Interpretational insights into the first movement of a work written by a musical genius with an increasingly unsettled mind
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Something special happened when I was in the studio recording the Schumann sonatas with my pianist, Dénes Várjon. We were so in paradise over those two days that I didn’t care if anybody liked it or not. Every time I hear two notes of Schumann I’m pulled in right away. When I touch his music I feel so close to him and this special language.
I find it interesting how late in his life Schumann discovered the violin: he wrote the First (op.105) and Second Sonatas in 1851; the Violin Concerto and the Third Sonata in 1853; and in 1856 he died. The First Sonata is the most ‘sane’, if you can talk of sanity in Schumann’s music; the second is huge – so big and grand, with an almost-broken fragility in the minimalistic second movement, as though he didn’t care if anyone heard it or not. It was not written to please anybody: it was something he needed to write for himself, to survive.
Clara Schumann said the Third Sonata was the work of a sick man. She was ashamed of it and many people even today say it has no context, as though it is falling apart.
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