ClassicsOnline Home » SCHUMANN, R.: Works for Oboe and Piano
"a fine player, with an instinctively right sense of phrasing"
"should therefore give a great deal of pleasure"
Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856)
Works for Oboe and Piano
Five Folk-Song Pieces, Op. 102
Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73
Three Romances, Op. 94
Sonata in A Minor, Op. 105
Robert Schumann must seem in many ways
typical of the age in which he lived, combining a number of the principal characteristics
of Romanticism in his music and in his life. Born in Zwickau in 1810, the son of a
bookseller, publisher and writer, he showed an early interest in literature and later made
a name for himself as a writer and editor of the Neue
Zeitschrift für Musik, a journal launched in 1834. After a period at
university to satisfy the ambitions of his widowed mother, but still showing the wide
interests of a dilettante, Schumann was able to turn more fully to music under the tuition
of Friedrich Wieck, a famous teacher, whose energies had been largely directed towards the
training of his beloved daughter Clara, a pianist of prodigious early talent.
Schumann's own ambitions as a pianist
were to be frustrated by a weakness of the fingers, the result, it is supposed, of mercury
treatment for syphilis, which he perhaps had contracted from a servant-girl in Wieck's
employment. Nevertheless he wrote a great deal of music for the piano during the 1830s,
much of it in the form of shorter genre pieces, often enough with some extra- musical,
literary or autobiographical association. The end of the decade brought a prolonged
quarrel with Wieck, who did his utmost, through the courts, to prevent his daughter from
marrying Schumann, bringing in support evidence of the latter's allegedly dissolute way of
life. He might have considered, too, a certain mental instability, perhaps in part
inherited, which brought periods of intense depression.
In 1840 Schumann and Clara married,
with the permission of the court. The year brought the composition of a large number of
songs and was followed by a period during which Clara encouraged her husband to tackle
larger forms of orchestral music, while both of them had to make adjustments in their own
lives to accommodate their differing professional requirements and the birth of children.
A relatively short period in Leipzig was followed, in 1844, by residence in Dresden, where
Wagner was now installed at the Court Theatre, his conversation causing Schumann to retire
early to bed with a headache. In 1850 the couple moved to Düsseldorf, where Schumann had
been appointed director of music, a fact that contributed to his suicidal depression and
final break-down in 1854, leading to his death in the asylum at Endenich two years later.
Pieces in Folk-Song Style, Opus 102, were written in 1849 for cello or violin
and piano and were published two years later. Strangely the disturbing political events in
that year in Dresden, which had forced Wagner to make his escape in disguise, seem to have
brought Schumann a surge of inspiration, leading him to describe the year as his most
productive. The pieces are true to their title, the first of them, Vanitas vanitatum, making in its title a whimsical
reference to scripture. The gentle second piece leads to a pastoral third and a forthright
fourth. The group ends with an element of drama, The Fantasiestücke,
Opus 73, originally Soiréestücke, were
written in the same year, for clarinet and piano, with the option of violin or cello. The
evocative and expressive opening piece, a song in all but name, is followed by the busy
piano accompaniment of the second and the energetic third.
Schumann wrote the three Romances, Opus 94, specifically for oboe and piano,
but again allowed alternative instrumentation, for violin or clarinet and piano. They show
once again remarkable master of small forms of this kind, of the handling of piano and
solo instrument and of the projection of a moving and inimitable lyrical quality. As so
often it is not difficult to imagine some literary or narrative basis for these pieces.
The Romances represent Schumann's further
experiment with various tone-colours, exemplified in the Adagio and Allegro, Opus 70, originally for French
horn and piano and once more written in 1849. Again the composer offers alternative
instrumentation, suggesting the use of violin or cello, implying yet again the absolute
nature of these compositions as far as instrumentation is concerned.
In 1851 Schumann wrote two of his
three violin sonatas. The first of these, the Sonata in
A minor, Opus 105, was written in the space of four days in September, when, as
he confided to a former student, he was very angry with some people. Düsseldorf had
brought him considerable dissatisfaction, echoed by his employers on the city council and
the musicians of the orchestra. He himself declared himself unhappy with the first of the
violin sonatas, giving this as his reason for writing a second shortly afterwards, and
tackling a third, to be completed in 1853. With the necessary changes of register and
occasionally of lay-out, the sonata makes an interesting addition to possible oboe
repertoire. The expressive first movement leads to an Allegretto second movement in F
major, very much in the style of vignettes of the shorter pieces of the period. The
principal material of the movement consists of two contrasted elements, with an
intervening episode in the minor. The energetic final movement returns to the original
key, ominously at first, but leading to a relaxation into the key of E major and briefly
again into A major, before a dramatic reference to the opening of the first movement and a
Jószef Kiss, oboe
József Kiss was born in Sátoraljaujhely in 1961 and studied
in Budapest, before joining the Budapest Symphony Orchestra in 1982. He remains a
principal oboist in the orchestra and assistant professor of oboe at the Ferenc Liszt
Academy of Music. In 1984 he won the bronze medal at the Toulon International Oboe
Competition and four years later the wind-players' prize of the Hungarian Radio.
Jeno Jando was born at Pécs, in south
Hungary, in 1952. He started to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the
Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music under Katalin Nemes and Pál Kadosa, becoming assistant to
the latter on his graduation in 1974. Jandó has won a number of piano competitions in
Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first
prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977.
In addition to his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern and
Western Europe, in Canada and in Japan. He has recorded all Mozart's piano concertos and
sonatas for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and
Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second concerto
and Paganini Rhapsody and the complete piano
sonatas of Beethoven.