Classical Music | Music for Trio

Robert Schumann

Märchenerzählungen (Fairy tales), Op. 132  Play

Trio di Colore Trio

Recorded on 05/16/2006, uploaded on 01/20/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

The sad tale of Schumann's later life is well-known; at the time of Märchenerzählungen, or Fairy Tales, Op. 132, 1853, his bouts of sleeplessness, hesitancy of speech and movement, and deepening depression were getting worse. A temporary ray of light, in the form of a visit by the young 20-year-old Johannes Brahms, gave him one last creative outburst.

The Fairy Tales were composed during this all-too brief Indian summer with the youthful genius of Brahms. Clearly, none of Schumann's difficulties with larger forces are evident here.  In the Fairy Tales, he draws closer and closer to his solo pianistic roots. Schumann cleverly links each movement, unifying them with subtle thematic references. The more intimate Trio setting allows his subtle harmonies, such as passing augmented sixth chords, and intricate melodic passages to be thrown into high relief. These figurations do not lose their effect, even when the clarinet or the viola doubles the piano line, which is far from the case in the crowded over-orchestrations of his symphonic works and concertos.      Guy Yehuda


Märchenerzählungen (Fairy Tales), op. 132     Robert Schumann

One of the last works to come from Schumann's pen before his attempted suicide in 1854, the Märchenerzählungen ("Fairy Tales") is nevertheless lighthearted, though tinged with a disturbing agitation. Compared to the earlier Märchenbilder ("Fairy Pictures"), Märchenerzählungen embraces a greater balance between Schumann's inclination for literature-inspired music and the absolute music of the Classical era. While the title certainly points a guiding finger for the interpretation of this work, it is vague enough so as to leave much up to the performers, as well as the listeners. In previous works, Schumann often gave very descriptive indications to the underlying program of his music, particularly in his Florestan-Eusebius dialogues. Here, however, we are left to invent our own fairy tale.

The first movement, marked Lebhaft, nicht zu schnell ("Lively, but not fast") and in B flat major, begins with a lyrical, arching melody in the viola simultaneously accompanied by staccato arpeggios in the piano. These two ideas together become the motivic germ for the remaining three movements. The lyrical opening melody remains the prominent element and is developed throughout the course of the movement creating, in a sense, a truncated, monothematic sonata form. The following movement, Lebhaft und sehr markit ("Fast and very accentuated") and moving to the relative minor, takes on the role of a scherzo. The opening chords are ominous and dark, casting a shadow over the movement. Jollity, however, is not long kept at bay as the cheery and elegant middle section seems to dispel the shadows of the opening. A return to the first section once again dampens the blithe spirits, this time, however, with a greater determination to plunge the music into repressive darkness.

The third movement, moving to a sunny G major with the indication Ruhiges Tempo, mit zartem Ausdruck ("Calm tempo with delicate expression"), opens with an intensely lyrical duet between the viola and clarinet. The duet proceeds unhindered throughout the movement accompanied by dreamy arpeggios and poignant rising semitones in the piano. The Finale, also marked Lebhaft und sehr markit, is perhaps the most outspoken of the four pieces. Beginning with marked and rhythmic opening chords, it is at once majestic and carefree. Cast in a tripartite form, the middle section presents a graceful melody against a rhythmically driving piano accompaniment. The opening section returns and brings the fairy tale to a confident and happy ending.     Joseph DuBose