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Robert Schumann

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Nationality: German
Born: June 8, 1810, Zwickau, Saxony Died: July 29, 1856, Endenich, near Bonn (age 46)

String Quartet No. 1 in a minor, Op. 41, No. 1

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
8:59 I. Introduzione. Andante espressivo - Allegro
3:48 II. Scherzo. Presto - Intermezzo
6:02 III. Adagio
6:03 IV. Presto
Duration: 26 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1842, June 2-22 (age 31-32)
Published: 1843, Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel (age 32-33)
Dedication: Felix Mendelssohn
10 recordings, 25 videos
autoopen autoplay
8:57
Ying Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante espressivo - Allegro
3:40
Ying Quartet
II. Scherzo. Presto - Intermezzo
5:47
Ying Quartet
III. Adagio
5:53
Ying Quartet
IV. Presto
7:14
Pro Arte Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante espressivo - Allegro
3:05
Pro Arte Quartet
II. Scherzo. Presto - Intermezzo
5:53
Pro Arte Quartet
III. Adagio
5:35
Pro Arte Quartet
IV. Presto
9:05
Quatuor Terpsycordes
I. Introduzione. Andante espressivo - Allegro
3:47
Quatuor Terpsycordes
II. Scherzo. Presto - Intermezzo
5:32
Quatuor Terpsycordes
III. Adagio
6:48
Quatuor Terpsycordes
IV. Presto
10:22
Gringolts Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante espressivo - Allegro
4:12
Gringolts Quartet
II. Scherzo. Presto - Intermezzo
5:37
Gringolts Quartet
III. Adagio
6:12
Gringolts Quartet
IV. Presto
7:41
Takács Quartet
I. Introduzione. Andante espressivo - Allegro
3:48
Takács Quartet
II. Scherzo. Presto - Intermezzo
5:47
Takács Quartet
III. Adagio
5:39
Takács Quartet
IV. Presto
25:34
Flonzaley Quartet
25:58
Fine Arts Quartet
26:25
Daedalus String Quartet
24:41
Curtis String Quartet
28:18
Anima String Quartet
From Kai Christiansen

Robert Schumann, 1810-1856

String Quartet in a minor, Op. 41, No. 1
Robert SchumannIn 1842, Robert Schumann turned his intense if not manic focus to the daunting genre of the string quartet. In what has been called his "year of chamber music", he voraciously studied the masters that preceded him and produced a set of three quartets, Op. 41 that he dedicated to Mendelssohn. Of the masters before him, Schumann had to contend with Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Compared to his chamber works including the piano (a quintet, quartet and three trios), Schumann's string quartets are less frequently programmed and almost certainly less appreciated or celebrated. Nonetheless, the quartets bear testament to Schumann's diligent studies and his unique gifts as a composer; they stand as worthy offerings in the literature. They are particularly engaging as "missing links" between the quartets of Mendelssohn and Brahms some thirty years hence. In between, Schumann simultaneously evokes Mozart, Beethoven and Mendelssohn while, in moments, suggesting the future voices of Brahms and early Schoenberg, both of whom admired Schumann's music.

The first quartet of Op. 41 in a minor opens with a slow, mournful contrapuntal introduction, a clear reference to Beethoven's mystical late quartets. The main body is a massive "textbook" sonata built according to classic rules that historically were only just being codified for the first time as explicit formal principles. There are multiple themes, a heightened development, and, at every turn, a tendency towards imitative counterpoint that suggest Schumann's intimate familiarity with Bach. This is the longest movement of the quartet by a substantial margin. The scherzo immediately suggests Mendelssohn's trademark sprightliness with perhaps a dash of Schubert's galloping fervor. The middle trio has, by contrast, a suave, chromatic languor that suggests Mozart albeit in Schumann's language. Note that the scherzo occurs second, not third as "textbook" descriptions prescribe. A long look through the quartet literature demonstrates that this requisite quick dance-oriented movement generously varies in its placement

The divine adagio alone justifies Schumann's mighty efforts of 1842. Here again the ghost of Beethoven hovers close at hand as well as a sense of textural color and dramatic declamation recalling Schubert's more romantic angst. The part writing is supple and devastating. And it is within the nearly holy folds of this elegantly undulating melancholy that the rootless wanderlust of Wagner, Brahms and Schoenberg remarkably if fleetingly appear.

Full of bluster and celebration with mighty textures broaching the orchestral, the finale follows a trend in many of Schumann's closing movements. There are hints of other voices again including Mendelssohn's driving rhythms and the throbbing pastoral drone's of Beethoven's sixth symphony. A forceful juggernaut presses forward, surging and dancing with abandon until it encounters a small clearing, a glade. For a moment, an ancient, misty musette holds all movement in check, savoring a golden simplicity in the stark, rustic manner of late Beethoven. The surge awakens and rises again, sweeping toward a conclusion of epic proportions.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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