Schumann, Arabesque in C Major, Op. 18

April 25, 2018

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Arabesque in C Major, Op. 18 (1839)

Robert Schumann The quintessential Romantic composer Robert Schumann distinguished himself in all musical genres but may well be most admired for his character pieces for solo piano. At the time he composed Arabesque, he was visiting Vienna where he hoped to make his future home with his love, the extraordinary young pianist Clara Wieck. At the time, however, Clara’s father forbade the union and Schumann would not yet encounter the musical fame he hoped to establish in that eminently musical city. Hence, while composing during his sojourn, the young Schumann oscillated between hope and despair, the ultimate Romantic polarity some commentators find in the emotional makeup of Arabesque itself.

Schumann’s letters of the time reveal that he had intended the piece to help him "rise up and become the favorite composer of all the ladies of Vienna” writing in a special style that he indicated by such sensitive titles as “Flower Piece” and “Arabesque.” Schumann wrote, “the titles say all there is to know, and I am quite blameless that the stems and fronds are so frail and delicate.” Arabesque is one of Schumann’s consummate poetic miniatures, a rondo that features a recurring refrain with interludes of contrasting character derived from the main theme. Truly an organic interlacing of musical foliage as its title suggests, it concludes with an even more delicate coda, a final poignant transformation of the central theme.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.