By Mary Nemet | From the January-February 2022 issue of Strings magazine
The development of Romanticism across all the arts promoted spontaneity and emotional expression. In music this allowed for freer structures and harmonies, displacing stricter 18th-century forms. Descriptive pieces like Fantasy, Caprice, and Impromptu gained popularity. Robert and Clara Schumann between them penned dozens of Romances for both piano and violin.
Clara Schumann: Three Romances for Violin & Piano, Op. 22, Bärenreiter, €19.95
In 1853, Clara completed her Three Romances, Op. 22, dedicating them “to the illustrious master and friend Joseph Joachim, in fond remembrance.” Performing them many times with Joachim, they were to be the last pieces she wrote, thereafter promoting her husband Robert’s music. Despite her great creative gifts, Clara lost confidence in herself as a composer, saying, “A woman must not desire to compose; there has never yet been one able to do it.” Who knows what she might have achieved had she continued to write?
After her death in 1896, her compositions were largely forgotten; however, in recent years, a growing interest has revived performances of her works. The Romances are effectively contrasting, exciting, and bursting with character, running the whole gamut from wistful to passionate, with rippling virtuosic piano arpeggios underpinning the beautiful violin melodies.
In this fastidious edition, performers will find a wealth of information on these appealing works in the extensive Introduction and Performing Practice Commentary. It discusses 19th-century tempo, rubato, and rhythmic flexibility, with comments by Brahms and other contemporaries. Expressive fingering, portamento, accents, dynamics, slurs, and tone quality are also debated in detail.
Additionally, for scholars, an Appendix includes an alternative version by the violinist Wilhelm Joseph von Wasielewski for the first Andante Molto movement, with fingerings of the day.
Two violin copies are included with the piano score: one pristine urtext based on the primary sources (found in Berlin, Dusseldorf, the British Library, and Vienna), the other edited by Jacqueline Ross.