As undeniably persuasive the music of Robert Schumann (1810 – 1856) is, he creates many challenging moments for both performers and listeners. Turbulent thoughts and emotions are melded with a very sophisticated intellect that flirts with the cryptic, and his mode of discourse may, at first, be obtuse. But Schumann presents his ideas with such appealing beauty, and that is perhaps the invitation he extends to us. Our hearts once disarmed find his music to be immensely courageous, ingenious, and awe inspiring in its unflinching embrace of the human condition.
The Fantasiestücke (Fantasy Pieces), Op. 73, is a work originally intended for the clarinet and piano. Ferdinand David (1810 – 1873) (the concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, particularly famous for his close work with Mendelssohn on the latter’s Violin Concerto in E minor), however, performed the Fantasiestücke on the violin, and then suggested to Schumann that he write specifically for the violin and piano. Schumann, likewise, authorized publication of the Fantasiestücke in its violin version.
Two sonatas written specifically for violin and piano (one in A minor and another in D minor) soon followed, and were composed in quick succession. The later D minor sonata was dedicated to Ferdinand David.
A note about Schumann and his tempo indications:
Schumann, who steeped himself in literature and the subtleties of poetic sentiment, chose sensitive and imaginative, yet also very disciplined and specific directions for his tempi, articulations and phrase markings. He also provides specific metronome number markings for all of the movements, and several of those metronome markings are unorthodox in that they fall between commonly accepted metronome marking divisions (e.g., The final movement of the Sonata in A minor is given a metronome marking of 94 [beats per minute] to the quarter note, whereas, on a traditional metronome, the ‘notched’ division after 92 is 96.) In this interpretation, Toshiki and I have approached Schumann’s uncompromising specificity in tempo as an indication of particular subtlety.