“Behind the scene” of Schumann’s life and works


Schumann: F.A.E. Sonata for Violin and Piano

II. Intermezzo
IV. Finale

Bach: Partita No.1 in B minor, BWV1002 (piano arrangement by Schumann)

I. Allemande
III. Courante
IV. Double – Presto
V. Sarabande
VI. Double
VII. Tempo di Bourée

Schumann: Piano Quartet in E-flat, Op.47

I. Sostenuto assai – Allegro ma non troppo
II. Scherzo
III. Andante cantabile
IV. Finale

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

robert_schumannAs the fifth and last child of August, a reputational bookseller and dealer, and his wife Johanna, Robert Schumann was born on June 8, 1810 in Zwickau, Lower Saxony. Blessed with his favorable family circumstances, Schumann received his first tuition at age 4, and then in the spring of 1820 he entered Zwickau Lyceum where he continued to study Latin, Greek and French as well as to be strongly influenced by Romantic literature of Jean Paul Richter, aside from Ernst Schultze, Franz von Sonnenberg and Byron. Encouraged by such educational background, Schumann grew up with the foundations of an independent outlook as well as a sense of social status. His first piano lessons started at age 7 with Johann Kuntsch, organist and choirmaster of the Marienkirche, until his technical development came to a sudden end around 1825.

After the death of his father in 1826, he spent the following years at university in Leipzig from 1828 constantly vacillating between the requirements of law and the desire for literature and music, before a final and resolute decision for music. It was around the same year when his meeting with wife-to-be Clara Wieck at a party took place – the most prescient meeting of his life.

During the period from 1830 to 1840, Schumann produced dozens of piano works – ‘Scenes from Childhood’
Op.15, ‘Kreisleriana’ Op.16, ‘Carnival’ Op.9 and several others, which still highly and widely
receive everlasting appraisal today.

However, the traditional researches bring focus onto mental instability that he had gone through taking root in his schizophrenic personality, claiming that this was rather the driving force of Schumann’s creativity. The recent studies provide a contrasting perspective that syphilitic infection that was under way to the secondary stage was responsible for his constant illness and depression as a consequence. In the early 1840s, Schumann even consulted Dr. Müller for psychotherapy with a little medication to cope with his melancholia. While he was working on a piece of chamber music “Andante and Variations” in the absence of Clara on a short return home, Schumann suffered from ‘loneliness’ and ‘hungover’ – “I believe I was somewhat depressed while composing it.” The household book tells of ‘the melancholy of a composer.”

Although Schumann’s quality of life seemed to improve a great deal since the marriage with Clara in September 1840 after years of romance and external conflicts, his psychological disorder had been deteriorating and eventually fell down to full madness – resulting in the attempt to throw himself in the Rhine (1854). The final years were consumed in an asylum in Endenich, just outside of Bonn, throughout. Richarz, Schumann’s psychiatrist, reported the drastic memory decline and his effort for preserving the past from oblivion as recognized in many of his storytelling letters and
manuscripts written towards the end of life. Unable to endure the separation any longer, Clara departed for Endenich for the last time on July 27, 1856 – according to her diary of July 28, Clara fed him a couple of spoonful of tea, a bit of jelly and wine as well: “ he slurped up the wine from my fingers – ah, he knew it was I… ” By the afternoon of July 29 Schumann’s pulse was barely detectable, and died that day at 4 p.m. quietly and alone, Clara having gone to the train station to pick up Joachim from Heidelberg, only arriving back at her husband’s bedside just a half hour later:
“Today I saw him for the last time; I lay a few flowers on his brow so that he might take my love with him.” The burial service took place on July 31, with ‘townspeople flooding in from every street and alleyway as if to see a prince pass by’, according to a poet Klaus Groth in attendance.

Schumann wrote four symphonies from the 1840s, notably the ‘Spring’ (1841) and the D-minor symphony (1841) which was revised for a new version in later years, apart from the Violin Concerto written in 1853. Little known is Schumann’s discovery of the manuscript of Schubert’s Cmajor Symphony the ‘Great’ in the possession of the brother Ferdinand – extolling the work’s heavenly length and incomparably moved, he sent the manuscript to Mendelssohn in Leipzig for its
posthumous premiere on March 21, 1839 – whose achievement deserves historic acclamation. But it can be remarked that the most lovable Schumann is the Schumann of the piano music, the Schumann of the songs, the Schumann of the piano Quintet, Quartet and Concerto – all composed before he was thirty-five – in the sense that his whole personality and outlook changed as he grew older. Goethe suggested that romanticism is a quality antithetic to classicism, signifying the personal approach to his subject on the part of the creative artist, whose gamut, in consequence, will in the first place be determined by the extent of his own emotional experience, with which Schumann himself resonated: “ in his youth the man and the musician in me were always trying to speak at once”, so that despite the spontaneously attractive qualities of his music, it cannot be divorced from its background, nor fully appreciated in terms of pure notes.


Robert & Clara Schumann,
at Johann Anton Völlner’s Hamburg studio,
March 1850.

                                                                     ❋Program Notes❋

F.A.E. Sonata for Violin and Piano

Amidst the whirl of sensational events in the final years of Schumann’s life, a new musical circle was taking shape – along with Brahms, the young violinist Joseph Joachim, Schumann’s twentytwo-year-old protégé, and the twenty-five-year-old Albert Dietrich who was then living in Düsseldorf as Schumann’s pupil. In mid-October 1853 Joachim announced that he would be visiting them from Hannover, prompting those three composers in Düsseldorf to surprise him with a sonata for violin and piano based on the three notes F-A-E, the initials of Joachim’s motto in life, ‘Frei aber einsam ’ (free but solitary), which however was not explained to Schumann by the violinist until November 29, – ‘idea for a sonata for Joachim’ as he noted on October 15 in Schumann’s household book. The work was jointly written by Dietrich with the first movement, Brahms with the Scherzo, and Schumann with the Intermezzo and the Finale. According to the letter on July 17, 1884 by Dietrich, “the whole thing was a joke for the benefit of Joachim, who was
supposed to guess the composers of the individual movements, which he did.” The ‘surprise’ took place on October 28, 1853, therefore the sonata is presumed to have been composed between October 15 and 28. This F.A.E. Sonata represented for Schumann the starting point of and the basis for his 3 rd Violin Sonata. The day after the ‘surprise’, he began working on two new movements which were intended, together with his Intermezzo and Finale from the joint composition, to form the new work – completed on October 31. The posthumous reception of the sonata has been overshadowed by the two violin sonatas Op.105 and Op.121, due to the prevalent belief in the alleged diminution of creative powers in connection with Schumann’s illness and the associated lack of regard for the late works, to which even his wife Clara and his friends Joachim and Brahms tended.



J.S.Bach: Partita No.1 in B Minor, BWV102 (piano accompaniment by Schumann)

The year 1853 was one of the most fruitful times in Schumann’s musical career, receiving a high acclamation for, amongst others, his newly re-orchestrated Symphony in D minor, Op.120 and Piano Concerto presented in the Lower Rhine Music Festival in Düsseldorf, which seemed to spark, for the last time, his extroverted inclinations. At the same time, Schumann was working assiduously on piano accompaniments for the 6 solo violin sonatas and partitas that J. S. Bach originally wrote in 1720, an activity that had several motivations, as usual. First was his need to get his mind in order. Another had to do with his wish to make Bach’s music more accessible to the public, and thereby possibly to earn money. Finally there was Schumann’s new friendship with the violinist Ruppert Becker, who frequently came to the house to try out these new arrangements.

The substantial role for the piano accompaniment in Bach’s violin sonatas and partitas manifests itself in supplementing and articulating the imaginative element largely associated with the harmony that is otherwise inherent in the 17 th-century polyphonic music as well as the pulse essentially in support of the nature of the baroque dance-like movement, so that it becomes more comprehensive to amateurs in the effort of grasping the overall structure. The public appreciation of this arrangement today has yet to suffice the meritorious deed of Schumann through interpreting Bach, perhaps due to the loss of its stylistic purity caused by his neo-classic creativity and occasional discrepancies.




Piano Quartet in E flat Major, Op.47

Following his return from Russia in May 1844, Schumann started to feel “melancholic” again, and after a few “dreadful sleepless nights” he tried to focus his attention on yet another piece of chamber music. “With great satisfaction,” in less than a week he finished his well-known Quartet for Piano and Strings, like the quintet, in the same key of E-flat major. The first performance of this quartet with Clara at the piano took place during a farewell concert for the couple at the Lipzig Gewandhaus on December 8, 1844, shortly before their move to Dresden. Its slow movement is heart-rending in places, a hint perhaps of the sadness that was again beginning to envelop the composer with the approach of winter. As we shall see, the cyclic fluctuations in Schumann’s depressiveness often seemed to coincide with seasonal changes, as well as with other external reminders of passing time, such as birthdays and death-day anniversaries.

The hymnal quality of the introduction (Sostenuto Assai) to the first movement bears comparison with the tone struck by Beethoven in his “Harp” Quartet, Op.74, and “Archduke” Trio, Op.97. The descending melodic lines of the first Trio from the Scherzo replicate themselves in the digressive arabesque in the development section of the finale. The Andante cantabile, given its frankly sentimental cello melody and the rhapsodic, fantastic unfolding of the theme, forms a conflation of variation and tripartite design in a rather private atmosphere. Schumann’s decision to begin the last movement with a spirited fugato places this Piano Quartet in line with a tradition extending back through Beethoven (finale of the C-major Rasumovsky Quartet Op.59-3) to Mozart (finale of the Gmajor String Quartet K.387).






Bär, Ute: F.A.E. Sonata for Violin and Piano, Wiener Urtext Edition, 2007
Chissell, Joan: “The Master Musicians: Schumann”, J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1977
Daverio, John: “Robert Schumann: Herald of a “New Poetic Age””, Oxford University Press, 1997
Geck, Martin: “Robert Schumann: the life and work of a romantic composer”, translated by Stewart Spencer, The University of Chicago Press, 2010
Musgrave, Michael: “The life of Schumann”, Cambridge University Press, 2011
Ostwald, Peter F.: “Schumann: Music And Madness”, Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1985






photo2aHikaru Matsukawa is an international violinist currently with MMus Artist Programme at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. His professional debut was marked when he performed with Kyoto Symphony Orchestra in 2003. In the course of making solo appearances with Osaka Century
Symphony Orchestra (2005, 2007), Central Aichi Symphony Orchestra (2005, 2009), Philharmonia Orchestra Senri (2005, 2014), Kansai Philharmonia Orchestra (2007) and Central Philharmonia Orchestra (2011), Hikaru Matsukawa established himself throughout Japan as soloist with a broad repertoire. In England, he performed with the Cambridge Graduate Orchestra in 2015. He was featured in the McGraw Hill Young Artists Showcase on WXQR Radio in New York in 2009. Having won the 1st prize in the Junior All-Japan Violin Competition in 2003, he won the 2nd prize in the Romania International Competition in Tokyo (2010), the 2nd prize in the Munetsugu Angel Violin Competition (2011) and the 1st prize in Concorso Giovanni Internazionale Musicisti ‘Luigi Zanuccoli’ in Italy (2012). In August 2015, Hikaru performed Vivaldi’s Four Seasons under the direction of Maestro Shlomo Mintz with Orchestre de Chambre de Silésie, in Crans Montana, Switzerland. The violin he plays is Giovanni Grancino 1735.


Tom Blach studied the piano with John Barstow and Yu Chun Yee at the Royal College of Music where he was a major prize winner. Since his highly acclaimed London debut in 1987 under the auspices of the Park Lane Group he has performed extensively in collaboration with many of today’s finest artists. He has appeared on television on the BBC, in France, Spain, Germany and Russia and on radio worldwide, and given recitals at the National Auditorium in Madrid, the Seoul Arts Centre, the Auditorium du Louvre and Salle Gaveau in Paris, the Herkulesaal in Munich, the Royal Festival, the Queen Elizabeth and the Wigmore Halls in London, Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, St. David’s Hall in Cardiff and at festivals including those of Bath, Brighton, Newbury, Harrogate, Swansea, Chichester, Colmar, Palma, Mecklenburg and Schleswig-Holstein.


Ruth Nelson, violinist and viola player, was born in Belfast, and studied at the City of Belfast School of Music until the age of 18. Whilst living in Northern Ireland, Ruth led the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra, and played in the Ulster Youth Orchestra as well as National Youth Orchestra of Ireland. During the studies of music in the University of Bristol, Ruth led all of the major university ensembles and won the university concerto competition later appearing as soloist with the University of Bristol Chamber Orchestra. At the graduation, she was awarded with first-class honor’s and the University of Bristol performance prize. The recent highlights include playing with the Dmitri Ensemble, Bristol Ensemble, St Endellion Festival Orchestra, London Arts Orchestra, the Choir of London on a tour to Middle East, London Graduate Orchestra of which she is the leader. Ruth looks forward to returning to Southwell Festival and MusicFest Aberystwyth this summer. She currently studies the viola with Matthew Jones at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama under a scholarship support from the Guildhall School Trust.


Katy Reader is a UK based cellist, currently studying under Tim Lowe at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She began playing the cello at the age of ten with Santiago Carvalho, and her love of the instrument immediately flourished. She quickly became involved in various musical programmes and competitions at both a local and national level. Her enjoyment of both performing and academic musical study motivated her to undertake an undergraduate Music BA (Hons) at Durham University. Here, she became heavily involved in the performance opportunities available, including playing as principal cellist of several orchestras and participating in various international tours, and founding several chamber ensembles. Specialising in performance at University while studying with Sue Lowe, and playing in masterclasses at the International Cello Gathering, gave Katy the conviction to take her playing to a professional level. Consequently, she applied for a Performance Masters at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Chamber music has consistently been a central element of Katy’s playing, and as such she has had opportunities to play in ensembles at Cadogan Hall, The Sage, Gateshead, The Barbican, Durham Cathedral and the University of Leeds International Concert Hall. She very much hopes that chamber music will remain central and continue to develop in her career.


Jonathan Ferrucci studied the piano and composition at the L. Cherubini Conservatorium of Music in Florence under the guidance of Giuseppe Fricelli, and optained his piano diploma (cum laude) in 2014. From the age of 11, he studied for ten years with Giovanni Carmassi, first at the Conservatorium of Florence, then at the Stefano Strata Academy in Pisa. He has attended Master Classes held by Angela Hewitt, Aldo Ciccolini, Bruno Canino, Christian Zacharis, Dimitri Bashkirov and Robert Levin when he was one of the 12 pianists selected to take part in the Emil Gilels International Festival at the Musikhochschule in Freiburg. Jonathan has performed both in Italy and abroad: in Florence at the Bargello National Museum, the National Library, the French Institute, Villa la Pietra (New York University), in Umbria at the Anteprima of Angela Hewitt’s Trasimeno Music Festival in July 2015, at the Musik Huset in Ahrus, Denmark, at the Bartòk Conservatorium and the Millenaris Art Centre in Budapest, also Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan. In 2015, he performed in Sydney at the Italian Institute of Culture, at the St Andrew’s College, and in Newcastle at the Newcastle Art Gallery with conductor David Banney and the Newcastle Strings. Jonathan has also played in several chamber ensembles, such as Florence Conservatory Orchestra. Together with Giulia Grassi, he is the Artistic Director of the Lizzano Music Festival and also as soloist. Jonathan currently studies with Joan Havill at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, supported by scholarship from School.