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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. 3 in A major, Op. 41, No. 3

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
7:18 I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
6:39 II. Assai agitato
8:25 III. Adagio molto
7:03 IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
Duration: 30 minutes (approximately)
Composed: 1842, June 2-22 (age 31-32)
Published: 1843, Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel (age 32-33)
Dedication: Felix Mendelssohn
9 recordings, 30 videos
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6:54
Ying Quartet
I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
6:03
Ying Quartet
II. Assai agitato
7:55
Ying Quartet
III. Adagio molto
7:04
Ying Quartet
IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
7:05
Quatuor Florestan
I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
6:23
Quatuor Florestan
II. Assai agitato
7:24
Quatuor Florestan
III. Adagio molto
6:28
Quatuor Florestan
IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
7:35
Stradivari Quartet
I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
7:09
Stradivari Quartet
II. Assai agitato
8:50
Stradivari Quartet
III. Adagio molto
6:57
Stradivari Quartet
IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
5:45
Amadeus Quartet
I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
6:38
Amadeus Quartet
II. Assai agitato
8:54
Amadeus Quartet
III. Adagio molto
6:52
Amadeus Quartet
IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
8:11
Gabrieli String Quartet
I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
6:59
Gabrieli String Quartet
II. Assai agitato
8:55
Gabrieli String Quartet
III. Adagio molto
8:06
Gabrieli String Quartet
IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
32:10
Quartetto Italiano
7:25
Penderecki String Quartet
I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
6:38
Penderecki String Quartet
II. Assai agitato
8:38
Penderecki String Quartet
III. Adagio molto
7:26
Penderecki String Quartet
IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
8:25
Manfred Quartet
I. Andante espressivo - Allegro molto moderato
7:11
Manfred Quartet
II. Assai agitato
8:30
Manfred Quartet
III. Adagio molto
7:04
Manfred Quartet
IV. Finale: Allegro molto vivace
30:55
Ebène Quartet
From Kai Christiansen

Robert Schumann, 1810-1856

String Quartet No. 3 in A major, Op. 41, No. 3
Robert Schumann tended to compose in short, concentrated bursts, intensively focused on one genre at a time. 1842 became his "year of chamber music" where he miraculously produced three string quartets, the glorious piano quintet and the equally superb piano quartet. Schumann wrote his three string quartets, Op. 41, in a space of five weeks with the third dashed off in only a few days. His letters and journals demonstrate his methodical preparation by studying the quartets of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven including the latter's "late quartets" with which Schumann was particularly enthralled. The bulk of Mendelssohn's quartets predate Op. 41 and Schumann was without a doubt familiar with them as well as quartets of lesser composers that he would have reviewed as a founding critic for the important journal Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. Indeed, Schumann dedicated Op. 41 to his friend and contemporary, Felix Mendelssohn. History has since highlighted the first and third of the quartets with the String Quartet in A Major, Op. 41, No 3 becoming the favorite.

The opening movement in sonata form is rather delicate and subtle with tempo and character directions like "espressivo" and "molto moderato." It begins with a short, dreamy introduction that establishes a signature motive heard at least four times: a falling perfect fifth like a sensuous sigh. Schumann clouds the key signature with expressive modulations leading to a pregnant pause full of dramatic tension. But the main exposition ensues with a gentle calmness, defying this opening feint with a grazioso character. The clear-cut form features two main themes with a floating sequential bridge passage in between. A short but turbulent development section concerns itself primarily with the first theme broken in half: the falling fifth and its scurrying counterpart juxtaposed. The movement ends quietly with a fully resolved final falling fifth in the cello.

Schumann supplies a theme and variations for the second movement, an alternative to the usual scherzo. The first three variations are terse, agitated and dark leading to the fourth variation, a much more lyrical canon between the violin and viola recalling Schubert. Some commentators suggest this is a novel arrangement comprising a theme preceded by three variations. The fifth variation resumes the turbulent thematic reduction while a coda changes the mood entirely with a shift to the major mode and a serene conclusion.

The third movement Adagio is the longest and most profound movement of the quartet revealing Schumann's characteristic lyricism and rhapsodic romanticism. A heartwarming song-like theme is quickly confounded by a second, fragmentary and angst-ridden idea threatening to drown the song in the dramatic chaos of a plodding march. The intermittent surges and swells settle back into warm lyricism as the insistent march softens and fades into the third mild conclusion of the quartet.

Typical for Schumann, the finale sweeps away all that has gone before in a surge of kinetic vitality with a grand conclusion. A crisply delineated sectional form gives Schumann ample room for a variety of musical ideas in what Melvin Berger calls "the apotheosis of rondo form." Several small episodes are arranged around the recurring refrain to make the symmetrical form characteristic of the classical rondo crowned with a coda expanding the realization of the finale refrain. One is reminded of Schumann's penchant for pageantry exposing a gallery of contrasting characters including his famous literary duality of Florestan and Eusebius. So ends Schumann's only set of string quartets, essentially the last word in the genre before Brahms.

© Kai Christiansen Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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