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Beethovenfest

Beethoven and more podcast 3: A cry from the heart

In a letter to his fiance Clara, Robert Schumann described this piano sonata as "a single cry from the heart for you." Stefan Litwin performed it on September 14, 2010 at the Beethovenfest.

Pianist Stefan Litwin

Pianist Stefan Litwin

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)

Piano Sonata No. 1 in F-sharp Minor, op. 11

Stefan Litwin (piano)

MP3 recorded by Deutsche Welle, Bonn (DW) on September 14, 2010 in the Chancellor’s Bungalow, Bonn

Pianist Stefan Litwin is considered an expert on the composer Robert Schumann. At the one-time residence of German chancellors, Litwin played Schumann's First Piano Sonata from the year 1836. The work is seldom performed due to its technical difficulty and the daunting range of emotions in it. As Litwin pointed out, the sonata tells a story you can only understand once you have the "key" and have delved into Schumann's world.

On one hand, there's a clear literary reference to Jean Paul's novel "Flegeljahre" (Teenage Years), which Schumann thoroughly enjoyed. The novel is written from the perspective of two twins of very different temperaments, Vult and Walt. Schumann took up the idea, creating two composers: the fiery Florestan and the sentimental dreamer Eusebius, declaring that these figures embodied his own "double nature." The piece lets the two sides of Schumann collide. The same musical theme can be observed from different vantage points, sometimes inflamed, sometimes restrained.

Litwin also pointed out that to understand the sonata, one should take Schumann's biography into account. Not only is it "dedicated to Clara," Schumann went so far as to describe it in a letter to her as a "single cry out from the heart to you." Clara Wieck was Robert Schumann's great love and later wife. In 1836, that love had to endure prolonged separation enforced by Clara's father Friedrich Wieck. The situation of being in love while despairing over the separation is expressed, for example, in the rhythms of a Spanish "Fandango," a dance in which the two partners move sensually and erotically but never touch.

Author: Marita Berg (gsw)

Editor: Rick Fulker

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