composed 1853 - dedicated to Miss Rosalie Leser
Nicht schnell, leise vorzutragen,
Toward the end of his life Schumann produced musical settings of biblical texts. He composed the Mass, op. 147, and the Requiem, op. 148. In 1853 he composed the Fantasy for violin and orchestra, op. 131, and the Concerto Allegro in D minor for piano and orchestra, op. 134, a work that exercised a great influence on the Piano Concerto in D minor of Brahms. He also finished the “Scenes from Goethe’s Faust.” The Schumann family children had since grown in number to six. The composer dedicated one of the Piano Sonatas for the Young, op. 118, to each of his three eldest daughters Julie, Elise, and Marie. The Fughettas, op. 126, and the “Songs for an Early Hour,” op. 133, were the last works published during Schumann’s lifetime. His last triumph as conductor and composer was the performance of the revised version of his Symphony in D minor on a program that included Beethoven’s Violin Concerto played by Joseph Joachim. On July 30, 1853 Schumann suffered a nervous breakdown. Through Joachim he was introduced to Johannes Brahms, and in a last, enthusiastic article for the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik he used the term “anointed” to describe the younger man. In November Schumann was informed by the Düsseldorf Musikverein that henceforth he would only be allowed to conduct his own works—a politely-phrased dismissal.
Schumann’s fugues were attempts at imbuing the form with poetry, where “the silver thread of fantasy ever entwines the chain of rule.” The seven Fughettas, op. 126, begin quietly with the first piece in A minor. Tempo and contrapuntal movement increase through the fourth piece in D minor. The fifth Fughetta is the most intimate, in stark contrast to its predecessors. A very short Fughetta in major and an interrogative piece bring the cycle to a close. The pieces orbit chiefly around the tonal centers of A minor and D minor, keys particularly preferred by the composer in his last period. Schumann himself described the Fughettas as “mostly melancholy.”
Translation: William Melton
© Franz Vorraber