Classical Music | Music for Duo

Robert Schumann

Sonata No. 1 for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 105  Play

Valtchev-Tchekoratova Duo Duo

Recorded on 06/27/2006, uploaded on 01/10/2009

Musician's or Publisher's Notes

Schumann's three violin sonatas (of which only two were published) come from the last years of his career—the first two in 1851 and the third in 1853. By 1850, mental illness began to take its toll on Schumann and those around him. Suffering from violent mood swings, he believed he was ordered by Heaven to compose certain melodies and, subsequently, tormented by demons. Not surprisingly, an altered mental state produced stylistic changes in Schumann's output and it is unclear whether they were the result of mental breakdowns or purposeful experimentation. Regardless, Schumann's feverish pace of composition did not wane and the first Violin Sonata was composed in less than a week in September 1851. Schumann, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the work which, consequently, prompted him to make a second attempt at a sonata for the violin. Nevertheless, the first Violin Sonata received a premier the following March performed by his wife Clara and the violinist Ferdinand David.

The first movement is intensely passionate and gives a clear view into the inner torment Schumann must have endured during his final years. A lyrical 6/8 theme in A minor, offset by a restless piano accompaniment, opens the work. The second theme follows in C major, giving a brief moment of warmth and consolation but it is not enough to lift the gloomy atmosphere of the whole movement.

The second movement, an Intermezzo in F major, begins haltingly with a melodic line that struggles to maintain its forward momentum. Before the graceful first melody can even lift itself from the ashes of the first movement, it is interrupted by a brief episode in the tonic minor. Once again, the melody attempts its hesitant start again this time giving way to a more resolute episode beginning in D minor. Finally, the opening F major melody returns before fading away into quiet concluding chords.

Beginning with repressed agitation, the final movement's repetitive sixteenth-note passages have an almost demonic sound to them. Hardly a measure goes by, even in the more lyrical sections, in which the sixteenth-notes are not heard. Before the coda, a brief echo of the first movement's opening theme is heard. However, it is quickly swept aside by the vigorous sixteenth-note motif and the sonata comes to a tragic ending.      Joseph DuBose