EsCHA” (E-flat, C,
B,A); “AsCH” (A-flat, C,B) and “AEsCH” (A, E-flat, C,B).
Even though Carnaval is not the most impressive cycle of pieces
Schumann ever composed, it is the most brilliant, the most colorful and
varied one. Liszt admired this piece which he performed in concert in
Six Etudes after Paganini Caprices (1833-1835)
more evolved than the first set, op.3 Études after Paganini Caprices
(1832), this second series, Six Etudes after Paganini Caprices
(1833-1835), op.10, aims to appear “like an original work for the solo
piano” as stated by the composer.
This elaboration often surfaces in various counter-melodies, ebullient
accompaniment parts creating a very complex pianistic universe around
themes by Paganini which are often quite naive and crudely harmonized
in their original form.
Even if those “studies” are not among the favorites brilliant concert
pieces often performed by many virtuosi, they are nevertheless a
milestone work paving the way for the Symphonic Studies op.13 (1834).
Sonata N.1 in F-sharp minor (1835) op.11
The Sonata N.1 in F-sharp minor (1835), op.11, can be cited as the most
significant of the three sonatas by Schumann.
It is a huge scale work and the passionate exuberance of that year
1835, full of drama for the composer, is constantly fighting with his
desire to potently command a wide-scale sonata form. A long enduring
obsession for the young composer, see op.8.
The dedication, for Clara of course, reads: “pour Clara, de Florestan
et Eusébius”. The sonata was premiered by Clara Wieck in 1837, the very
same year when the two lovers secretly got engaged.
The immense piece was not fully appreciated by the audiences, yet Franz
Liszt immediately noticed its uncommon quality and wrote a very
favorable critique about it.
A grandiose Allegro vivace starts with a monumental Introduzione.
The very dense and tragic theme of this Introduction will be
masterfully developed all through the first movement and also appear
metamorphosed in the second (Aria).
A delicately crafted Aria which makes for the second movement brings a
peaceful interlude in this vast and tragic deploy. Somewhat strangely
annotated: “senza passione ma espressivo” (without passion yet
expressive), Liszt said for those forty-five bars which makes for the
only slow movement of this sonata, “one of the most perfect things we
The Scherzo, also very compact as compared with the first and last
movements, is quite Beethovenian almost a parody for the op.109
Sonata's scherzo. The interlude of this scherzo worth mentioning with
its ironical annotation: Lento, alla burla ma pomposo, indeed the
“Davidsbündler” and the “Filistines” are still present here.
The last movement is almost a Sonata on its own and creates a wonderful
balance with the first one.