Classical Music | Violin Music

Robert Schumann

Fantasie in C Major for Violin and Piano, Op. 131  Play

Jennifer Koh Violin
Reiko Uchida Piano

Recorded on 02/25/2003, uploaded on 02/12/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

"Fantasy" offers a composer one of the freest possible musical forms. When I first began thinking about this recording, I saw an opportunity to present a program of four very different composers speaking through this very free form in their distinct voices. In the months preceding the recording sessions, I lost two friends in close succession. Fortunately, I had the work of preparing these fantasies to delve into. In the midst of my preparations, I began to perceive a common thread among the pieces, besides the theme of "fantasy." I began to understand each piece as a life's journey. Each fantasy expressed itself as an entire life to me: a search to find one's own path with all of its joys and struggles along the way. I would like to dedicate this recording to my two friends and to the celebration of life.     Jennifer Koh


Fantasie in C major for Violin and Orchestra, op. 131        Robert Schumann

While Schumann championed many of the genres within classical music and is, today, recognized as one of the prominent composers of the early Romantic period, his music for the violin was, for a long time, overlooked. His sole concerto for the violin, composed for Joseph Joachim, sat unperformed and unpublished in a library until the 1930s when Joachim's great-niece requested its release. Schumann, himself, reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with his own first violin sonata. Among these neglected works is also the Fantasy in C major for Violin and Orchestra. Though published and premiered before Schumann's death, even today it is still rarely seen on concert programs.

In a letter dated June 2nd, 1853 and accompanied by a score of Beethoven's Violin Concerto, Joachim requested Schumann to write a Fantasy for the violin. A few months later in September, within a few short days, Schumann had sketched the Fantasy and sent it to Joachim for review. Joachim performed the Fantasy at the Schumann's home on September 28th and premiered it in Düsseldorf on October 27th with the orchestra under the baton of Schumann himself. The following year, on January 21st, Joachim performed the Fantasy again. On the same program, Schumann's wife Clara also performed Beethoven's Piano Concerto in E-flat major. It would be the last time Schumann heard both of them perform.

Cast in Schumann's favorite fantasy form—a form so typical of the Romantic period in which many composers sought expression outside the Classical forms—it follows more or less the sonata principle. It begins deceptively in A minor with a mournful introduction. Melancholy soon gives way to a sprightly theme in C major which, at first, seems hesitant to get under way. This theme becomes a recurring refrain throughout the rest of the work and forms the basis of the coda.

Though performed multiple times before his death, Schumann's Fantasy ultimately, like many of his last works, was thought to be marred by his declining mental health. It has for the most part been neglected like his other works for violin. However, the violin virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler arranged the work for violin and piano.     Joseph DuBose

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