Robert Schumann

Romances (3) for piano, Op. 28

    Description by Blair Johnston

    In the early days of his compositional career Schumann wrote almost exclusively for his own instrument, the piano. Throughout the 1830s, even after his prospects as a concert pianist were ruined by permanent damage to the fourth finger of his right hand, he continued to mostly shun the demands of chamber ensembles, the orchestra, and, the voice. During the second half of the decade, the composer's affinity for the piano can probably be largely attributed to his relationship with Clara Wieck, the extraordinary pianist who was to become his wife. Some of Schumann's piano works, like Carnaval Op. 9 (1833-1835), and Kreisleriana, Op. 16 (1838), have earned a secure place in the repertoire; others, including the Drei Romanzen, Op. 28 (1839), remain lesser-known yet worthy examples of the composer's distinctive keyboard idiom.

    Schumann himself was quite fond of these three romances, which, despite the suggestion of their title, are not lushly melodic; they are, more accurately, contrasting character pieces. The first, in B flat minor, is a breathless piece in ternary (ABA) form whose triplet rhythms never waver until the final two bars. Atop this glistening arpeggiation is a lyric melody in two strains that gives way to gentle syncopations. A passionate codetta marked by singing sforzandi and alternating piano and forte dynamics brings the work to a stern conclusion.

    Of the three romances, the second, in F sharp major, has gained the most currency among pianists as an independent concert work. It is a relatively brief piece -- 34 bars long, including some repetition -- whose thick texture led Schumann to the then-uncommon step of notating it on three staves. The 6/8 meter lends the melody the flavor of a barcarolle. The romance comes to an end as lyricism vanishes into pianissimo syncopations.

    The third romance, in B major, is both the longest and, arguably, the least successful of the three. It is structured on the rondo principle, with the central digressions, themselves separated by a return of the refrain theme, titled Intermezzo I and Intermezzo II. The principal idea -- sharply rhythmic, freely imitative and not at all what a later composer might think of as a "romance" theme -- is attractive enough, but the piece as a whole lacks the focus of the first two. The mellow tones of the finish, however, offer the listener ample reward.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Romance in B flat minor. Sehr markirt
    2. Romance in F sharp major. Einfach
    3. Romance in B major. Sehr markirt

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Sonoma 1482849
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95020BR
    2015 Erato 550567
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 Piano Classics PCL 0074
    2012 Adrian Aeschbacher KASP57671
    2012 Alpha / Alpha Productions ALPHA 813
    2012 Haenssler HAEN 98646
    2012 ZYX CLA 101312
    2011 Alpha Productions 169
    2011 Apex 67870
    2010 Fuga Libera 562
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94008
    2010 Avie 2177
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099960904
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4778693
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2010 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002894778816
    2009 Document 231752
    2009 Denon Records
    2008 Thorofon / Zebralution
    2008 Madacy 52954
    2008 Madacy 52952
    2008 Fuga Libera 528
    2008 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4375382
    2008 Berlin Classics 0014402BC
    2008 Bella Musica / Zebralution
    2007 Albany Music Distribution 917
    2007 Apex
    2007 Berlin Classics 0186002
    2007 Parlophone
    2006 Berlin Classics 0185632
    2006 Claves 502601/02
    2006 EMI Classics 347826
    2003 Decca 470915
    2001 Ambitus 97882
    2001 Concerto Royale 206258
    2001 Nuova Era 7353
    2000 CPO 999598
    1999 Music & Arts 743
    1999 Philips 454987
    1999 Philips 456868
    1998 Campanella 130014
    1998 Berlin Classics 0093282
    1997 Melodiya 33213
    1996 Edicions Albert Moraleda 6134
    1995 Naxos 550849
    1995 RCA 68052
    1993 Thorofon 2197
    1992 DG Deutsche Grammophon 435045
    Pearl 99049
    Melodiya 33230
    Pickwick 1133
    Erato
    Ades 20320
    Warner Music
    DG Deutsche Grammophon 471312
    Calliope 9226
    Accord 200982