Hillary Nordwell | Opus 6: Robert and Clara Schumann

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Classical: Romantic Era Classical: Piano solo Moods: Solo Instrumental
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Opus 6: Robert and Clara Schumann

by Hillary Nordwell

Solo piano works by Clara and Robert Schumann: Soirées Musicales, Op. 6 and Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6... a musical love story.
Genre: Classical: Romantic Era
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Soirées Musicales, Op. 6: 1. Toccatina
2:21 album only
2. Soirées Musicales, Op. 6: 2. Notturno
5:15 album only
3. Soirées Musicales, Op. 6: 3. Mazurka in G Minor
3:18 album only
4. Soirées Musicales, Op. 6: 4. Ballade
7:04 album only
5. Soirées Musicales, Op. 6: 5. Mazurka in G Major
2:34 album only
6. Soirées Musicales, Op. 6: 6. Polonaise
3:54 album only
7. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 1. Lebhaft
1:39 album only
8. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 2. Innig
1:45 album only
9. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 3. Etwas hahnbüchen
1:30 album only
10. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 4. Ungeduldig
0:51 album only
11. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 5. Einfach
2:09 album only
12. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 6. Sehr rasch und in sich hinein
2:00 album only
13. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 7. Nicht schnell. Mit äusserst starker Empfindung
4:41 album only
14. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 8. Frisch
1:13 album only
15. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 9. Hierauf schloss Floristan und es zuckte ihm schmerzlich um die Lippen
1:31 album only
16. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 10. Balladenmässig. Sehr rasch
1:35 album only
17. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 11. Einfach
1:50 album only
18. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 12. Mit Humor
0:57 album only
19. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 13. Wild und lustig
3:23 album only
20. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 14. Zart und singend
2:33 album only
21. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 15. Frisch
2:01 album only
22. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 16. Mit gutem Humor
1:53 album only
23. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 17. Wie aus der Ferne
4:05 album only
24. Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6: 18. Ganz zum Überfluss meinte Eusebius noch Folgendes; dabei sprach aber viel Seligkeit aus seinen Augen
2:02 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Tumultuous and beautiful, the love story between Clara and Robert Schumann captured my imagination the first time I encountered it, when my discerning professor, Catherine Kautsky, sent me off to listen to the Davidsbündlertänze because she thought it would be a “good piece for me,” and again when I read three volumes of letters to prepare for a presentation in Paul Hersh’s Graduate Seminar on Schumann. The fact that one can read almost every word of communication that passed between the two during the time leading up to their marriage is astounding, and incredibly Romantic, in every sense of the word. Somewhere along the way, I realized it was their music, in addition to the written word, that enabled them to share such a fulfilling “long-distance” relationship, despite the fact that Clara’s father made it nearly impossible for them to spend any significant amount of time together. Out of that realization comes this album, a pairing of their Opus 6 works; in a way, its own musical love story.

Clara composed her Soirées Musicales during a time of quiet excitement and deep disappointment, at 15 to 17 years of age. Robert Schumann had come into her life as a 20 year old student of her father’s, living with her family during his studies. Little Clara, already a well-known pianist, was 11 years old. Robert was friendly with Clara and her brothers, playing games with them and telling them ghost stories, and was certainly also involved in the music-filled evenings in her home. As the years went by, Clara’s feelings for Robert began to deepen into romance, which caused her father to send her away to Dresden to study. By the time she returned, Clara discovered that Robert was engaged to one of her closest friends. The engagement was short-lived and it seems Schumann may have broken it off due to a misunderstanding of his fiancee’s inheritance. In any case, it didn’t take long before he was kissing Clara goodnight (no longer a boarder in her home), and soon they were secretly engaged to be married.

Robert’s Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the Davidsbund), composed a year after the completion of Soirées Musicales, begins with a direct quote from Clara’s Mazurka (Soirées Musicales, Movement 5). Honoring her with the matching Opus number (Carnaval, Op. 9 was actually completed earlier than this “Opus 6”), Robert sent the “Davidstänze” with Clara on her next concert tour, followed by a letter:

You will, I know, make a little place in your heart for them, because they are mine... But my Clara will know how to find the real meaning of those dances, for they are dedicated to her in a quite special sense... I never spent happier moments at the piano than in composing these.

The Davidsbund, a “more than secret” society imagined by Schumann, took its inspiration from the story of David and Goliath, in which David conquers the giant Goliath with nothing more than a slingshot, and wins the Israelites’ battle against the Philistines. In Schumann’s imagining of the story, the “Philistines” are those who would hinder the acceptance of the new music of the time, and the Davidsbund (“band of David”) is the group of new composers and their supporters (including Eusebius and Florestan, the two characters Schumann used to describe his own personality), who would go to battle to bring new music to light.

Florestan, the dynamic and outgoing, and Eusebius, the more reserved and vulnerable, are both clearly heard within the Davidsbündlertänze; in fact, each movement bears the signature of one or the other (or both) as its author (look for the F. or E. following the movement titles). Schumann even includes an occasional description of the actions and feelings of Florestan and Eusebius. Interestingly, both descriptions seem somewhat uncharacteristic of the characters (Florestan’s lips “trembled sorrowfully” - No. 9 - and “great happiness” shone in Eusebius’ eyes - No. 18). This supports one view that Schumann, through the Davidsbündlertänze, was making an attempt to reconcile the two extremes of his personality into one more balanced man: a husband worthy of marrying Clara Wieck.

The Davidsbündlertänze are thought to depict a Polterabend (the evening of celebration before a wedding), and Schumann wrote to Clara that they contain “many wedding thoughts.” In German tradition, the Polterabend includes the smashing of dishes and other noise-making (“Poltern”), in order to frighten away evil spirits and bring good luck. The musical version of the evening ends with a subtle “clock” striking midnight (12 consecutive low C’s in the bass near the end of the last movement), and I like to think of the dawn of the wedding day arriving in the last few measures.



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